juice

Come Have Breakfast with Juice on July 15th

Breakfast with Juice

Listen up, all you Juice fans who live in Atlanta. We’ve finally nailed down all the details for the get together we announced a few weeks ago. We’re calling it the Viva Visualization Tour.

What you’ll have when you leave:

  • visualization best practices training around information layout and workflow,
  • information visualization, chart selection, and styling
  • networking within the Atlanta visualization community
  • a full breakfast buffet like only Magianno’s can put on
  • opportunity to pick the Juice collective for tidbits of vizo-knowledge
  • a few pieces of custom designed Juice schwag

What Juice gets out of this:

  • socializing with the people in our virtual and physical community who love making visual sense of data
  • opportunity to talk about the stuff we’re excited about with people who are actually willing to listen (besides our moms)
  • a big ol’ food bill
  • the joy of seeing some of the most respected members of the Atlanta visualization community all in one room

If this sounds like great fun to you (and who wouldn’t think so), register. We do have limited space, so don't wait.

And, for those of you who aren’t in the Atlanta area, we’re also planning an August meeting in D.C. and a September meeting in Boston, so keep your eyes open for those (as well as other potential cities).

Meet Juice and Connect More Visually

One thing we really like doing here at Juice is meeting and talking with folks who are interested in the practical application of visualization techniques to make their jobs and businesses better. We know a lot of you out there feel the same. So, we’re planning meet-ups in three cities over the next few months -- Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Boston. In addition to giving those of you in these areas a chance to get together in one place at the same time, it will give us a great excuse to share some data visualization knowledge that we think will benefit you and enhance your skills.

Each Juice Tour event will start with a meet-and-greet followed by a presentation focused on some basic rules for effectively communicating data - where we will provide you with some easy-to-use principles that you will walk away with, leaving you to become far more proficient at presenting your data forward no matter who your audience.

Afterwards, you will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Juice in free mini-problem-solving sessions where we can talk specifically about your visualization problems and offer suggestions to help you work through them.

If you’re interested, register here and let us know your name, email and your location. We’d like to gauge your level of interest in the Juice Tour -- starting with Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Boston. If you’re not in these areas, but are interested in the Tour, please let us know that, as well. (If these go really well, who knows, maybe we’ll expand to include other cities, too.)

We look forward to hearing from you! (Oh, and did I mention, it’s free?)

Follow us @JuiceAnalytics

For those of you who might be interested, we’re going to start adding our significance to the twitterverse through @JuiceAnalytics. If you’re already following us (@chrisgemignani, @zachgemignani, @khilburn, etc.) you can certainly keep doing that, but if you’re a Juice fan, we’d encourage you to follow us @JuiceAnalytics as well.

And to kick it all off, on Monday May 24th we’re going to begin with a series of tweets entitled "30 days to better visualizations." Each day we’re going to direct our followers to an online resource that you can read, watch, play, or do something (each takes only about 5 minutes) that will help you hone your visualization skills. For these tweets, we’ll be using the hash tag #30Days2Viz.

So what are you waiting for? Follow us now.


Survey Results: Are the Viz-Pundits Really Helping?

A few weeks ago Juice asked our readers to give us a few insights into whether or not we and other info-viz sites are actually helping them and their organizations be more effective at communicating information.

Well, the time has come to take a look at the results (oooh - pins and needles). The survey was way more popular than we expected, receiving well over 500 responses.

We had a few questions that were of the form "select the answer that best describes you" but, for the most part, we focussed on text based answers so that we could try to avoid directing the answers and could demonstrate some non-traditional visualization styles to explore results. As a side note, the open ended answers to the text based questions were truly intriguing to read - hopefully the presentation of the results below will give you a small insight to what we learned.

So, here are the results.

Survey Results

The first section of questions dealt with getting some context about our readers. Since the questions were multiple choice, we’re showing the results in traditional bar chart format.

Question 1

In terms of size, which of the following is your company most like?

  • A one man band
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • The University of Rhode Island
  • Microsoft
Q1: Company Size
Question 2

In terms of information presentation expertise, who do you see yourself as?

  • The Excel Chart Wizard incarnate (I’m happy with the quickest route)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon (I’m pretty good, but not too finicky)
  • A Tufte clone (every chart is carefully and lovingly crafted with intention)
Q2: Expertise
Question 3

If your company were stuck on Gilligan’s Island, would you be able to use information presentation to get rescued?

  • No, Gilligan keeps using our Tufte books to prop up the break room table.
  • Maybe. The Skipper rigged up this island beacon system using coconuts, vines, and tiki torches.
  • You betcha! The Professor could build a huge island sized information display that could be seen, understood, and acted upon by the astronauts on the International Space Station.
Q3: Escape from Gilligan’s Island
Question 4

What two information sources do you most frequently use for information presentation tips, trends, and best practices?

