Visuell: Blog-Archiv August 2009

SVG Strengths: Progressive Loading

So I am preparing my paper for SVGopen 2009 which is titled The strengths of SVG in web mapping. Turns out that the strength of the election atlas cannot be solely attributed to the technology I used.

Nevertheless, I am collecting the advantages of SVG in mapping, and this is one of them:

You can hardly have a better load indicator than the map being drawn district by district as the path data is tickling through your slow connection.

Labels: en, svg, svgopen

Data-Driven Everywhere

In a post over at blogstats I was discussing how some of our interactive visualizations don't work under every circumstance and how it is handy to have them with you on your mobile phone. But it is no secret to even a mildly addicted web user, that a lot of times it is Internet Explorer that hinders progress. However critizising Microsoft and their web offerings might be a nice pastime for some, going the non-Internet-Explorer route usually means excluding half of your customers.

This website advocates the use of open standards for data driven graphics, namely SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and it is this technology that is not at all supported in Internet Explorer. Adobe provided a – reasonable at the time (2001) – plugin that got end of lifed in January 2009, leaving a significant questionmark for content providers who used the SVG format.

Just in time for its world conference SVGopen 2009, good news is coming in form of a JavaScript library called SVG Web, that allows SVG to be rendered using the Flash plugin. While this is not a panacea, the Flash plugin has 95-97% market share (it is a necessary requirement for watching youtube!) and thus a viable option to go. It is exactly those video capabilities of Flash that might cause it to be blocked in some office environments, but still.

One of the huge advantages of SVG Web is its ability to run almost unmodified standard complient SVG markup. This hasn't been done before. JavaScript libraries like dojo.gfx, Raphaël or JSXGraph adapt some elements of the SVG language and everything has to be constructed in JavaScript. In addition those libraries render VML on Internet Explorer, which has the advantage of giving vector graphics to even the barest Internet Explorer installation (no plugins required at all), but performance is far from bearable for more advanced graphics. SVG Web is backed by Google who is kind of giving Microsoft the finger here.

The SVG Web Toolkit is currently in its alpha stages but is already running well enough to adapt an animated populaton pyramid to it, as is showcased on this site. The election atlas is also making good progress in running on Internet Explorer via the Flash plugin and will hopefully be released on this site soon.

Labels: en, flash, ie, populationpyramid, statistics, svg, svgopen, svgweb

Three Data Dimensions

It is rare to see 3D used in statistical graphics to really depict three data dimensions, but in this infoporn by Arno Ghelfi for Wired Magazine it is done brilliantly: You can see the device price of selected consumer electronic goods over time and the market penetration of the device in question. It is always beautiful to have these long running timeseries but this one is very close to a geek's heart. Early adopters paying high prices as the latest gadgets become available and over time these devices become mainstream as their price drops. There is also a lesson to be learned here as some products like DVD players become drastically cheaper as they approach their end of life cycle. Only the PC is different compared to the other items in that its price didn't drop that dramatically despite its growing market penetration.

This is one of the many great examples that are showcased in Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand, a recently published book by Connie Malamed that does a lot more than showcasing best practices without discussing bad examples:

Malamed is a cognitive scientist, artist, and educator. As such, she recognizes the need for infographics to be designed with an understanding of what actually works, based on empirical research. She proposes design principles that have emerged from an understanding of how the eyes and mind function, drawn from research in the fields of visual communication and graphic design, learning theory and instructional design, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and information visualization.
Stephen Few: At Last, a Scientific Approach to Infographics, review.

Labels: 3D, diagram, en, review, statistics, timeseries