Catching the Spark

This is the week of hobbyhorses. I love sparklines though I’ve been very lazy in actually trying to make more use of them. Sparklines are simple little graphs that can pepper text to illustrate data. I went through a phase of using them a year ago on media coverage of technical stuff, the excessive online habits of Hong Kongers and a rather lame illustration (my first effort) at the rise and fall of Internet cliches.

Anyway, interest seems to be returning for sparklines. Here’s a good piece on Corante on Sparklines: Merging visual data with text  about a new utility that lets you create sparklines for your web page or blog:

Joe Gregorio took the idea and ran with it. He created a web-based utility that lets you input a series of comma-separated values from 1 to 100 in order to generate a sparkline you can add to any online text. To give it a shot, I entered the numbers of repeat visitors to this blog beginning on Monday, March 13 and ending yesterday, March 19.


The Escalator Shuffle

I’m not sure it’s confined to any one culture because I see it all over the world, and I still don’t understand it. The Escalator Shuffle is when people in malls or wherever race to be ahead of others on escalators, but then stand still as soon as soon they’re on it, usually two abreast — or however many it takes to block any idiot who insists on walking up or down. No one is expected to try to pass, or scowls will be exchanged.

This of course is a very strategic manoeuver, and leaves them well-placed to, er, do what exactly? It prevents anyone passing them, which can only be a good thing for one’s self-esteem, but raises interesting questions as to why they rushed to be on the escalator if they’re not in so much of a hurry that they’re actually going to walk up or down said escalator? Because they want to show off their new pants to the folk standing behind them? Because they find all the other people trying to get on the escalator really ugly and don’t want to have to look at them as they glide up or down said escalator? Because they are exhausted from racing so fast to get on there first they couldn’t possibly walk a step further?

I must confess I don’t understand this. In Jakarta, Singapore or Bangkok it seems natural enough not to rush the whole escalator thing. No one is in that much of a hurry in these places, unless they’re in a car. But it always amused me in Hong Kong because there everyone will use any ruse to gain an extra inch on everyone else. But still, except for poor delivery folk whose life depends on getting everything done in 30 seconds, the escalator seems to be sacrosanct, a hallowed neutral zone where everyone can stop for a second, mop their brow and stare at the next person’s ass (going up) or hairpiece (going down). I guess it’s Hong Kongers’ idea of a holiday. Maybe that’s what the Escalator Shuffle is: a short holiday, in the middle of a busy day doing nothing in an air-conditioned mall.

Hong Kongers Flock Online

The folks at Nielsen//NetRatings have released their latest Global NetView Analysis (PDF only) which shows, as they put it, that ‘the majority of usage growth has come from increased frequency of access or user session growth. Australia, France, Hong Kong and Italy saw double-digit growth in the number of monthly user sessions (see Table 2). In comparison, the U.S. experienced no growth, second to last in the rankings.’

To me, though, the most interesting part is how much time Hong Kongers spent online last month Nielsen time online hours compared to anyone else (22 hours), including Japanese (15 hours) and Americans (14 hours).

This is new: It represents significant (25%) growth over last year Nielsen time online yoyg and, as Nielsen//NetRatings points out, compares strikingly with the U.S., where people actually spent less time online than they did in the same month last year.

I have no idea why so many Hong Kongers spent nearly every waking moment online last month. Perhaps it was the weather. I’ll be up there later this month. I’ll ask around.