  • BI Vendor’s website (e.g., Business Objects, Tableau, Cognos, etc.)
  • The Dashboard Spy
  • Dashboards by Example
  • FlowingData
  • Infographic News
  • Information Aesthetics
  • Jorge Camoes’ Charts
  • Juice Analytics
  • Junk Charts
  • Tufte’s web Site
  • Visual Business Intelligence (Stephen Few’s site)
  • VizThink
  • Other
Q4: Popular Sites

However, What we really want to know is what sites are most closely related. So we tried looking at them with a phrase net from ManyEyes:

Q4: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

This is a great way to demonstrate how sites are "connected". We see a very strong relationship between Juice and the other non-Juice sites, but not a strong relationship between the non-Juice sites, themselves. In retrospect, the question would have been more effective had we asked respondents for their "top three or four" sites (approximately: total number of options ÷ 3).

The next group of questions were crafted to help us understand the problems our users and their organizations are encountering when it comes to presenting information to stakeholders and users. For most of these questions we broke the number one rule in surveys: stay away from text based answers.

Question 5

Using one word for each, list three things that you most frequently find useful from these sources?

Q5: Tag Cloud

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

This was one of the most useful result sets and clearly shows that people like examples and new ideas for visualizations, followed by tips on how to get it done. (I’m hoping this post meets all of those criteria to some level.)

Question 6

Within your organization, would you say the understanding of information visualization best practices is:

  • Staying the same
  • Improving
Q6: Improving?
Question 7

What one word describes the biggest barrier to improved information presentation at your company?

I selected a Wordle (as opposed to a tag cloud) for questions 7 and 8 because I wanted to see the results in a way that would give me the general feeling of the barriers and benefits - I wanted the answers to spur some sort of emotive response. I think a Wordle does this better than a tag cloud.

Q7: Barriers

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 8

What one word describes the biggest boon to improved information presentation at your company?

Q8: Benefits

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

While the "barriers" answers were interesting, there are some real nuggets hidden in these "benefits" results.

Question 9

Finish this sentence: "My company would be oh so much better at information presentation if we just had..."

What we really want to know is what are the patterns and relationships between words. Having said that, the most common words are still interesting to see:

Q9: What would be better?

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

But, we are really interested in the word patterns. So, we used the Juice search patterns tools Concentrate to identify patterns. The top patterns were

Pattern

Count

more X

76

more time X

30

better X

29

X data

15

X time

15

more time to X

14

time X

12

a better X

11

X data.

9

X more time

9

people X

8

more people X

7

more resources X

6

the right X

6

more people who X

5

people who X

5

time to X

5

more time and X

4

Now, if we look at how the "non-common" words relate visually, here’s what we get:

Q9: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 10

Finish this sentence: "If I were to advise someone on how to best improve your capability to create really useful information presentation solutions, I’d say don’t forget..."

Again, it’s interesting to see the most commonly used words:

Q10: How to improve

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

But the most value again comes from looking at the phrase net:

Q10: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 11

Finally, we’re going to post results on our blog for free download. However, if you want us to notify you when the report is ready, please provide your email address below.(And because we have a large international following, please add your country as well, if you don’t mind. Why? ’cuz we’re just curious. Thanks!)

So, we’re going to show only the countries here, no email addresses (whew!). Let’s start with looking at the standard distribution:

Q11: Respondent Countries

And here’s the geographic representation from Many Eyes:

Q11: Many Eyes Map

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

But, having looked at that, I thought it might be a little more interesting to look at the country locations like this (text sized based on number of participants):

Q11: Country Cloud

Additional Insights

And that was all of the questions that were in the survey. However, I thought some of the multiple choice "context" question required just a bit more analysis; there were some questions I still had that weren’t yet answered. So, I loaded the data into Tableau’s Public version of their application to give a little more analysis flexibility. Here is the dashboard I created to better understand expertise:

Characteristics of expertise
Characteristics of expertise

Powered by Tableau

What this shows is that organizations that are more capable of responding to tough information presentation challenges have a substantially higher ration of "Tufte Clones".

And this made me wonder how skills basis might be impacting different sizes of companies:

What companies are improving?
What companies are improving?

Powered by Tableau

A pretty nice linear correlation between company size and improvement trends, don’t you think?

You made it to the end!

This post turned out to be much longer than I wanted it to be, but hopefully you found it interesting and learned a few things about your fellow readers and how to display different kinds of survey responses. If you have other insights you think you see, please comment below! Thanks for participating!

