Tag Archives: Sparkline

Europe’s Top-heavy Leagues

Lg-spain Spanish Primera Liga (48%)
Lg-bundesliga German Bundesliga (54%)
Lg-epl2 English Premier League (47%)
Lg-france French Ligue 1 (47%)
Lg-greece Greek Ethniki Katigoria (6%)
Lg-holland Dutch Eredivisie (25%)
Lg-italy Italy Serie A (24%)

Lg-champ English Championship (29%)
Lg-scot Scottish Premier League (29%

This doesn’t have a lot to do with technology, but it’s an excuse to play around with sparklines, Edward Tufte’s approach to feeding data into text in the form of small data-rich graphics. And they might tell us a bit about soccer, competitiveness and which country is the powerhouse of Europe. (These ones are done with Bissantz’ excellent Office plugin.)

What started me off here was the comment on the BBC website that English soccer, while strong at the top (Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal), drops alarmingly in quality. Is there really no competition in the English Premier League? The absence of English clubs in the final 4 of the UEFA Cup would seem to indicate it’s true.

But I thought another way of exploring it would be to grab the points gathered by each team in each of the main European leagues, and then plot them as a simple sparkline, each bar indicating the points one by each club in the table. The steepness and evenness of the sparkline gradient should give a pretty clear impression of which leagues are split between great clubs and the mediocre rest.

Visually, Spain is clearly the most competitive league (with the exception of England’s second league, the Championship, which has an impressively smooth gradient.) The German Bundesliga comes second, with the English Premier League third. All the others, frankly, look too top heavy to be regarded as having any depth (Italy doesn’t really count as it’s in such a mess at the moment.)

The figures in brackets show how many points the bottom club has as a percentage of the top club, a figure that’s not particularly useful as, for example in Greece, the bottom club Ionikos doesn’t seem to has won only two games in 26.

Sparklines, Charts Reduced to the Max

I’m a huge fan of Edward Tufte’s Sparklines, although I have to confess I haven’t used them as much as I should in this blog. Here’s a couple to illustrate what they’re all about: Wifi and media coverage. But the problem has been a shortage of tools to automate this. Here’s another, from Andreas Flockermann, founder of
BonaVista Systems – Sparklines, Dashboards, Charting for Excel and Microsoft Business Intelligence
who has created something called MicroCharts (cool name) — “charts reduced to the max” (cool tag.)

I’m going to try it out.
 

Spark That Line

I’m a fan of sparklines, Ed Tufte’s graphical depiction within text of numerical data (it’s more exciting than I’ve made it sound). Here’s a couple of updates: First off, The Hardball Times is using them to show a month of scores of the major U.S. baseball teams:

Sl1

The bars are win (up) and loss (down). But also they’ve packed in a bit more information there: horizontal lines denote home games while gray bars represent games decided by two runs or less. You can see it better here:

Sl2

Nice work, guys. Meanwhile one of the best sparkline makers on the block, the Microsoft Office add-on SparkMaker from Nicholas Bissantz, is now into version 3.0. Sparklines will now update automatically when data in the original spreadsheet changes. The images are now scalable and more easily tweaked, and look better in print. Other tweaks are in there which I look forward to playing with.

Sl3

In short, sparklines are a great way to pack useful and yet otherwise boring looking information into a visual display that fits into, or alongside, ordinary text. One day it will be big. It deserves to be.

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.

 

Coming To Your Phone Soon: Sparklines

For sparkline enthusiasts: The guys at Bissantz tell me their SparkTicker is now available for download, creating sparklines for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, HTML and information tickers:

SparkTicker exports your data to both your personal ticker on your screen and/or a marquee you can post on a website, see the top of this page for examples.
Download area

SparkTicker Excel Add-in requires Microsoft Office 2000, XP or 2003 and the .NET Framework. You are free to evaluate SparkTicker in a non-productive environment. Please note that SparkTicker is still in beta phase. Download and install is at your own risk.

