Earlier this month, investigative newsroom ProPublica published an interactive graph showing the availability of various news web sites within China.
My initial reaction was that the missing (gray) and inconclusive (yellow) data are dominating the view without providing much information. Of course, the graph is precisely reflecting the data available, but I’d prefer a view that helps me see larger patterns. Which news sites were likely blocked all year? The Huffington Post stands out with a lot of red, but it’s not so obvious what other news sites were also never measured as available throughout the year.
Here’s a close-up of three sites with lots of inconclusive measurements that dominate the coloring. They have three different mixes of conclusive measurements, but that difference doesn’t stand out until you focus on it.
So my main “improvement” is to interpolate the absent/inconclusive data. For instance, if a site is measured as blocked, then unmeasured, then measured as blocked again, relabel the middle no data region as presumed blocked. Same for open, and for mixed endpoints relabel no data as in transition. Inconclusive is a really tricky category; I leave it as different from no data but similarly tint inconclusive measurements according to the surrounding measurements.
My second improvement is to avoid the red/green colorblindness issue. I switched the open color from green to blue. The stoplight colors have strong connotations which help with the interpretation of the original graph, and so it’s a trade-off to balance a small benefit to the 97% with normal vision versus a large benefit to the few. Still, here’s what the close-up above looks like with the most common red/green colorblindness (using Color Oracle):
My third improvement is to reduce the white space between rows. I didn’t realize it until I tried it, but I think the strong white banding is distracting.
Finally, here’s my view (data through December 19):
Is my improvement better? In its current form it looks a bit busy, but I think if a designer picked better colors, it would be quite functional, assuming you buy in to the interpolation idea.
With my remake, it’s easier to see the three sites that were never seen as blocked (CNN, ProPublica, and Washington Post), the six news sites that were never seen as open and especially the transitions, which might be the most interesting parts. Presumably, the late September transitions are related to the Hong Kong protests.
I haven’t tried to reproduce the nice axis labeling, reference lines or the interactivity of the ProPublica version, all of which I like.