Throughout 2009, I recorded several dozen statistics about a) the pop culture I consumed, b) the people I talked to, c) the beer I drank, d) the places I visited, e) the vehicles I took to those places, and f) the amount of sleep I enjoyed each day. Those statistics spread across several thousand cells of a spreadsheet, which I then condensed and animated into the 2.5-minute video clip embedded below. That process took about a month, all told, which isn't a ratio I'm proud of, even if I'm happy with the result.
Nicholas Felton's 2009 annual report has already been widely linked. I pass it along, though, with my recommendation that it's the best of his four reports. He relinquished his usual role as data collector to the friends and acquaintances he met in 2009, asking them to respond to the same web survey and answer questions about Felton's mood, location, activity, and conversation.
Felton's technical feat here is astonishing. It's challenging enough to track a data set in a spreadsheet of your creation, organized according to your own tastes. This year, Felton had to organize and visualize data no matter how his friends decided to submit it. And in spite of that loose chaos he has designed some exceptionally lucid visualizations while also experimenting a bit with form. (He used topographical maps to represent New York instead of his usual cluster plots.) I couldn't quickly decipher his cover-page infographic but realized eventually how he was graphing the duration of his relationships across time and found the whole thing vivid and melancholy.
Felton stocks the sidebars of every page with his collaborators' exact reports ("I think it's funny that Nick carries a backpack."), which is an affectionate design choice. If his previous work could be described as a staggering act of introspection, this is their equal in extrospection, a study of friends and relationships. I suspect, in ten years, this will be the one he returns to first, and most often.
Tom Woodward, coming down on "the arbitrary rules of English":
I’ve actually listened to teachers brag that they never abbreviate when texting and that they used full and complete punctuation. That pretty much says to me, “The arbitrary ‘rules’ of English are more important than its purpose. Changing styles for different purposes and media doesn’t make sense.” I can’t think of a worse lesson for a student or a worse mind set for a teacher.
Christian Rudder, analyzing over 500,000 contacts on his dating site OkCupid, noting that the same rules Tom scorns score you a date more often than they don't:
Netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs. Our negative correlation list is a fool’s lexicon: ur, u, wat, wont, and so on. These all make a terrible first impression. In fact, if you count hit (and we do!) the worst 6 words you can use in a first message are all stupid slang.
The exceptional OkCupid blog is what happens when a bunch of Harvard math students decide to run a dating site. The blog doesn't cover technical notes, release dates, or any site business at all. Instead, it offers up infographic after infographic pitched directly along my students' hormonal wavelength.
We've picked over the entire blog's offering, stopping with this astrology-debunking beauty yesterday:
Back when my dad started teaching in dickety-two, you simply couldn't access this kind of fun so quickly or cheaply. Let's not squander this.
My top two picks were interchangeable until the very end and my top selection, in the end, reflected my slight preference for minimal design over maximal design.
1. Frieder Knauss
I can add very little to the appreciation circulating on this site except to say that Mr. K manages the hat trick of a) personal retrospection, b) data design, and (the rarity) c) editorial.
That he does this in several thousand fewer pixels than all of his competitors is to his credit, as is the vomit-themed color palette which he somehow sells as an element of his NCLB nausea.
2. Sam Shah
That Sam didn't place speaks to the overall quality of the entire slate. From fonts to colors to axes and grids, none of his design choices cohere. Yet he tosses them all on the same wall with a stuffed buck and the whole thing looks like some kind of genius aneurysm. The herkyjerky, undistributed, unaligned tabs on his "Blog Hits" slide are a particular high point for me.
Simon Job knows what he's doing. First he grabs my attention by plastering his first slide with pictures of his adorable new baby and then goes on to use his four slides to tell a compelling story of his new life with his new daughter. I can sense the major changes his life has undergone after the birth of his first child through the information contained in his annual report- the photo sharing with family & friends, the frequent doctor visits, new sounds in his house, and the unenviable task of changing all those "nappies." Print out that Nappies slide and post it in every sex ed. classroom and it'd probably do more to prevent teen pregnancy than any method currently in use. The fusion of good, simple design around a coherent storyline made Simon Job's annual report stick out in my mind above all the rest. Of course, it could just be those adorable baby pictures.