The Week in Vis: Week 6, Feb 20-24

by Mike Gleicher on February 17, 2017

This past week we talked about abstraction, and you gave me some free consulting on my web page we tried to learn more about graphic design.

This week, we’ll connect the abstractions to visualizations – by discussing encodings (the mappings from data to “visual variables”). To start, we’ll just think about the mappings and how these lead to designs – and then we’ll move on to talking about the perceptual issues in choosing the encodings.

This week, we’ll also start with our first “Design Challenge” where you’ll be able to try out all the stuff you learned and make some visualizations. This will be the first of 3 design challenges. It will play out over the weeks before Spring Break (a little more slowly than future ones which will each be 3 weeks).

  • Monday, February 20th – Lecture on Encodings. Since it’s Monday, you know that there’s a reading due (Reading 6:Encodings) for class, and an initial posting to the discussion (Discussion 6: Encodings).
  • Wednesday, February 22nd – We’ll have a “hands-on” demo where we’ll show off how Excel (yes, Excel!) can be used for some of the kinds of data analysis/visualization you may want to do for the Design Challenge. We’ll also do some in-class exercises involving encodings and redesigning encodings.
  • Friday, February 24th – We’ll have an optional, in-class discussion about the Design Challenge. This will be time for you to bring your own data set (so we can decide as a group whether it’s a good one to use), but we can also talk about the ones we provided, and maybe talk about tools a little bit. We won’t have anything planned, but will be in class to discuss what people want to talk about.
    And Seek and Find 6 is due. And, if you want to be on time, all the additional postings for Discussion 6 are due (but hopefully, you’ve done them earlier so that others can discuss).

So for this week…

Piazza (again)…

by Mike Gleicher on February 17, 2017

While I said that Piazza is optional, I realize that having only a part of class sign up an imbalance – some people have access to more information, and find out about stuff sooner.

So while posting on Piazza will remain optional, I would like everyone to at least be registered on it, so that you can be aware of what’s going on there.

I think in the next few weeks, as everyone starts working on the first Design Challenge, people will want to discuss things like what tools to use, and to ask for help with tools. Since we (the course staff) aren’t necessarily experts at things like Tableau, having a “user community” may help us figure it out more easily.

As I like to say… There are 51 of you, and one of it. You should win – if you play as a team. Collaborating to learn about the tools is encouraged (but we want people to do assignments individually).

So, next time you log into Canvas, at least click the button and set up your Piazza account. As an inducement, over the next week, I will make some postings suggesting some resources that might be helpful for the first Design Challenge.


Discussion Assignment Timing

by Mike Gleicher on February 15, 2017

I realize that I have been inconsistent in explaining the timings for the discussion assignments (these are the weekly discussions connected to the readings). Because of this some things on Canvas got set up wrong (sorry if you got shut out of Assignment 4 – it is open again if you want to continue discussion)

The weekly timings are:

  • Monday – before class – readings are due
  • Monday – any time – first posting due
  • Friday – any time – other required postings due (although, some weeks might have “special” things due earlier)
  • the following Friday – discussion closes.

So, if you’re staying on track… (i.e., are on time): you have made a first posting by the end of day Monday, made any other required postings by Friday, and made at least 2 comments in response to other postings by Friday. Then, there’s another week for you to continue the discussion (and in many cases, there are interesting discussions going on).

So for example, this week… Assignment 5… initial posting was due on Monday (2/13), the additional posting (1-2 more checks of abstractions) are due on Friday 2/17, and you need to have contributed 2 additional things (replies to other people) by Friday as well. We’ll let you continue discussing things until 2/24. (you can turn in late things until 2/24 as well).

I have been reading a lot of the discussions, although I haven’t been taking part in the conversations or giving feedback. I’ve seen lots of really thoughtful postings, and lots of interesting discussions.


by Mike Gleicher on February 14, 2017

Several students have asked about Piazza. (for those of you not familiar with it, it’s an online discussion tool specifically designed for University classes).

I was hesitant to add Piazza – since it means we have 3 different web things (the course web site, Canvas for assignments, and now Piazza). And it isn’t fully supported by the University.

But, Piazza is really good for free-form student to student discussions (e.g. asking questions, discussing things that come up, …). Canvas can do this, but it’s not so great. So I decided we’ll try it. If it fails, we’ll cut it out.

As we start getting to the Design Challenges, I think Piazza will be a great place for students to discuss tools, ask for help as you try to figure out how to make stuff, …

All “Official” discussions (e.g. assigned discussions that are graded) will still be on Canvas. Canvas is much better for keeping track of stuff, breaking the class into groups, turning in assignments, etc.

