Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Data visualization, or I want pretty pictures!

Edit: I forgot to include the all-important link.

Yesterday, MSNBC published a fantastic report on journalists who made campaign contributions from 2004 to 2007.

This is a huge deal, because the trust of the public in newspapers rests on the objectivity and transparency of the journalists.

But I feel almost as though MSNBC went out of its way to make me not want to read the entire article.

It is always a good idea to publish the findings of an investigation like this in plain English, so that if someone screwed up, it can be pointed out. But I got through the first five contributors before I thought “Well, these people suck,” and left the Web site.

Where’s my data visualization?

Not only do pretty graphics help me to understand the information better, I’ll stay on your Web site longer.

What they could have done:

  • Mug shots of each journalist with a hover feature.
  • Divide by the news outlet, when you scroll over a graphic for each one it offers a list you can click on to the details.
  • Show me how much money was given to each party.

I know that there is a lot of information here. 114 people, how much they donated, when, to whom, and comments. That’s hard to split up. But this is an important story. It really calls for a package of graphics, not just a long block of text.