Friday, 1 October 2010


Earlier this week Publish What You Fund produced an 'interactive map' of UK aid spending in conjunction with Open Knowledge Foundation.

I have a lot of time for these two organisations but unfortunately the tool they've produced is pretty lame (in their defence they say it's "work in progress"). Here's what's wrong with chartjunk like this:
  • Circles are misleading graphical elements since it is more difficult for the human eye to compare areas than to compare lengths (as you would with e.g. a bar chart).
  • It is difficult to compare one year to the next, since the circles move position and many of them are not labelled.
  • The provenance and accuracy of the data is not made clear and the 'More info...' button doesn't ever fulfil its promise.
  • It is not immediately apparent which circles are subsets of other circles (i.e. 'India' is in 'South' and 'Asia' but 'Bangladesh' is not in 'India')
  • There is no comparison with any other dataset so there it is difficult to make any new insights.
What would be a better way to explore the data provided DfID?

I've put the dataset on UK aid spending together with this data on time required to start a business, collected by the World Bank.

It's not the sort of comparison you usually see. Hopefully the resulting chart is interesting (look out for the log scale on the y-axis to spread out the data points).