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Signs Seem Clear: Obama Appoints Tufte to Help Sell Recovery Act.
March 8, 2010 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Edward Tufte, infographics mandarin, has been recruited by the Obama administration to help explain the $787 billion stimulus plan. Mr. Tufte is said to abhor Powerpoint.
posted by darth_tedious (37 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a UX design/infographics geek, this gives me a nerdgasm that can only be explained by a sparklines graph going exponential.
posted by mark242 at 1:25 PM on March 8, 2010 [21 favorites]


I look forward to seeing an 8-bit remix of his infographics. Or something. I'm kind of not sure what to expect from boingboingMetaFilter these days.
posted by davejay at 1:30 PM on March 8, 2010


If Mr Tuftes reads this, may I humbly suggest that the stimulus plan infographic can most accurately be represented with kittens.
posted by seanyboy at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sparklines for everybody!
posted by smackfu at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm not sure saying Tufte "abhors Powerpoint" is totally accurate. As the freely-available excerpt from his Powerpoint essay can show, he has big problems with the way most people use Powerpoint to make presentations.

A fine point, yes, but I think it's important to distinguish that abhorring a tool is somewhat nonsensical.
posted by jckll at 1:33 PM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I now expect every single report printed by the GPO to be bound on sensual, acid-free Monadnock Dulcet Text in a monochrome palette with subtle low-saturation highlights, including the occasional popup.
posted by xthlc at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I want to say everything mark242 just said. Instead I will just favorite it. This really is a great decision.
posted by Brainy at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2010


We have to be realistic here. According to the note on his site, he's putting in a couple of days each month. Anyone expecting the report to be anything near the quality of Tufte's books will be sorely disappointed.
posted by honest knave at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2010


How difficult is it to explain this stimulus? Let me take a crack at it:

MONEY = JOBS

How was that?
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:49 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


You guys are excited by this, but wait until you see the abstract squiggly line sculpture he brings into Congress that he claims represents the totality of the stimulus plan while, "escaping the the restrictions of 2D, we have finally left the flatland," further making a point that the shadow cast by the sculpture itself is completely dynamic and changes depending on the time of the day and the season you happen to look at it to, "emphasize that the time value of money is not static." And then when you begin go to realize how much information is conveyed in this seemingly abstract thing, the moment of epiphany is completely shattered by a GOP presentation of a crowded Power Point with a crudely pasted Excel graph and this, this ugly fucking thing is the one fucking thing out of all this that gets passed around in FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW e-mail that contains blue text in a 14pt with a body that simply says "Pass the socialism pls. lol can u believe the dems?"
posted by geoff. at 1:51 PM on March 8, 2010 [18 favorites]


I'm not sure saying Tufte "abhors Powerpoint" is totally accurate.

I just reread my notes from his workshop, and it would be more accurate to say that he thinks a tool for pitching ideas isn't the best choice for conveying complex information. Powerpoint should be used as a "projector operating system".
posted by georg_cantor at 1:52 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Probably the best financial graphic ever drawn, this map by the commission portrays the great losses suffered by the US Government in the TARP Swindle of 2008. The thick band shows the amount of the remaining TARP funds at each position. After the turning point of bailing out AIG, and subsequent routing of funds through Goldman Sachs, the remaining funds are depicted by the tiny dark lower band of capital trickling down to non-financial industries and regular citizens.

Yes, I know the post was about the stimulus plan, but I would love to see a Tufte TARP infographic.
posted by benzenedream at 2:02 PM on March 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


Oh wow, can't wait!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:20 PM on March 8, 2010


jckll: “A fine point, yes, but I think it's important to distinguish that abhorring a tool is somewhat nonsensical.”

Not if that tool is something as pointless and annoying as PowerPoint. PowerPoint is a program to sequence images; there have been better and less bloated programs which sequence images since around 1993.

Besides, abhorring a tool isn't nonsensical. I abhor tools all the time. For example, I abhor whoever thought up PowerPoint, and I imagine he's the biggest tool that's ever walked the earth.
posted by koeselitz at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]




1942 - America brings together the world's great physicists to build the atomic bomb and defeat the Axis

1945 - America brings together the world's greatest rocket scientists to beat the Soviets to the moon

2010 - America hires the world's greatest (?) statistician to convice the public to defeat common sense
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:40 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think they should hire the guy from theoatmeal.com.
posted by davejay at 3:49 PM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Tufte is the godfather, nay, the king of infographics. And from what I've heard his services do not come cheap. I'm actually really interested in seeing this. If there's one person on the planet that could turn a pile of data into something digestable and usable, it's E.T. Obama's at least doing a very good job at pretending to give a damn.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2010


I would like to see the libertarians take on the economic mess.

