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Minard / Morse / Tufte and Authenticity on the Web (2018) (masswerk.at)
70 points by lifthrasiir 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



I think the bigger issue is removing the context and cropping the complete work here, which quite likely is already a grave deviation from Minards intent (note the Northing of the Hannibal map to align with Napoleon's).

It’s originally a 2 panel/figure page evoking a comparison between Hannibal's campaign over the Alps with vs. Napoleon's French Army in Russia 1812-1813

Sarah Rendgen just recently got a book published on the topic: The Minard System: The Complete Statistical Graphics of Charles-Joseph Minard

Here is the whole print in question:

https://i2.wp.com/geekdad.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/201...

from https://geekdad.com/2019/01/the-minard-system-charles-joseph...

[Book] https://www.papress.com/html/product.details.dna?isbn=978161...

Landsteiner makes notes on this, with a section in a previous article too:

https://www.masswerk.at/nowgobang/2018/observing-minard

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17808302


(OP here.) Yes, I think this is really the most important issue. Minard's graph was never meant to be observed in isolation, but is part of a greater visual rhetoric. It is also in this context that I did observe the various sources of the graph a bit closer. – I guess, we may say what has become "our Minard" isn't necessarily the "authentic" Minard.


What is most interesting to me is that someone already did a similar research in the English Wikipedia talk page for that file [1], but concluded that it was indeed Minard's (oops) and the error still persists today. It is really understandable as the presented differences are minor and only discernible for the most determined people though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_talk:Minard.png (note that it is actually a Commons image, so there are two talk pages for the same file)


Welp. I have no recollection of what research I did to conclude that it was “legit”, but I believe that was my post on Wikipedia. As I don’t have memory or note of that research, I can’t really stand behind either my initial claim or my counterclaim.


If Elaine Morse is still around she could perhaps shed some light. Perhaps Tufte knows her.

(Many years ago I went to a talk by Dennis Ritchie about *roff. He showed the graphic and said that someone at Bell Labs had taken the time to code it up. I have no idea if that person is Ms Morse, though.)


I received physical promotion for Tufte twice in my personal letterbox (while in USA) too my high surprise. Of course it made me check him out online, but I think his presentation is not something for me.

Edited for clarity since I apperently got downvoted


I went to one of his seminars and walked out. There was very little substance. At one point he told everyone they should bring a technical document when bringing their pet to the vet.

edit: Some other things he suggested: don't use powerpoint. Write a technical document and have everyone read it before the meeting. He also showed how he himself could have saved the space shuttle discovery.

Sorry if I'm coming off as a bit negative. I like the books, they have some good insights but the seminar itself was terrible.


That was too bad. I know many people who have been to the seminars (myself included) and from that I concluded that they are "uneven" which is to say sometimes they are better than other times. I didn't pursue finding the correlations which might illuminate why they varied, some suggestions were how tired Tufte was, or how rushed.

The one I went to was held at Stanford and we had a lunch afterwards where questions and discussions were entertained. The questions definitely broke down into the three classes of 'fan', 'learner', and 'skeptic'. I was fairly put off by the treatment of skeptics, in that the answers or discussion they received were of the form, "hey you paid to be here, if you don't like it just leave." Which doesn't really help.

Personally I got a lot of out both the seminar and the books. I certainly approach the development of infographics in my presentations differently than I did before being exposed to his material. I try to have graphics that convey the primary point easily (for people skimming), supporting data (for people who are trying to understand the point), and other related correlations (for skeptics who want to dispute the point). It takes more time, but it gives you something much more substantive to have up on the screen while you are discussing the point in a group.


I agree, the seminar is a mess. There's some useful examples and analysis of websites and such. But its rambling and spends too much time on self promotion and such.

The books on the other hand pretty much define a kind of critical thinking about visualization that's very good.


Write a doc that people read sounds a bit like the Amazon 6-pager.

https://www.quora.com/How-are-the-six-page-narratives-struct...


That’s unfortunate that you had such a bad experience at the seminar. I went to one early in my career (maybe 2001) and I consider it a pivotal moment. The seminar and books have influenced my thinking on design, experience, UI, decision-making, and how to present effectively, whether on paper or in person. Learning to use the concept of the data-ink ratio alone has paid off a thousand-fold for me. The other concept that sticks out to me: “good design cannot save failed content.” I also agree with his stance on presentation software.


I also attended his seminar in 2001 and it heavily influenced my life and work. As an example, when my wife was giving birth to our second child I made a plot, a simple one with paper and pen, of the time between contractions. I did that because the first time they tried to hurry her along with drugs. The second time when the doctor came in to whine that we were “not making progress” (read: the doctor has dinner reservations at 6) I was able to show convincingly that progress was indeed steady. The simple act of visualizing data can influence decisions, which is the point of his chapter on the Challenger disaster.


Sitting on my bed in Cape Town, South Africa and knowing that I'll probably never be able to attend his seminar, it's nice to read your folks good experiences.

It's nice to think that something you dream about is in fact something fantastic.

Tufte had a huge impact on me too, around the same timeframe (2001.)


> don't use powerpoint. Write a technical document and have everyone read it before the meeting

This is very good general advice. If more people followed it it would save a lot of trouble throughout government and industry.


I've attended 2 of Tufte's sessions. Highly recommend. The key take-away for me is "every pixel counts".

The caveat is that Tufte principles are rooted in a 2D print domain, so applying his ideas to interactive or 3D domains requires some discipline.

Sparklines in Google Sheets are a classic example of applying Tufte designs to the web.

https://www.benlcollins.com/spreadsheets/sparklines-in-googl...


> At one point he told everyone they should bring a technical document when bringing their pet to the vet.

At the risk of straying, I brought a journal article comparing FeLV vaccine efficacy that caused my vet to change his sourcing.


His books are considered seminal.

His seminars are, in my personal experience, a light introduction to his work for the high points, and him spending 20 minutes showing us his twitter timeline for the low points.

I’d recommend buying the books, and dedicating the day you’d have spent on the seminar reading them instead.




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