30 March 2011

AN: Innovative genealogy information graphic

Yes, RootsTech was a month and a half ago, but this was important and I need to write about it.

I went to the lightning talks at RootsTech and saw a 5m presentation from Antoninus Niemiec, an MFA student from New York working on genealogy visualization. He called his presentation "Not Your Father's Chart".

With permission, here are two fuzzed views of the charts so you can get the overall picture.

Plate A is a traditional ancestry chart:

Plate B is the same ancestry, laid out in this new and innovative way:

Here is a close-up of a given family:

Antoninus presented a very innovative information graphic of a 5 generation ancestry. At a high level, his work is firmly grounded in Tufte's information graphic design priciples. There were no wasted pixels and no chartjunk, just content.

It was organized with a radial feel to it, with the descendant family clusters in the center, and ancestor family clusters radiating outward toward the edge of the page. Each family cluster was organized into two tree-rings, one for the father, one for the mother-and-children. Each tree ring meant a decade, birth and death dates were plotted on a 360 degree circle, angle determined my how far into the year the event happened.

He told me he is working on publishing this work on his website. He said he did it in Adobe InDesign using Javascript with some hand-tweaking afterwards.

This spawned an interesting conversation afterward about the possibility for a visualization challenge for RootsTech 2012:
  • fixed content corpus
  • released shortly before the conference
  • awards in traditional media (print, web, video)
  • award for most innovative visualization, regardless of format

BTW, this was the same lightning round that Tevya talked about.

10 March 2011

Flesh pots & Resistance to change

I was reading the account of Moses leading the Isrealites out of Egypt. After all of the miracles that accompanied the exodus comes the account of the net sum response of the Isrealites (Exodus 16:2-3):

2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmered against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

I'm sure that my response to inspired leadership has sometimes sounded like this. And I'm very much willing to both admit that and abandon that position.

In stark contrast, is the message contained in Pres. Henry B. Eyring's conference talk, Trust in God, Then Go and Do. In particular, another scripture comes to mind (1 Nephi 3:7):

7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

Willingness to move forward and change and follow inspired leadership is a quality that I value, and that I seek to emulate & encourage.
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09 March 2011

Excited for MWRC

I am so stoked for MountainWest RubyConf this year. Last year was great, but I can feel it in the air that this year is going to be sooo much better!