The Evolution of the Speed Record

makingof

Hi all,

Oh dear – it’s that time of year again. Time for the Iron Viz competition. The first challenge this year is the Wikipedia challenge. Create a viz, any viz, so long as the data comes from Wikipedia.

1. The Idea

There are tons of data on Wikipedia. Trouble is, much of it is in a nightmare format and takes a lot of tidying up. I wasn’t cool with doing much of that this time so reasonably tidy data was a must. I also wanted something with depth, and an element of competition, danger and heroism. And I love technology so wanted that as well. All in all a tough ask.

But then I stumbled across the perfect topic – how speed records have evolved over time. Ticks all the boxes and could be a nice use of Story Points.

So that was it – “The Evolution of the Speed Record” was GO!

kings

The Evolution of the Speed Record!

 

2. Data

I got the data from 3 Wikipedia pages.

kand

An example of the land speed record data

The data has enough variety and richness to satisfy my requirements. It is also pretty consistent between pages so makes consolidation into Excel a lot easier. I did have to remove entries that referred to record attempts that were not ratified, and I also had to standardise on mph vs kph as well as distance miles vs kilometers. But with those caveats, I’d gotten me a pretty decent dataset.

It was also cool that most rows linked off to pages about the pilot and the craft used, each with some neat images for use in the viz. Plenty of room to supplement this data set should that be required. I also managed to find some clips of some of the drivers on YouTube.

 

3. Viz Design

The evolution of the record featured trials and tribulations, joy and pain, heroes and villains. So all in all this was a great opportunity to try Story Points for the first time.

axisThe overall look and feel took some arriving at and I’d like to thank Kelly & Chris for assisting with the peer review process. My original version made use of custom “speed-style” fonts to give the impression of speed, but we eventually decided that the real ethos of the whole story was the nostalgia and ‘Pathe’ News‘ style of flat capped heroes with handlebar mustaches pushing the boundaries of technology. So we switched to a style that sort of represented a 1930’s newspaper. I was really pleased with the final look and feel of it. Deciding the style really helped the story design of the charts. I tried to be as minimal as possible, removing unnecessary chart ink and distractions.

paper

Operation Paperclip

I wanted to give a feeling of progressing along a chronological timeline, whilst interspersing with ‘infographic’ style information pages. In particular there was a great story to tell about Germany and Operation Paperclip, that made a great infographic.

 

 

wiki

Embedded minimal Wikipedia page

I obviously wanted to use some advanced techniques so used the individual Wikipedia pages for some of the pilots to link off to an embedded web page. A masterstroke was working out that if I added “?printable=yes” to the URL it would give me a stripped back render of the page, that almost looked like a 1930’s newspaper, fitting the theme perfectly. I was really happy with that.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 12.02.30

Embedded YouTube page

There’s also a page that links off to a YouTube video of the driver. I like that one, as the links are all monochromatic grainy film with appropriately stiff-upper-lipped voiceover. Excellent. I did worry a little about the ethics of including these videos as some of them show the final moments of the driver’s life. I think I’ve been respectful enough in my overall viz to justify inclusion though. I also added an old-school TV border to give a little bit more visual appeal.

So overall I was really pleased with this. A nice style, several good stories and a use of some advanced multimedia techniques.

 

4. Challenges

As mentioned this was my first use of Story Points. Unfortunately it turned out to be a frustrating experience. The feature, whilst undoubtedly useful, is in need of customisation and doesn’t provide a smooth user experience. One for the Tableau dev team to look at for sure.

Another challenge was the fact that the new Tableau Public site has sneakily been changed to https. That only becomes apparent when accessing a published viz using Chrome. Make sure your links to embedded content are https or they won’t work.

 

5. Analysis & Story

So what can we take from this story? Here are some of the key observations that Tableau has allowed me to glean from the dataset.

  • Records are dominated by only 3 nations, with France killing it in early years with their brilliant aviators.
  • It took a while for airspeed to get going, in fact land speeds were higher for a long time.
  • Germany’s poor record really didn’t tell the full story, their brilliant scientists being key to the USA’s great NASA missions in later years. Interesting how their previous misdemeanours were overlooked though…
  • Most record-breaking attempts advanced the speed slightly, with the occasional big jump.
  • The incredible Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald held an amazing 21 records.
  • Oddly, no-one seems to be bothered about records anymore, there hasn’t been a new record since 1997. Or is it too hard / dangerous now?

