Before adding all the interaction you can imagine, think!

Andrew and Louis are two computer engineers from Minneapolis who wanted to know where their tax money went. So they collected the data and put them on WhatWePayFor.com. That are a lot of data. So now Google and art and technology center Eyebeam have created a dataviz challenge for designers to visualize how individual federal income taxes are spent by the US government.

To inspire potential participants the site offers some links to nice visualizations about the destination of tax money, including an interactive bubble chart and ditto timeline, but also an explanimation and the wonderful (but not very intuitive) tool to create a Better World Flux. Last but not least Jono Brandel from Google Creative Lab created an example visualization in HTML5 that allows American citizens to input their income and see how the government spends their dollars.

Who wants to join the competition has to know that the judges will be looking for “that wow factor, that addictive tool that shows us something we didn’t know, something that illustrates relationships, hidden stories, and simple facts in a way that is uniquely insightful to tax payers.” They will pay attention to storytelling, clarity, relevance, utility and aesthetics. There’s some controversy about the rule that the challenge only is open to “users who are physically located in the United States” but for me the most interesting part of the briefing consists of this “Note on Interactivity”:

We’re excited that the web is making it easier than ever to create interactive data visualizations, and we’re hoping that this challenge will produce some great interactive pieces. That’s why we’ve provided the API. However, before you start adding all the interaction you can imagine, think about what meaning an interaction brings to the piece and how best to convey that meaning.

(via Chart Porn)

Banks that went bust

The financial crisis may be well over its peak, in the United States banks keep collapsing every month. The Wall Street Journal mapped all bank failures since January 2008. The timeline automatically starts to play as soon as the application is loaded. And although there’s some discussion about the effectiveness of animation, the boxes that appear at the end of it to explain how to manipulate the data sure add to the maps usability.

Stress and distraction

Financial website Portfolio.com made an inventory of factors that can increase stress in metro areas, ranging from unemployment and traffic to pollution and even the weather. These were quantified for the 50 largest cities in the States. The results are visualized on an interactive map. A good idea but the implementation could have been better. For one thing I would have liked to be able to compare the areas on each individual factor. Secondly I prefer a click instead of a mouse-over to reveal popup windows. Last but not least, the animation of the steam doesn’t contain information but certainly adds distraction.