Friday, November 12, 2010

Blog Break and Infographics in the Media

After slogging my way through the summer while all my colleagues took leave I'm about to take 3 weeks off myself to sort some things at home and holiday abroad. I haven't been posting much because of trying to kick a few projects into shape before leaving them for a while. I'll be back 2nd week of December.

I'll leave you with a fascinating set of videos I've found by Geoff McGee for a fellowship he completed at Stanford University. Its about data visualisation as a story telling medium and focusses on graphics in the media. What's interesting about it is the same problems I've noticed in using neo-geo tools in education and outreach come up in their topic area. Points that particularly resonate with me:
  • Martini Glass Presentation: The importance of an introduction, context setting and explanation of what you can 'do' with an interactive web graphic or complex print graphic (section III: Telling Data Stories). Without this, your creation is just a set of pretty colours to the user. The Martini glass stem represents the video clip slide presentation introduction and the triangular glass represents the freedom of the user to explore the graphic on their own.
  • Attractive Does Not = Effective: A beautiful looking stream graphic showing box office results for movies with time is discussed in part IV, various commentators point out that it grabs attention wonderfully but then is difficult to interpret what it shows.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Timelines and Tours outside Google Earth

I've come across a couple of examples of GEarth features implemented elsewhere which were worth a mention:

Timeline Example: I thought this timeline from a New York Times graphic is much better than the timeline in Google Earth:
  • Easier to grab and move the jaws, in GEarth the jaws are too small
  • The play button only allows the jaws to move together, in GEarth you can press play and the far side of the jaws will move which is too complex for users to understand and utilise IMHO
  • The time labels are simple and clear whereas in GEarth the labels are more fussy
  • The blue shading communicates 'this is the time range' in a clear way and its semi transparent so you can see the graph below it.
The GEarth timeline remains high on my list of things Google should really fix in GEarth.

Tour Example: I think the tour feature of GEarth is one of its strongest features allowing user in presentations or promotional film clips. I came across a film sequence in a TED talk which has a form remarkably like a tour:

(BTW the clip is fascinating and well worth watching in full)

The clip 'zooms' down from large to small scale and at the destination scale the camera moves around a 3D object which is then manipulated in various ways to illustrate the relationships of neurons. Compare it with this GEarth tour:

The building clip has a poor frame rate and the building isn't manipulated in some way (like showing the inside rooms) but otherwise, the format is exactly the same. I'm in the middle of researching to best design tours at the moment and the Seung clip is a lovely illustration of how the results of my studies will not just apply to GEarth and other Virtual Globes but to any 3D visualisation system where zooming across scales in a film clip is important.

With the Seung clip I defined where it should start, see how to get a YouTube video to start where you want it.