What’s perhaps most interesting about all this is Bissantz’s idea that sparklines might work on cellphones:

Sparklines not only make sense as a powerful means to increase the analytical depth of a text, they can also add information where space is scarce. Imagine your company’s most critical performance measures being sent to your cell-phone, while your away from the office. Or get the updated seasonal data of your favourite soccer team the minute the last game is over.

Media Coverage As Sparklines

Here’s another effort to use sparklines to try to illustrate some of the trends I wrote about in today’s Asian Wall Street Journal/WSJ.com column (subscription only; apologies). I’ve used another excellent tool called SparkMaker, a Word plugin by Bissantz to try to show how the mainstream print media has covered some technology issues since the early 1980s (these charts cover 1984–2004 because the numbers prior to then are too small to be useful.) I’d be grateful for any thoughts you may have, on either the sparklines or what the data may say to you. Of course, it might say nothing at all….

Here’s the first one: media mentions of certain terms in order of the year the term was most often used (they’re done as screenshots, apologies for the low quality):

Spark year

‘Information superhighway’ as a term reached a peak in its first big year of usage, and then fell off rapidly. Electronic mail wasn’t ever as popular and is still in use (who still says that rather than e-mail?) Cyberspace had its heyday in 2000, as did MP3, surprisingly. Notice how SMS never really got that much coverage, I guess perhaps because Factiva is so slanted towards North America. Spam is a big topic, as is VoIP. The bars are too small to show it but Blogging has been covered since the early 1990s, albeit in small numbers. Wi-Fi and RFID, too, are now major topics. Bluetooth has never quite captured the same attention.

Here’s another way of looking at the same data, sorted by the largest total coverage in a single year:

Spark popular

Allowing for distortions caused by the growth of media outlets, VoIP has in one year outdone all others. Wi-Fi too, seems to be catching attention.

The rise and fall of the Internet cliche

I thought I would try out Edward Tufte’s sparklines idea as a way of presenting some research I have been doing into how the mainstream media has been covering technology over the last decade or two. I went through Factiva (part-owned by Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and my paymaster), noting down the number of references each term got in a year (not as swift an exercise as one might hope. There must be an easier way of doing this.) Some of the results are in a column due out tomorrow in the Asian and online WSJs (Friday).

Anyway, here’s some material there wasn’t room for, along with a stab at a sparkline or two:

Who calls the Internet ‘the information superhighway’ anymore? Sadly, some still do – mentions have been static the past four years at about 1,000 per annum – but that’s a distinct improvement over 1994, when it was cited on Factiva a record 16,447 times. Since then editors must have started issuing edicts, because usage more or less halved in subsequent years. ‘Electronic mail’ started getting mentions as early as 1972 but took a quarter century to fall out of editors’ favor for the snappier sounding ‘e-mail’. From a high of 13,637 mentions in 1996 it has been falling steadily: Last year it was mentioned only 4,552 times against 1,577,582 for e-mail. Some terms, unfortunately, are more resilient. ‘Cyberspace’, for example, took longer than ‘information superhighway’ to hit the mainstream (in 1994 it received a third the number of mentions) but continued to enjoy journalistic approval right up to 2000, when a staggering 26,226 editors failed to spot its cringe-making quality and allowed it to enter copy. Since then, it’s gradually fallen from grace, but not fast or far enough: Last year it popped up nearly 9,000 times. Ugh.

Then here’s the same data in sparklines format (thanks to Mathew Lodge’s excellent Adobe Photoshop script for making it possible for a design doofus for me to be able to get something like this out. My fault it’s not a very good example of the genre. Suggestions very welcome for making better ones). Still, I think it shows up some interesting features of how, at least in the case of the first two, one cliche has given way to another over the past decade.

Mentions in Factiva, 1986–2004:

Sparkline for SuperhighwayInformation Superhighway
Sparkline for Cyberspace3Cyberspace 
Sparkline for Electronic mailElectronic Mail

What the data doesn’t show is that this was the first reference to ‘electronic mail’, back in January 1972:

Pres Nixon proposes development and demonstration of electronic mail system…
21 January 1972, New York Times Abstracts – Pres Nixon proposes development and demonstration of electronic mail system to provide routine overnight mail delivery between stations and 1-hr priority delivery

Whatever happened to that?