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Bad visualizations, round 2

January 29, 2011

And for your Saturday viewing pleasure, another bad visualization: Google’s APIs and Developer Products.

Though this particular genre of bad visualization has been well documented, it’s one of my personal pet peeves. The periodic table of elements is one of the greatest data visualizations ever: the boxes give element symbols, names, atomic numbers, and atomic weights; columns give you group properties; rows give electron affinity; and various background/font colors give element families, states, or other information, depending on which you look at. It is beautifully designed for a maximum amount of information with little extra junk.

That said, “periodic tables” of things other than the elements (like typefaces,beer styles, or superpowers, to name just a few) are stupid, and miss the entire point of what made it an effective visualization in the first place. Google’s isn’t bad at first blush, and it looks like the colors at least have some significance. And they managed to stay away from including some bullshit lanthanide/actinide stand-ins.

Upon closer inspection though, it becomes apparent that the columns or rows don’t mean anything. Worse still, if you mouse over the legend at the top, you learn that the colors are just there because it makes things look pretty; all the APIs aren’t yellow, all the Social tools aren’t green, and so on and so on (though to their credit, all the Miscellaneous items are the right color, as if that meant anything). If you’re trying to depict data that overlap, why not depict it in such a way that it does overlap?

Google, I love you, but you can do better.

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Things I am wishing for (or, Material boy)

January 27, 2011

Here’s today’s entry for my end-of-January resolution to write some every day (either here or elsewhere). It’s a weird time in the semester: it’s too early to have a whole lot of stuff piled up to do, but too late to be excited about the new semester and want to work ahead. Not that I have 2 different papers to give in late February/early March or anything…

Anyway, this lack of motivation/work has mostly given me time to do things like peruse the internet, start a blog, and look up things that I am wanting/needing…so in the style of Carolyn’s years-old Livejournal, here’s an unordered list.

– Boots. These are mostly a necessity for living in the snowy Midwest, but I’ve convinced myself that too much of winter is gone already and that I’ll be able to find a good deal in March or April. Never mind that this was probably my plan the last two years here. I used to have a pair of hiking boots, but they’ve disappeared and weren’t really snow-appropriate anyway. I also need to find a pair that don’t look like I’m a Snowy Lumberjack, so I can actually wear them to teach in (incidentally, I’ve decided ending sentences with prepositions isn’t so bad (and clearly I don’t have a problem with sentence adverbs either (or nested parentheses…deal with it, suckers!))).

– Mouse. Not a furry kind, though it would be fun to watch the cats chase it around. My 7-year-old Logitech is being wonky, but I keep thinking that it’s just the battery, and if you bang it on the desk enough it starts working. I’m particular about my peripherals, and I don’t really want to go spend the $50+ it would take to get one I liked. Maybe I’ll spring for a new one when I finally get  around to buying…

– A new computer. The ol’ Macbook is getting kind of long in the teeth, and the hard drive is getting full with my ever-growing collection of academic drivel and Monk records. The next computer I’m planning to buy is a new iMac…I have a little netbook for all of my laptop needs (which are few these days) and I can get a lot more power for the money. I’m essentially using my Macbook as a desktop these days anyway, with an external keyboard/monitor/mouse. I actually do have plans to buy this one though, either at the end of next summer (hello, refund money) or after next Christmas. (I’m hoping that writing this doesn’t jinx my current one into dying, but I’m writing this on my other computer on the couch, so hopefully he won’t notice.)

– Monk. I really want all the Monk records (I’m looking at you, out-of-print Riverside box set). I can totally justify this by saying it’s a research interest. I’m probably going to wind up writing a dissertation on Monk, so I think school should give me a fellowship to buy them…somebody get on that. One of the lamest things about researching jazz (other than having to create your own score before you can start doing anything) is that you can’t go to the library and check out a book. The library has a couple of Monk records on vinyl (thanks David Baker), but they’re impractical and there’s no way to rip them at school.  [It occurs to me that if you don’t know who Thelonious Monk is, you need to. Go look him up.]

– Blazers. As a jazz theorist, I feel like I need some non-blue blazers to wear. This is totally vain, but I’m tired of always looking like a frat dude when I dress up.

I think I’ll stop the list there in the interest of time and at the risk of sounding like a Philistine. Also, there’s Jeopardy to be watched.

Some musings on Firefox

January 26, 2011

I realize this sudden onset of blogging will probably subside soon, but let’s ride this wave while it lasts! Full nerding commences after the jump…

Read more…

the accidental pizza

January 26, 2011
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So I think “the accidental pizza” is a pretty good name for a blog, but I guess some explanation is necessary.

Read more…

Bad Visualizations, Round 1

January 26, 2011

So I’m taking a class on visualization this semester, but it’s something I’ve always been interested in. This blog will likely be a source of things I find annoying/bad on the internet. And first up…

The Twitter Swear Map

This is terrible primarily because of the color. The thing is supposed to show areas of high swearing based on geographical tweeting areas. The fact that it’s all in red (I guess because swear words are bad and we need to STOP) is: a) stupid looking, and b) hard to read. Why do it all in red-scale, which is impossible to see? Why not pick different colors? It’s the internet, it’s not like you can only print in shades of red. I think there are city labels underneath all of that junk, but you can’t even read the damn thing.

(via CultureMap Houston)

New blog!

January 26, 2011
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Hello everyone (both of you)!

I decided to start a new blog, because my current methods of procrastination clearly aren’t good enough. I’m not sure what all is going to be posted here, but it’s probably safe to assume it will be a combination of music-theory-related things, jazz-related things, nerdy things, rant-type things, and life in general.

Oh, it’s also safe to assume that there will be language that may offend some people. Just so’s you know.

Stay tuned!