A Juicy Night Before Christmas

(You might need to refer to this sniglets posting to fully appreciate this poem)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the building,

Not a report was running, not even one the spreadhead was wielding.

The CEO and his team had all gone home, the operations crew quiet.

Marketing and sales were at their parties, out blowing their diet.

I was finishing some email, almost through the pile,

When I saw one about the year-end report—the taste in my mouth just turned to bile.

Every year it was the same, the million dollar BI system full of chart junk.

When I give it to her, my manager will state with a gulp: “I think we’re sunk".

Then out on the floor there arose such a ruckus,

I sprang from my cube to to see was the fuss was.

Away to the card swipe I flew like a blur,

It was an office creeper, I was quite sure.

The exit sign lights giving the desks an evil glow,

Made me think the end was near, the security number, I did not know.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

Not an intruder, but my friends from Juice, so dear.

With a my stack of prints in hand, it made me jump back!

Sure enough, I saw it was Chris and Zach.

With them came their team of ‘sperts,

As he called them by name, I knew then I should cancel my alerts.

“Now David, now Cat, now Jon and Jennie."

As I looked, I saw more, I didn’t realize there were that many.

They were here to help, to make things easy,

“Stop killing trees" said Zach, “that’s just too cheezy!"

Chart-based encryption makes your numbers stink,

Your boss won’t like it, she’ll want a drink."

“Crossing The Last Mile is hard, I know" said Chris,

“That’s why we’re here. We’ve got the cure, take a look at this."

What I saw! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

It made me want to shout—to celebrate with cries.

It was so simple and easy to understand.

A more fun solution can’t be found in the land.

No more analycide, flufferpoint, or dancing boloneys.

I could actually understand it. O’ The simplicity, the ease.

What they showed me was honest, true and clear

Had you looked in my eye, you would have seen a tear.

“Our mission here is done", said Zach, “we’ve finished our work."

“If you hurry home now, you won’t look too much like a jerk."

“In the future don’t fret, don’t wait until boloney gives you the sicks,"

“Think of Tufte, of Few, and of Haler; then call Juice Analytics."

They sprang to the Juice Mobile, “turbines to speed, generators to power,"

And away they all flew in the late holiday hour.

But I heard them exclaim, as they ran down the aisle,

“Merry Christmas to all, and finish The Last Mile!"

Juice wishes you and your loved ones a happy and wonderful Holiday Season!

From left to right, Zach, David, Cat, Ken, Chris, and Jon. Not shown, Jennie.

Analytics Roundup: Naming matters

Igor | Naming companies, naming products
Definitive essay on naming from the company that inspired our name.

Vox Populi: Best practices for file naming | 43 Folders
One approach to a tough problem that we all have.

Seth’s Blog: Worst powerpoint slide ever used by a CEO
Pretty bad, but surely not the worst.

HARLEM-13-GIGAPIXELS.COM
Extreme data presentation in a different realm.

Kaizen and Juice 2.0

Kaizen may be the the art of continuous improvement, but today we’re happy to showcase the art of discontinuous improvement. In one big bang, we’re introducing a new logo, a new website, and a new platform to deliver web services and tools to make your life better.

The new logo is the product of months of pixel pushing and brainstorming. I’ll detail the evolution of the logo in a future post, but for the moment I’ll leave you with a comparison of the old and new logos.

old Juice logo

new Juice logo

The website redesign is an effort to improve the “discoverability” of our site. Good articles were mouldering in the archives. It was hard to find old or popular articles. Search was barely existent. A follow up article will trace the evolution of the site design.

We built the new site using Python and Django. This is a dynamic platform that gives us a lot of power to add new features, tools, and applications. We’re excited about what we will be able to bring you—we have a whiteboard full of ideas just awaiting implementation.

The new site, while better, isn’t perfect. Despite our efforts, there may be links that don’t work or screencasts that neither screen nor cast. We’d love to hear your reaction to the new design. Please leave a comment to tell us what you think or if you find anything that’s broken. We’ll fix it right away. With your help, we’ll make this site and this community better in a process of continuous improvement—Kaizen.

We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about the design. I wanted to thank rockbeatspaper, the web design consultants who worked with us to create this site. A great company and a terrific job.

Wanted: Smarty Pants, apply within.

Chris talked about customer intimacy last month and that kind of thing always gets my mental juices flowing. When an idea like that is laid out in front of you, it’s a head slapping "of course" and "weren’t we doing that already?" thought.

Being around really smart people like Chris and Zach gives you a Newtonian stance on ideas; you get to rest your mind on top of fully baked thoughts. You also get critical, constructive analysis of your own musings and ultimately both our clients and Juice reap the benefits.

