I wanted to title this post “giving constructive feedback about visualization and its long-lasting effect” but it didn’t sound as good as this one.
I was about to write my next long post (don’t worry, almost done) when I received an email from a guy working for Hotels.com:
“Hope you’re well. I’ve seen you’ve covered infographics in the past and thought you might be interested in a new one from Hotels.com that looks at how people from around the world eat and sleep when staying in hotels. The research was conducted among 3,339 people in 20 countries. You can view, download and embed the infographic at: http://press.hotels.com/en-gb/
Here is the infographic (click on it to see the details):
I gave a quick look to the image, read the findings, and just discarded it as crap. I said to myself: “Here we go again … another email with crappy infographics”, pushed delete, and moved on to the next task. After a while, my sadistic brain could not resist and I wrote a quite cryptic message on twitter trying to see if I could catch some fish:
“From hotels.com: “I’ve seen you’ve covered infographics in the past and thought you might be interested in a new one” http://bit.ly/nGiUiC“
A few people replied and again I moved on to the next task.
Some other people like Stephen Few would have maybe started a long rant about all the reasons why this was crap, while some others, maybe, would have taken it seriously and tried to analyze it in details. Me, I just shook my head a never replied to the guy.
Here is where the true story begins: after a few minutes I receive an email from Andy Kirk of visualisingdata.com (bold is mine):
“Enrico – I received the same Hotels.com email today and had a good exchange of emails with the guy promoting them.
To be fair after our conversation he was really appreciative of the advice and said he will do his best to try and affect a change in approach. Really interesting how this particular market has erupted though isn’t it – the fact Hotels.com has a dedicated Infographics section under its PR pages…”
And later on:
“… it is becoming more and more difficult to stay on top of these type of requests but I’m taking the longer view that if I can offer constructive feedback it might in the smallest way have an impact on improving practice“
Let me repeat this sentence from Andy:
“If I can offer constructive feedback it might in the smallest way have an impact on improving practice”.
What a lesson have I learned! It was like a diamond in my head. Thanks Andy.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed I tend to be quite pacific, but at the same time when it’s time to say crap, I say crap.
We in the community have learned to have an automatic reflex: we look at some crappy visualization and in the best case we shake our head, in the worst, we write long rants a la Stephen Few.
I must confess I use to shake my head more often than writing long rants, also because otherwise FILWD would only host such type of big-ego content which I don’t like.
After reading Andy’s email I completely changed my mind. It’s way too easy to look at some stuff and think ”oh yes, the usual crap”. I did it so many times! And it’s even funnier when you share the “crappyness” with some friends or tweet about it “hey look … how could they be so idiotic to draw this and that in this and that way”. And we fill our mouth with words of wisdom.
Question: Do we make visualization any better by ignoring or, worse, mocking people who design bad visualization?
I know some of you might say that publicly criticizing bad stuff with big words will make people notice and be more cautious about what they publish. True. But will this strategy pay off in the long-term? I am not sure.
What do you think? Is it more beneficial a loud voice or a humble and cheerful suggestion? Especially, when people ask for an opinion. Do we need both? Do we have to treat different people with different strategies? Or should we just ignore everybody and do our work the best we can?
A few months ago I wrote in my post on Visualization Consumerism:
“I think we have to acknowledge the problem and do our best to educate people. But wait a moment …. educating people is a dangerous idea! I agree. But let me explain what I mean. When I say educating people I mean doing it bottom-up; by giving the right examples and striving for creating a thriving environment“
It looks to me like if these words had been written by someone else! The words are good, my behavior just does not match. We will build this thriving environment only if we learn to shake our head less and learn to help people in every possible way to make great visualization.
Sorry, now I have to go … I have to write a reply to the guy from Hotels.com.