"We've tried nothin' and we're all out of ideas!"
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2010


What mark242 and C_D said. Nerdgasm x 10^23 over here. And the prospect of Obama using Tufte-quality infographics in his weekly WH multimedia address makes me feel almost optimistic.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:15 PM on March 8, 2010


What a coincidence! I just picked up two of Tufte's books from the library (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information). xthlc, good call on the paper. The report should also be typeset in Monotype Bembo. (By the way, VDOQI has a mostly monochrome palette; EI is a lot more colorful throughout and has a chapter on the use of color.)

benzenedream, the graphic should be called Wall Street's March on Washington?
posted by Someday Bum at 4:21 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


benzenedream: Width of the tan line = $ marching from Washington to Wall Street; width of the black line: $ being recirculated into the general population. And in place of the temperature graph along the bottom, sub in stock performance sparklines for AIG, Goldman, et al.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is masterful.

I don't mean hiring Tufte, whoever he is (none of the links show his work).

I mean Obama's pitch-perfect playing of a certain element of the left. He's continuing two wars, still using tribunals, and Guantanamo is still open. He publicly stated that he thinks we should be allowed to hold people indefinitely because they might someday commit a crime. His record on civil liberties is literally no better than Bush's. But he sure knows the right little superficial nothings to keep people distracted with.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:39 PM on March 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


RAD. No need to read any links associated with this post.
posted by nutate at 5:51 PM on March 8, 2010


This is a good call.
posted by jquinby at 6:28 PM on March 8, 2010


Every non-Tufte member of the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel will be required, as a matter of course, to wear white gloves when handling the panel’s findings.
posted by sidesh0w at 7:34 PM on March 8, 2010


Screw the presentation. I want the handouts.
posted by warbaby at 9:11 PM on March 8, 2010


This will be a unique opportunity for Tufte to explain something important to the little people before it happens instead of building a career out of explaining, years later, why any fucking idiot should have been able to see the it was too cold to launch the Challenger. And don’t you love the sculptures I sunk into my lawn?
posted by joeclark at 9:34 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck yeah! Tufte is going to present the fuck out of that data!
posted by Ritchie at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


...abhorring a tool is somewhat nonsensical.

Why does everything have to be about Bush?
posted by Evilspork at 5:43 AM on March 9, 2010


Tufte has his good points and his bad points. His strongest feature is his ability to pick a kernel of useful truth out of the information avalanche we are all confronted with. The Feynman challenger story is a very good one. Galileo's graphics are an excellent benchmark for the subsequent 400 years of experimental science.

Yes he is far too arrogant for anybody who isn't a northeastern American or a European to be able to stand having a conversation with him for more than 40 seconds. There's several million people with this character trait. Be grateful if you are not one of them.

The best thing I got out of his class (I don't recall him mentioning his source and there is no farking way this was his original idea): the graphical user interface at the top of your application (I am in firefox--but this is true for nearly every one I have looked at closely) is an exact map menu by sub-menu by sub-sub-menu by sub-sub-sub-menu to the organization structure responsible for writing the software.
posted by bukvich at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I just had a nerdgasm, dies that mean that I've been masturbating to Metafilter this whole time?
posted by madred at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2010


If I misspell something on a post, does that mean I can't have a real nerdgasm? I only *think* I had one?
posted by madred at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2010


exact map menu by sub-menu by sub-sub-menu by sub-sub-sub-menu to the organization structure responsible for writing the software.

I just saw this mentioned, I want to say Crowley's law? But that doesn't brin gup any Google hits.
posted by geoff. at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2010


exact map menu by sub-menu by sub-sub-menu by sub-sub-sub-menu to the organization structure responsible for writing the software.

Conway's Law, named by software engineering guru Peter Brooks after a paper by the programmer Mel Conway.
posted by Jakob at 2:52 AM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your favorite infographics mandarin sucks.
posted by jeoc at 4:02 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


the sculptures are awful

the books are genious

he has a lot to live up to
posted by paradise at 9:37 PM on March 12, 2010


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