But where do you find the kind of people who live for this stuff? It’s not like you can pop down to the mall and pick up a clutch of insightful, ultra-curious, Excel-wielding Python gurus. No, there are really just two solutions: You have to stumble on them or grow your own.

Stumbling on smart people really is tons of fun. Some of what works is really obvious and takes the form of talking to people at conferences, wooing people with great blogs, reaching out to some of the better user groups, and posting on places like Craig’s List. Actually that last one isn’t so obvious because unless you can articulate your company’s worldview in a few muscular paragraphs you’re just going to attract the wrong kinds of people. If your post is too wacky you’ll be treated to an interpretive dance during the interview to detail how a project was a success. And if your ad is too dour you’ll attract the living dead. Oh, the horror.

A few years ago popular belief held that there were oodles of highly trained, big-brained technology folks begging for work. That might have been partially true, but I do know a lot of carpetbaggers left the business to go back to whatever carpetbaggers are doing these days. I’ve been blessed with working with some amazingly brilliant people over the years. None of them have ever had a problem finding work. Ever, ever, ever. Those are the kinds of folks you want to go out of your way to stumble upon.

The second method of growing your own might sound like a leap of faith but it’s really effective if you can pull it off. Back in the mid nineties, I was King of the Internet for a rapidly growing software company. Much like everybody else, we suffered the slings and arrows of an outrageous job market, and finding top notch talent was an uphill struggle. The world had all but lost its mind and you’d find yourself seriously mulling the thought of shelling out $100k a year for an HTML "programmer." Plus signing bonus, of course.

No, that would never do. Something different had to be done.

That’s where working with brilliant people comes in handy. If you float what might be an out-of-the-ordinary idea they’ll actually think it over before voting either way. We had this crazy idea to take really clever people from outside the industry and train the living daylights out of them.

Boy, it worked like a charm. I still keep in touch with a few of these rather bright individuals and they’re still enjoying the heck out of their careers. One is still with the company, one with a smaller software outfit, and the third is a consultant for one of the largest consulting entities.

Whichever route you take, you can only squeeze out really juicy ideas from the right kind of brain. In our case we value creativity, chutzpah, a smart work ethic, dedication, and unbridled curiosity. It’s not enough to teach somebody to be effective with a toolset and, to paraphrase Potter Stewart, we know smarts when we see them.

Python Geocoding Help

Yahoo recently released a nifty geocoder API that’s free for small (<50,000 lookups per day), non-commercial applications. Rasmus Lerdorf (Yahoo’s PHP king) has written a nice introduction to using this geocoder in your PHP apps. In that spirit, here’s a cheap and cheerful Python class that we use to geocode addresses.

from xml.dom.minidom import parse 
import urllib  

class Geocoder:
    """ 
    look up an location using the Yahoo geocoding api
    Requires a Yahoo appid which can be obtained at:
    http://developer.yahoo.net/faq/index.html#appid
    Documentation for the Yahoo geocoding api can be found at:
    http://developer.yahoo.net/maps/rest/V1/geocode.html
    """      
def init(self, appid, address_str):
    self.addressstr = addressstr         
    self.addresses = []
    self.resultcount = 0         
    parms = {’appid’: appid, ’location’: addressstr}

    try:
        url = ’http://api.local.yahoo.com/MapsService/V1/geocode?’+urllib.urlencode(parms)
        # parse the xml contents of the url into a dom
        dom = parse(urllib.urlopen(url))
        results = dom.getElementsByTagName(’Result’)
        self.result_count = len(results)
        for result in results:
            d = {’precision’: result.getAttribute(’precision’),
                ’warning’: result.getAttribute(’warning’)}

        for itm in result.childNodes:
            # if precision is zip, Address childNode will not exist

        if itm.childNodes:
            d[itm.nodeName] = itm.childNodes[0].data                     
        else:
            d[itm.nodeName] = ’’                
        self.addresses.append(d)
    except:
        raise "GeocoderError"      

def repr(self):
    s = "Original address:n%snn"%self.addressstr         
    s += "%d match(s) found:nn"%self.resultcount         
    for addr in self.addresses:
        s += """Match precision: %(precision)s
            Location: (%(Latitude)s,%(Longitude)s)
            %(Address)s
            %(City)s, %(State)s %(Zip)s
        """ % addr         
    return s

if name == "__main__": sample_addresses = [’555 Grove St. Herndon,VA 20170’, ’1234 Greeley blvd, springfeld, va, 22152’, ’50009’] for addr in sample_addresses: g = Geocoder(’YahooDemo’, addr) print ’-’*80
print g

All you need to use this is a Yahoo application id.

You now have four different ways to geocode your company’s vital address. If you have suggestions or improvements, let us know. This code is public domain.