So that’s it. I hope you enjoy the visualisation. If you do then please consider voting for me in the IronViz competition, should this make the Elite8 twitter vote-off thing.

Regards, Paul

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How to: To Boldly Go – A History of the Space Shuttle

makingof

Hi all,

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. DA DA DA, DA DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAA!

Now I’m no Trekkie, but I do love a bit of space action. And I remember rushing home from school early as a misty-eyed 9-year-old to watch the first launch of the Space Shuttle.

space-shuttle-atlantis_1223_600x450The Space Shuttle programme should rank as one of mankind’s greatest technological achievements. Over 130 missions across 20 years, to the point where a launch was completely routine and barely a newsworthy item. Incredible. And even more so when you look at the technology itself. Old and creaky by the time the programme ended, but it still worked.

I was pretty sad when the programme came to an end a couple of years ago. So I thought I’d relive the excitement by vizzing up some of the mission data.

And here it is!

shuttleviz

So how’d I do this?

1. Data

wikiI got the data from 2 sources. First off was a nice list of all the missions, dates and other data from Wikipedia. Columnar, consistent and easy to chuck into Excel.

The only issue with this data was that there were surely a load more measures of interest for each mission. Duration of mission was interesting and would make a good measure to viz, but what else could I find?

nasapdfThat brings me to the second data source. This excellent pdf from NASA details all the shuttle missions and crucially adds a couple more cool measures – namely distance travelled in miles and total orbits of the Earth.

Problem was that this was pdf and I couldn’t get to the text easily. To get around that issue I used this Mac automator guide to extract the raw text from the pdf into a text file. Then I used a quick bash script to return just the 2 measures I was interested in, in a columnar format that I could paste into excel alongside the existing measures from Wikipedia. I could have used Alteryx for that also.

So how’d I do this?

2. Viz design

Timeline – I wanted to show a year on year timeline of the mission launches, broken down by shuttle and also to have one of the measures on there as well so I could pull some trends. That was easy enough, and I wanted to use a shuttle shape to act as one of the points.

shuttlelcipI had to download a simple shape and then make the background transparent so that I could further differentiate using colour. The end result looks a bit cluttered when all missions/years/shuttles are selected, but is still okay for analysis. 

E.g. I can see from the timeline how missions started short, then gradually got longer as the programme progressed. You can also see the gaps in the programme after the 2 shuttle crashes in 1986 & 2003. You can also see how each Shuttle had a different usage profile, something that I expanded on with the box & whisker plot.

Images – Yet again I followed Shawn Wallwork’s tip for dynamically assigning images. I downloaded each mission patch image and then assigned it to the appropriate point on the timeline. The image is then displayed when the user hovers the mouse over the shuttle shape. Took me ages to assign them all so you’d better appreciate it.

Shuttle Stats – Simple bar chart view of the key measures. I’ve used the average of the values to colour the bars.

shuttlestatsYou can see from this that although Discovery and Atlantis got the most missions, Endeavour and Colombia did more miles per mission on average than the others.

Box & Whisker Plot – First time I’ve used one of these. Seems to work nicely, giving an indication of the different usage profiles of each shuttle and the spread of mission distances. You can see how Endeavour was used primarily as a long haul shuttle, whereas Columbia’s mission distance spread is much greater, being used as a total all-rounder. A really effective view. Let me know what you think.

Look and Feel – Now I really wanted this to look Nasa-esque, and I managed to find the NASA font for download. Here it is. 

I’m sure you agree it makes the viz look good. But there’s a problem. For anyone to get the same effect they need to install the font or it will default to one of the regular fonts and the effect will be lost. To get around this all the titles in this viz are actually small images. A bit of a pain to do but I can see that technique becoming something I’ll use a lot.

3. Final Thoughts

Hope you like this viz. I had a lot of fun doing it, in particular browsing through the NASA catalogue of images from various missions. Some spectacular photos out there.

But we all know that all this progress wasn’t without pain. So I’d like to end with the following dedication.

This viz is dedicated to the astronauts that lost their lives during the Space Shuttle programme.

STS-151-L – 28th Jan 1986
Greg Jarvis,, Christa MCauliffe, Ronald Mcnair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

STS-107 – 1st Feb 2003

Rick D. Husband, William MCcool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, Ilan Ramon

030201-F-9999G-001

Regards, Paul

Snowy Sports – Winter Olympics Dashboard

makingof

Hey viz fans.

