Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lazy Countries without the Lollipops

Today (July 18, 2012) the Guardian Data Blog asked the question, "Which are the laziest countries on earth?". The data they used is from the British medical journal The Lancet. To visualize the data, the Guardian used Tableau Public. You can see the interactive work below:

This visualization uses a chart type dubbed a 'Lollipop Chart' by Andy Cotgreave when he worked with the DataStudio (). Andy identified the features of this techique this way:
1. Can be used when all dimension members have high values (i.e. long/tall bars in a bar chart)
2. Greatly reduces the data-ink ratio while maintaining a clear link to axis labels
3. All the users I’ve shown it to so far have really engaged with it – they think it’s both pretty and easy to read

I also like the fact that it works if you add more dimensions to make small multiples:

The first question I had when I saw the Guardian's outing of the laziest countries was, "How do countries within a region stack up against each other?" I also wondered if gender sorted differently for the countries within a region. Then there was the whole issue of averages and variability. As it was published, the Guardian visualization didn't get me there for any of these questions.

One of the hurdles for me was the lollipops themselves. In this example, they take up way too much space for my liking. So, I downloaded the workbook from Tableau Public and made some changes.

One change I made was to use a dot plot instead of a lollipop chart. This saved two lines for each country pane, and showed me more quickly the differences by gender within a country. I also added a filter for the region, so I could see all the countries in a region at the same time instead of having to scroll and remember. Thirdly, I added a parameter to make sorting flexible and interactive. Finally, I added a multi-dimensional strip plot so I could see the distribution of values for each country, one gender at a time.

Combining all these changes together results in the following interactive exploratory analytical tool. Play around with it and let me know if you get more insight about the laziest countries.