30 April 2020

Link roundup for April 2020

We have a poster webinar from Shiz Aoki at BioRender:

There were over 1,000 people attending this, I think I heard her say. The five topics covered within:

  1. Consistent margins / padding
  2. Arrange “sections” in a grid (Chicago, not Paris)
  3. Pick one section to highlight
  4. Colour, background, gradients,
  5. Poster-specific figure formatting

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With the COVID-19 crisis, almost no conferences this summer are planning on going forward. A few organizations are exploring some sort of scaled back online conference, which is one of seven recommendations in this article about softening the blow from conference cancellations.

The article points to a couple of examples of academic societies doing interesting things in the online poster space.

The Cognitive Neuroscience Society will have a virtual poster session.

More than a thousand posters (and growing) will be presented in individual, customizable virtual booths that include optional video presentations by the authors. New poster submissions will be accepted through April 14, 2020.

The Society of Toxicology has browsable archive of conference posters that normally would have been presented at their cancelled March meeting.

The Federation of European Neuroscience is also meeting virtually, and they say their format will include posters.

The Genetics Society of America says it is doing their virual poster session by uploading PDFs to Figshare, allowing an option video walkthrough, and an option Q&A session on Zoom.

If anyone has examples of online poster sessions in the next months, please email the link to BetterPosters@gmail.com!

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how challenging it is to convey uncertainty. We humans crave it. We want to know, “When it this going to end? How many people might die? Is my community likely to be hard hit?”

This great image compiles ways that we can try to show uncertainty visually:

This is taken from a book chapter that is just about ready to be published. The link contains an almost complete version of the chapter.

Ironically, the first way to show uncertainty in the illustration – error bars – is often bungled. When I view scientific scientitic documents, I look for error bars and very frequently find that they are uninterpretable. The authors don’t say what they represent.

Similarly, the predicted path of hurricanes are often shown with ensemble plots. People tended to not understand those, either. They saw the path for the central path of the eye of the storm, and didn’t realize that most of the damage is far from the eye.

It’s indicative of how badly we show uncertainty in scientific graphics.

• • • • • 

An interview with Elissa Schloesser of My Visual Voice, who is a graphic designer specializing in information design.

• • • • •

Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgings are interviewed in the New York Times about creating the CDC illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

But for the coronavirus illustration, they went with what professional medical artists call a “beauty shot”: a detailed, solo close-up.

“We just call attention to the one virus,” she said.

This one gets into a little more nitty-gritty detail about the software (Autodesk 3ds Max) and choices made in the process than the article that was in last month’s roundup.

• • • • •

Many people retweeted (may be started in this Reddit thread?) this amazingly bad graph from a television station. The source seems to be Fox31 KDVR in Colorado, according to Manny Equerra.

Look closely at the Y axis.

Reddit user ke1v3y helpfully created a correct graph.

Intuitively, the two graphs show the same trend, so it’s not at all clear why the original is so completely bizarre.

• • • • •

Another great document from MyFonts on using colour with typography. I particularly like point #5 (my emphasis):

Regardless of its brightness, color is paler than black and contrasts less with a light background. As a result, type printed in color will not have the power of simple black. You can compensate for this paleness by increasing the amount of color used. Increase the impact of type up by bumping it up by one weight (book to regular, regular to semi-bold, semi-bold to bold etc.) – or set it a size larger.

• • • • •

This is a nice little post using cupcakes and wedding cakes as an example of a creative process.

You get to a complex project by making a lot of small but complete projects, not by completing parts. Hat tip to Justin Kiggins.

• • • • •

Well, these tweets were sitting in my notes for months. Ioana Marinescu asked:

We’d all love to learn & connect but approaching new people can be awkward. What is the best question to start a conversation with at a conference? Other conversation starters?
What are you working on? 39.1%
What’s your research area 22.4%
What’s exciting in econ? 10.8%
Best papers you saw? 27.8%
832 votes

And Kording Lab asked the same question for neuroscience:

We all love to learn & connect but approaching new people can be awkward. What is the best question to start a conversation with at a conference? Other conversation starters?

What are you working on? 55.6%
What's your research area 20.8%
What's exciting in neuro 8.2%
Best papers you saw? 15.5%
466 votes

• • • • •

This plot looks like a tornado but was made like a duck.

The plot was from this article in The Conversation UK. The Twitter account for the website called it “useful,” (now deleted) prompting a lot of people to say, “This is not useful.” My own thoughts are in this Twitter thread.

Non-standard data displays are tricky. A big problem with this graph is that it breaks a very common expectation. “Time” on graphs is almost always shown the X axis. Here, it's at arbitrary points along each coloured line.

The other question is: What does this graph show that a bar or line graph does not? Nothing that I can see. In a standard bar graph, "deaths per day" is shown by height of bar. "Increase or decreases in death" is seen by comparing two bars.

This tornado graph is an example of what Edward Tufte calls a “duck.” Sure, it's different. But what is the point?

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Daniel Gonzalez has a late entry to the “social distancing graphic” collection.

Sorry, but it’s not as good as others, since the quantity of animals described in numbers and the quantity shown do not match.

• • • • •

Since comics inspiration is a recurring theme in this blog, let this great blog post introduce you to graphics design legend Ira Schnapp. He carved the entire motto of the postal service in stone in a New York post office when he was 16.

This post is the first in a series on Schnapp. Part 2 gets to the comics work he is known for, including one of the most famous logos of all time, Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. Which Schnapp probably created in a day. Part 3 talks about another famous Schnapp creation, the Superman logo.

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