ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Telling a story effectively with charts

An article in this week's The Bhutanese showed data supporting "a study by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry [which] shows that government expenditure and government projects are the main cause behind the rupee shortage." The following line graph was used to show the data (unfortunately, images are unavailable on the newspaper's website). The chart compares government spending with three other expenditures from (I think) 1995 to July 2011.

While a line graph is an effective way to compare trends, there are a few issues that must be kept in mind to avoid confusing the reader. Let's look at this chart carefully: First, the year labels are confusing. Second, are lines connecting annual numbers? monthly numbers? or perhaps some other aggregation? Third, the choice of line colors is quite hard to read, especially on the grey background. Try to follow the Rupee Reserves line. And fourth, the goal of a chart is to highlight the information for our story, not to dazzle us with color and bling. While the four lines and the legend are information, all those horizontal gridlines and background shading are distracting non-information.

These are just some guidelines for producing effective charts. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the data so I cannot produce an "improved" chart that more clearly communicates the message. Creating good charts is crucial for communicating news stories and convincing the audience. To learn more and improve your skills, you are welcome to join the Effective Data Presentation workshop.