There should be a Piazza button in Canvas. According to the University Q&A, if you use this to access Piazza, it should automatically enroll you in the class.

If having 3 different online systems is confusing (4 if you count email), here’s a way to keep it straight:

  1. The course web page is the way that the course staff broadcasts information to the class. All announcements will be here.
  2. Canvas is the way that we will turn in assignments. Since some assignments are discussions, these discussions will be on Canvas (e.g., the weekly assignments, Seek and Finds). If it counts towards your grade, it will be on Canvas.
  3. Piazza is for public discussions between students (possibly with course staff involved). If you want to talk about something that isn’t an assignment, you can start a discussion here.

The Week in Vis: Week 5, Feb 13-17

by Mike Gleicher on February 10, 2017

This past week, we talked about evaluation. Although, in class, we spent more time on a specific kind of evaluation (design critique). We’ll come back to talking about experiments (if not this week then next).

For this week (Monday February 13 – Friday February 17th), we’ll be doing two things: our “Design School” and discussing abstraction. Be aware that there are Design School assignments for Tuesday (bring things to class on Wednesday, February 15th). You should know about everything for the week since it’s all on the schedule, and you should be used to the weekly rhythm (readings and discussion starts on Monday, seek and find on Friday).

  • Monday, February 13 – We’ll have a lecture/class on Abstraction. We’ll do some in-class exercises to understand what are the abstractions in some visualizations. This will work a lot better if you’ve read the Munzner chapters, and then at least looked at some visualizations as examples to think about the abstractions in them.
  • Wednesday, February 15 – We’ll have a lecture / in-class critique exercise about visual design (our “Design School in a Day”).
  • Friday, February 17 – No required class. I will have office hours.

The assignments for this week:

  • Reading 5 – the main part is due before class on Monday 2/13
  • Discussion 5 – everyone has to play “name that encoding” for 2-3 visualizations. Have your first one by Monday 2/13. And remember, you need to make at least comments on other people’s postings!
  • Design School Part 3 (Redesign) – you must upload your work (before and after, 2 seperate PDFs) to Canvas on Tuesday 2/14.
  • Design School in-class critiques – you must bring your work (printed out on paper) to class on Wednesday 2/15.
  • Seek and Find 5 – is related to the design school. The content is a little different than other seek and finds.

Canvas Issues

by Mike Gleicher on February 10, 2017

We are aware that some people had some problems posting to Canvas over the past few days.

Chih-Ching has worked with Canvas support, and we believe that the problem has been fixed. If you’re still having problems, let us know.

We understand that this might mean some of you delayed you assignments this week. Canvas might still tell you your assignments are late, but we’ll take the problems into account when assigning scores.


by Mike Gleicher on February 9, 2017

I said this in class, but I never posted anything about it…

Tableau is data visualization software that makes it fast to put together charts and diagrams from data (especially if what you want is a standard chart type). It is particularly good for trying out different views of data.

Tableau has generously donated licenses to their software for use in this class.

We have enough keys such that everyone in class can have one if they want. If you want a key, contact Chih-Ching (for now, we might find a better way to distribute keys in the future).

We will take time in class (on March 1st) to look at Tableau. It is a really useful tool for Design Challenge 1 (which will be announced soon).

Some examples of discussion

by Chih-Ching Chang on February 8, 2017

We upload 3 discussion examples in box.

  • Discussion21-Uncertainty.html is from class in 2015.
  • Dis2-Ex1.html is a good example of initial post that summarized the readings well.
  • Dis2-Ex2.html is a good example of discussion thread. They have their own thoughts and discussed continuously about why someone agreed or disagreed with the reading or other students’ ideas.

P.S. The format looks terrible in box preview.

Lecture Slides (as Promised)

by Mike Gleicher on February 7, 2017

I have put the lecture slides into a folder on box:

No promises these are useful – they are meant as a visual aid for the presentation. And I don’t always follow the deck – I skip things, go in different order, …

I’ll keep adding to this directory. In the future, I will try to put things up ahead of lecture. For Wednesday, the slides will be the ones for today (lecture 7) that we didn’t get to.

How to do Visualization

by Mike Gleicher on February 4, 2017

I have a post from the 2015 version of class called “How to do Visualization” – I should have explicitly asked you to read it.

How to do Visualization (from the 2015 Course Web)

It probably isn’t news to you now – it’s pretty much what I’ve been saying in the class so far. But it might be the only place the big picture I am trying to convey in class is written down.

I bring this up now, since I will mention this posting in class Monday (I am re-using some old slides). It’s a quick read.