Oh gosh, I was almost going to miss it: Fell in Love with Data turns one! One year has passed and so many things happened in the meantime. Where do I start? Well, let me start with the obvious but important:
Thanks to all of you guys who are reading, commenting, re-tweeting, sending messages, etc. You gave to me much more than what I gave to you. I owe you something.
Numbers have been growing fast during this year but FILWD is not my personal toy to boost my ego (even though it helps in these regards), it’s a tool to advance data visualization. It’s for you, it’s for me, it’s a work in progress made to help us making this whole business damn better … with some fun in between if possible.
There are many things I learned during this year, far more than I am able to write in this blog post. Here are a few that come to my mind right now as I am writing:
- Blogging is a fantastic platform and I cannot think of doing without it anymore. Now, after one year, I cannot think of how one can pretend to be influential without a blog (especially in academia my dear fellows).
- Writing blog posts helped me far beyond my expectations towards clarifying ideas to me and taking all these vague concepts I had in my brain and transform them into something concrete. What is really surprising to me is to notice how not only my research work helped me writing blog posts, but also writing blog posts has had a strong positive influence on my own research (one more reason for blogging my dear friends). Far more than I expected.
- Blogging is at the same time much harder and much easier than people think. It’s harder because you have to spend a lot of energy and thoughts to make a blog successful. It’s a damn serious job, it doesn’t happen by chance. For me everything changed when I realized that it was totally nonsense trying to compete with Infostethics and Flowingdata and that I had to offer something different. But blogging is also much easier than people think because it just takes you to come up with a solid concept, set up a blogging account anywhere, and write, write, write an let it flow. I am surprised by how many people are scared by it.
- What matters is not success in terms of numbers (even though numbers count), but influence. At the end of the day if you have only 100 readers but you are blowing their mind it’s a lot better than having 100.000 casual readers passing by and say: “hey cool” and then they go back to their own stuff. It reminds me a notable statement from Tufte: “differences that make a difference”.
- No matter how much planning you put on your blog and how many blog posts you have in the pipeline, a blog is a living entity with its own dynamics and you cannot anticipate how people will react. This means being always ready to adapt and write about what matters now. What people need to read in this very moment, not the idea you had three months ago.
- The space for the data visualization showcase is shrinking (and thanks god!) The only way to be successful in data visualization is to do solid stuff that people need. Yes, there are still a couple of consumerist visualization readers out there but who cares? Do they make any difference at all?
- It doesn’t matter how clever and innovative the things I write are, the biggest value of the blog is YOU. In innumerable instances the real value of my posts came from my readers and their comments. I especially enjoyed those with opinions alternative to mine. They helped me re-think my ideas and make them more solid. Thanks a looooot!
- The best posts I wrote are those that scared my butt off, those where I felt I was stretching my intellectual capabilities. Often with this kind of posts I experienced the tension between trying to be as accurate and informed as possible, with the realization that I just don’t have enough time and means to study everything in every single detail. That’s hard but it’s also very very rewarding.
- Data visualization is a huge trend, far beyond the close knit of academics I was used to deal with. Plus, people out there are in desperate need of solid information because the Internet is a chaos and the field is not mature enough. Also, we people in academia have the responsibility to lead the way (did you hear that guys?)
In retrospective what could I have done differently? I don’t know … maybe you can tell me what you think. I don’t think I could have done anything too differently, I am pretty satisfied of how things evolved.
If I have to mention one single thing I would like to do better, it’s to achieve a much more regular posting rate. But in the end it’s a compromise, what is better: to write more often but more crappy stuff or write only when I have something to say? Dilemma.
I am proud of the following posts:
- How to Become a Data Visualization Freelancer | Interview with Moritz Stefaner: Because it blends surprisingly well useful knowledge and fun (thanks Moritz!)
- Visualization Consumerism: Because it came from my gut and I managed to let some people think.
- Data Visualization is NOT Useful. It’s Indispensable: Because it’s a little manifesto about how important visualization is to me.
- Do visualizations need to be “accurate”?: Because I overcame the fear of questioning the most fundamental theory we have in vis (and it hurt).
- Can visualization influence people? I mean can we prove it?: Because I managed to leverage on an apparently insignificant personal life event.
- 7 Classic Foundational Vis Papers You Might not Want to Publicly Confess you Don’t Know: Because it spread some fundamental knowledge around (it’s the most successful post I’ve ever written so far).
Things that blew my mind.
- That my post on the 7 classic foundational vis papers had almost 4000 visits on the date of publication. People are thirtsty for knowledge!
- That some renown researchers in the field are reading my blog and contact me for the things I write.
- That some people invited me to talk for my blog and not for my research work (though a bit disappointing! :-))
Special thanks to …
- Robert Kosara: for showing me with his blog that it was possible to write a blog like FILWD.
- Andrew Vande Moere: for instilling in me some doubts before I started.
- Prof. Tamara Munzner and Prof. George Grinstein for giving me so much fuel.
- The Data Visualization Cartel: you guys know why.
Plans for the future?
I always have plans for the future which I regularly abandon and the list is so full of stuff that I know I will never do it all. So what can I say? Maybe you have something to suggest:
- How do you see FILWD evolving in the future?
- What are the posts you liked the most and would like to see replicated in the future?
- Is there anything useless in FILWD that I should definitely stop doing?
I can anticipate a few things I’d like to do:
- Do more videos, especially if they are fun.
- Create the FILWD Newsletter to have a more intimate communication channel with some of you.
- Create an e-book out of the Beginners Toolkit.
What do you think? Do you like these ideas. Do you have anything to suggest to make them better? Thanks.