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ColinE

Registered: 04/30/10
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi All,

I enjoy creating data visualisations and have been playing around with visualising the relationships between programming languages based on data collected from a popular Q&A site called Stack Overflow. I came up with a visualisation where programming languages / frameworks are rendered as segments of a circle, with the connections between them shown:


The above is supposed to be used in an interactive fashion as show on my blog.

What are people's thoughts on this visualisation? Is it an effective way of representing this data? I, personally, have found that it reveals a number of interesting relationships and patterns in the data.

Regards, Colin E.
sfew

Moderator
Registered: 12/30/05
Posts: 617
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Colin,

Thanks for sharing your visualization with us. This type of visualization, as you know, is one of the standard ways that networks are displayed. It can work well for displaying connections between a relatively small number of entities as in your example. Three ways that this visualization could be improved come immediately to mind:
  1. The labels should be positioned such that they don't overlap with the ring of data.
  2. The color scale that you've chosen to display quantitative differences associated with segments along the ring could be simplified. A single hue ranging from light to dark would be easier to understand and compare.
  3. When an entity is selected, currently the associated connections are not sufficiently highlighted. The red color does not stand out well enough against the backdrop of dark lines. You don't need to change the color of the associated connections, but could highlight them more effectively simply by significantly dimming all of the other lines.

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Stephen Few
ColinE

Registered: 04/30/10
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks Stephen, some useful input there. I'll take your comments on-board when I do my next update.

Regards, Colin E.
Dagwould

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #4 

Stephen, you mentioned that this approach was OK for a small number of entities. Would the same proviso work for pie charts! Now, before you explode, I'm generally agin pie charts, but colleagues insist on using them. They seem to be OK for very small numbers of segments: probably up to 3, but beyond that simply look like a colour wheel.

If you would advise against them for even small numbers of entities, what would you suggest: stacked bar springs to mind, but I'd be interested in your comment.


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DW
sfew

Moderator
Registered: 12/30/05
Posts: 617
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi Dagwould,

Personally, I don't use pie charts, even for part-to-whole relationships that consist of only two parts. Although it is usually true that pie charts with few values are much easier to read than those with more, using side-by-side bars displays the same values in a way that is easier to decode, except in rare instances. (If what I'm describing isn't clear, please refer to my article "Save the Pies for Dessert.") One instance that works fine as a pie chart consists of the part-to-whole values 25% and 75%, but only if the first slice begins at the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, or 9:00 o'clock position. The right angle that is formed in the pie chart is easy to interpret when it is formed by the intersection of one perfectly vertical line and one perfectly horizontal line. Take those same values and start the first slice at any other position, however, and people will struggle to recognize the one slice as 25% and the other as 75%.

Actually, there is one situation when I do find pie charts acceptable, because there is no better solution: on maps. Imagine that you're using bubbles of various sizes to display values geographically and you need to show how those values are divided into parts. In this case, I would consider a simple pie chart with up to three or four slices at most.


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Stephen Few
ColinE

Registered: 04/30/10
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #6 
Dagwould, I totally understand Stephen's dislike of pie charts. I would personally only ever use them in the context of infographics. Especially if the infographic was used to communicate statistics relating to pie consumption, where they can be used a a delightful and literal interpretation of  "pie chart". Who cares if a pie chart hinders interpretation of the data? The juicy infographic will surely cause the reader to salivate ... and ultimately buy more pies.

Which is of course my motive for creating the infographic in the first place.
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