I’m baaaaack. Thanks to everyone that send good wishes for my shoulder surgery last week. It was a frustrating few days so I thought I’d get vizzical as quickly as possible.

I’m gonna start this post with a caveat – Don’t treat this viz as authoritative! Please! I had some massive challenges with the data and tried a few things for the first time so I just can’t guarantee that it is as accurate as some would like. As with most of these vizzes, they are as much to showcase the capabilities of Tableau / Alteryx as they are intended to be informative. If you’ve got an issue with that then proceed no further.

I love sport. All sport. Especially the Olympics. And as you will know we are coming up to the start of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  So I thought I’d viz up the medal history going back to the first competition in 1924.

And here it is!

sochidash

So how’d I do this?

1. Data

Now this was *almost* a great success story. Let me explain.
All the medal history was held at http://www.databaseolympics.com, see the Winter Olympics section. The trouble is, you have to navigate through a couple of levels to get to the sports you need, there’s no way to view all the results in one go. When you do get to the data it’s in a nice format for copying into Excel, see below.

data

If only I could get it all into one place. Then I had an idea.

First off I managed to get a list of all the base level URLs I needed to cover each sport for each games. There were about 90 of them. e.g. www.databaseolympics.com/sport/sportevent.htm?sp=ALP&enum=110

Then it was dadda!! – Alteryx time. Let’s see what you got eh. Erm… Well I was pretty confident that this could be done but I’m far too inexperienced with the tool to get anywhere. Luckily a good friend of us at VN is the current Alteryx Grand Prix Champion – Chris Love (@chrisluv) of The Information Lab. I thought I’d see if he could solve the issue.

This is what he sent back to me… Turned out to be fairly tricky.

lovemail

And here’s the Alteryx module that cracked it. Happy to send it to anyone if you want to take a closer look.

alteryx

Absolutely awesome. I’ll be honest, I don’t yet fully understand how it works but I’ll be looking into that in more detail. I’m a little disappointed that Alteryx doesn’t seem to do web queries a little easier, nor can it process html files (even though it’s ok with xml).

So there we are – almost. I now had good data for all competitions up to 2006. Trouble is there was no data on that website for the Vancouver 2010 event (argh!). I did manage to locate the information from Wikipedia but it was a totally different format and had a number of other variances from the other data.

Another caveat is that I’ve treated every team medal won by an individual as an individual medal. For example, the bronze medal won by the GBR Ice Hockey team in 1924 counts as 10 bronze medals – not strictly accurate I know.

I managed to use Alteryx again to transform some of the 2010 data into a better format but I couldn’t get away from the fact that I had to do a lot of manual crap to get the info into the format I needed. With that, there are sure to be some mistakes – hence the above caveats.

Anyway….

UPDATE: Due to some pretty bad data quality issues with the source detailed above (missing whole events etc), I switched to this alternative. It looks to be a lot more accurate but again I can’t vouch for the quality. Let me know if you see any issues.

http://www.olympic.org/medallists-results

2. Viz design

Timeline – Quite like this view. Simple plot using an Olympic Ring image as the mark, plotting the year of the competition.

saraOne thing I really wanted to do was to represent the official flyer of the competitions and have that change with user selection. I’ve been meaning to try out Shawn Wallwork’s tip on how to do this. http://community.tableausoftware.com/thread/119079.

In summary it’s a tip for creating a dynamic background map, based on user selection. Check it out. Very smart.

Filters – I then created a couple of worksheets to act as filters for Sport and Medal type. Simple enough, using shapes. Needed to make sure the medals were consistent in size and style.

pictoFor the sport selector I used the official pictograms for the Sochi games. I think they’re awesome and look perfect for this style of viz. I positioned them centrally to act as a central selection panel. Love the look and feel of the images themselves. Give it a bit of use as filter action and job done.

medalsMedal Table & Individual Records – These were simple enough. The only cool bit was the use of small medal shapes for the gold, silver and bronze medals. Looks smarter than a basic text or highlight table.

Final touch was to add an athlete wildcard search, and then a mouseover info sheet to highlight the caveats discussed in the post. I also added a country code custom list filter so you can compare how one nation has performed compared to another.

3. The Finished Product

sochidash

So there you go. A viz of the Winter Olympics. Fun to do that one and great to be back in vizzing action. Lots of ways this one could be improved but I didn’t have the time on this occasion.

Regards, Paul