Monday, January 19, 2015

The Hemingway Version of a Faulkner Story

Note: Tableau Guru Jeffrey Shaffer suggested I change from a red/green palette to one that's better for people who cannot distinguish between those two colors.  I changed it to include one view with orange/purple, but kept the original as well.

My undergraduate degree is in English Literature, and so I've read a lot of things I didn't like. In one American literature class I remember, the two heavyweights of the course were William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and the difference in their literary styles made an impression on me.  I'm reminder of this exchange of criticisms:

Faulkner: "Hemingway has never been known to use a word that might send the reader to a dictionary."
Hemingway: "Poor Faulkner.  Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

And so it goes with Story Telling With Data.  I downloaded an interesting data table from the Digest of Education Statistics, and worked for a long time, trying to find some interesting way to display the data.  I had a story board with four dashboards, but nothing was telling anything that was compelling. Part of the problem is that the patterns are hidden in the 50 states and three different types of FTE enrollment: Public, Private, and Private For-Profit.

And then it happened, and the charts tell the story almost without words.  On the left is change in FTE (Full-time Equivalent) enrollment by state from 2000 to 2010, broken out by sector.  Notice: Almost every state in all three views are green, showing positive numbers.  The worst is the khaki color, showing low increases.  

In the right column, it's a very different story.  Lots of red, concentrated, interestingly enough, in publics and the for-profit sector.  You can hover over a state for details, but the patterns are pretty clear, even without doing so.

There. A story, with no big words, and just a few pictures.