Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LSAT, Taxes, and Zen Data Visualization

In case you couldn't tell, I'm a pretty big geek. As a more-verbal-acuity-inclined person, I have a healthy respect for those who are fluent in manipulating numbers and a love for well-designed graphical presentation. In the process of updating the online LSAT analyzer to track your accuracy and timing data for all the PrepTests, I'm also looking ahead to see how we can better present the information than a dynamic, interactive table.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information has been helpful in describing the what of what I'm looking for, but being clueless as to any coding more complex than touchups to this blog--like floating that book link to the right of the post!--I've often times been more worried about the how. More specifically, the how long and how much.

And then, people surprise you. Or, more accurately, one of my favorite crowdsourcing methods, this time utilized by Google, inspired a lot of people to take up the challenge of creating a compelling narrative for U.S. federal spending... as a graphical breakdown of your tax dollars. The Data Viz Challenge had a lot of really interesting--so go look at them now--projects, but the winner was so close to what I hope to do with Zen of 180 that I had to share it.

Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? by Anil Kandangath won the prize for obvious reasons. I hope he won't mind me using the graphs as a base for what I hope Zen of 180 will look like by year's end, but he is apparently thinking about posting the code for the project as open source work. Talented and principled is a hard combo to beat.

Be sure to visit the original project and play around with it to see where your tax dollars went.
On to the more verbal side of quantitative information, we also added an infomous interactive tag cloud on the sidebar. We think it's fun to use and helps you keep up with what's been on the blog recently. Let us know what you think--but we're pretty excited to be using the same tools as the Economist...