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Friday, 03/11/05

I greatly admire Edward Tufte's sparkline notion. Here, for example, sparkline graphic of 12-month netflix history is a sparkline depicting a recent 12-month window of my Netflix rental history, where red lines indicate months in which my average rental cost was higher than $2.00, and black less than $2.00. (Netflix's monthly rate shifted twice over the last year, explaining the small discrepancy you may notice in the last line.)

Here is the tabular data from which the chart was generated. It contains extra information, most notably exact dates and precise scale, but it occupies approximately 65 times as much space and can't be absorbed in a breath.

chart of 12-month netflix history, with comparably-sized grid of sparkline equivalents

By comparison, the table's data-density is dismal, on top of which the micro-graph does a much better job of rapidly pushing across its underlying meaning -- to wit, that if $2.00 is my per-movie target, I only lately started watching enough movies.

The chart was generated with an early version of the Sparkline PHP library, which marks possibly the first time in this perl-hound's life that I've ever coveted a PHP tool. It looks delicious, and like sparklines themselves, really deserves to be embedded into markup. I'm impressed. 07:03PM «


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