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Kill Your Darlings

Quick post here. Could probably be a tweet. But I was just messing around with some old data, testing out a different technique in Tableau that I think could be useful, and I ended up creating this:

Now, I happen to think this is kind of beautiful. I would love to use it in a finished viz--or, even better, create an animation of it across another dimension and watch the mosaic pulse, and change, and flow over time.

But it's meant to be a network diagram. Each node is listed twice--once on the columns. The colors encode specific levels of connection between the two nodes (often this is encoded as an edge weight in a traditional nodes-and-edges network diagram). And the gleefully unsorted order in which the nodes are placed makes it difficult to adjudge overall patterns in this network.

What's more, in a network chart of this type--since it's undirected rather than directed, meaning every connection between two nodes is equivalent--that diagonal line across the middle of the matrix (where the row node equals itself on the column) serves as a mirror.

That means that the same data is encoded twice in the same matrix; to combat that, i had written some table calculations such that anything falling above the line used one measure, and anything falling below the line used a different measure...and then I cleared the sort.

What you should see is a grayscale color ramp above the line, and a cubehelix color ramp below it. This would be organized, and informative, and easier to interpret as a picture of a whole network; then, obviously, you could hover over an individual point and get more detail.

But this half-desaturated, half-cubehelix tartan is just SO PRETTIES!



No you can't keep it, because it does not serve any data viz purpose.

So, off I go to kill my darlings. It's hard but it's the right thing to do.

Before I go about fixing the sort, here's four snapshots of the network as it changes over time.


I sort things in a reasonable order, and break out the two different measures as originally intended, and then go on from there. (This is a work-in-progress, incidentally, but even so, you can tell from these four different time snapshots of the same network that there are changes in the nature of the connections among nodes.)


Sometimes you'll find yourself in a similar position, and you'll really want to keep the beautiful and clever thing you've come up with. My advice to you is:

1. Enjoy it in the moment, for what it is.

2. Remember how you made it, so that you can do it again in the future.

3. But then get rid of it, and make the choice you know is better for the audience.

If I can do it, so can you.


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