Stack-Attack! A Visualisation of World Records in Sport Stacking


makingof

Hi all,

You know I’ve been feeling a bit vizzed out lately. All I can see when I close my eyes at night is data. And the Tableau splash screen. A bit like when you overdose on Tetris, or Plants vs Zombies. So I was just getting ready for a little rest when they only went and announced the Iron Viz Competition for 2014! Damn you @DataRemixed!

So I’m straight back on the vizzing horse… When Iron Viz calls, you answer.

Bit of a nightmare picking a subject for Competition 1 (Sports). Sure I could grab loads of data for (real) Football, or Baseball or American Football, but that’s just not coooool enough. I wanted something with a bit of originality. It would have to be good to beat the competition and I’m hoping that originality will count for a lot in the selection of the “Elite 8”.

Cue a week-long thought process. A few ideas came and went, and even a few vizzes made it to the development table (step forward Athletics World Records & Driver Deaths in Motorsport), but they were too mainstream or a bit too macabre, so in the end I settled on this….

Stack-Attack!A Visualisation of the World Records in Sport Stacking

For the uninitiated, Sport Stacking is where competitors attempt to stack, and then de-stack a pre-determined configuration of plastic cups in the fastest possible time.

Like this –

Mental eh? It’s a proper sport with a governing body, World Championships and everything. The best players even have their own sponsorship deals with equipment manufacturers. Like these William Polly branded stacking cups.

And here it is! Click the image to open the viz. 

stackdash

So how’d I do this?

1. Data

Pretty easy this. All the World Record times for Sport Stacking are tracked by the World Sport Stacking Association. Better still there are a number of main game types (3-3-3, 3-6-3 & cycle), as well as multiple age groups and a gender classification. So lots of nice measures all ready to visualise. Lovely.

I used ScraperWiki to extract the tables from the website, but had to manually add the competitor nationalities to the xls. Didn’t take too long though.

That gave me a decent dataset to work with.

2. Viz design

Charts –I wanted to tell a few different stories, hence the following chart selections

Which age is fastest? – Could have done this several ways but decided to use a line chart. Allows me to see the trend in fastest time across the age groups.

Male vs Female – Tried a bar chart for this initially but it was cluttered and hard to read. So settled on a line chart with cups as the marks. This makes it really easy to compare male vs female for each game type (using filter) and age group division.

Best Nations – I wanted an at-a-glance visual to get an idea of which countries dominated. And that was easy with this bar chart. Simple enough using colours to represent the nations.

Images & Video – Now I really wanted some cups there somewhere. So I went for a worksheet of images as the game filter on the left. I also really wanted a video of each world record attempt, selected when the user changes the game filter. That was pretty easy, thanks to this handy tip from @dataremixed.

Look and Feel – Took a risk and broke from my usual safety-blanket of an all white background to go with a rebellious @pgilks style black background. I think it actually works better on this occasion, especially with the cup marks on the Male vs Female comparison as they look all luminous and glowing.

Information – Important to have an info sheet with tooltip to provide context here as I was sure viewers would want to find out more. So I provided some text as to the game types and also a link to Wikipedia.

3. Analysis

So what’s this telling me about the world of Sport Stacking? Well there are several interesting things that jump out at me from the data.

It’s a young persons game! You can see the U-shaped trend from the line chart as the young kids start off slow, but then the times improve and peak around the 12 years old mark, before tailing off again with advancing age. To the point that a seniors time is slower than an under-6’s.

Males are faster – until the male reflexes cave in at senior age! Amazing this. You can see that males are always faster, until we get to the seniors division, where it all changes. What a great story. That’s one up for the Grandmas!

USA have a strong youth policy, but Germany have the experience. The sport is dominated by USA & Germany. You can see USA have almost all of the records from youth to early teenage level. It then evens out at 17-18 years, and swaps around totally when you get to the oldies. Again exactly the sort of story I was looking for. Vorsprung durch Technik (or something like that).

So that’s my entry for Iron Viz 2014 (Part 1 – Sports). If you like it then do cast your vote via twitter, provided I make the Elite 8 of course.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to stack my wife’s finest china cups….. How hard can it be?

Cheers, Paul

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3 Responses to Stack-Attack! A Visualisation of World Records in Sport Stacking

  1. Pingback: Happy…. | Paul Banoub's VizNinja Blog

  2. Bob Fox says:

    Hi Paul, I got a kick out of “Stack-Attack! A Visualization of World Records in Sport Stacking,” posted on March 14, 2014. I am the Founder and Executive Director of the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA) and Founder and CEO of Speed Stacks, Inc. Thanks for sharing our sport with your audience!

    Bob Fox
    Bfox@thewssa.com

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