One of the great things about attending a workshop is that you give yourself time to focus on one thing for a while.
And in the case of a Webstock workshop, there’s also the comfort that comes with realising that other people have spreadsheets of ideas kicking around on their laptops. Not little scraps of notes, or post-it notes on a whiteboard, but spreadsheets organised into columns and rows and sections with shading and emphasis. Phew. Not just me, then.
I was in a workshop today with David McCandless, the London-based data journalist behind Information is Beautiful, who’s here to speak at the Webstock conference in Wellington this week (Feb 14-18 2011).
Early on he showed us a spreadsheet he’d used while working up ideas for his book Information is Beautiful – a process that worked through eliminations, to defining simple questions to answer, and on to answering them and presenting the information visually in a way that informed rather than baffled.
He talked about the power of boredom, ignorance, bewilderment and frustration (perhaps with a news story) as spurs to find out more, make it interesting, make it relevant and compelling.
He talked about the need for:
Integrity = truth, consistency, honesty, accuracy
Function = easienss, usefulness, usbility, fit
Form = beauty, structure, appearance
Interestingness = relevant, meaningul, new
We got into small groups to come up with 10 concepts we’d like to understand more about. What a relief to sit for an hour and hash out ideas – and actually get past the fleeting-idea-while-doing-something-else stage. Was impressed by the kinds of concepts and breadth of them. Got to love the way people think.
Later we sketched out ways for visualising the ideas – more challenging than it sounds. My biggest problem was narrowing down the focus of what I was trying to communicate. Nothing new under the sun, eh.
Taking away quite a bit to think about. So, thanks David.
I’m going to be taking a few notes this week and will be posting them here (it’s a TiddlyWiki, which is still my preferred notepad for conferences since it allows me to update as I go and organise navigation as I go). They’re very rough notes, but you’re welcome to have a look if you’re interested.