Blogathon 2009: Infographics, Part 1: Why the CBC sucks

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Canada, Complaint Department, Infographics, News, Usability, Vancouver.

Okay, this is something that has bugged me for a while. People who say “interactive” when they mean “hard to use” and “Flash scrollbars”.

While otherwise a competent, irritatingly underfunded news organization, the CBC sucks at infographics. Most of their “interactive features” are just text that requires a lot of clicking and scrolling to read. That’s not “interactive”, guys. That’s “broken”. (In fairness, a lot of these come from the Canadian Press, which presumably also supplies these horrible clicky things to the two other[1] Canadian news organizations.)

But I digress. A tad.

infographic-how nortel sucks

Yeah, that’s a shame.

This graph of the depressing failure that is Northern Telecom is pretty good because it ties news and events to stock price over time. There’s still ridiculous amounts of clicking on tiny little dots though. Mouseover, anyone?

(In fairness, there are at least forward/back buttons.)

I find it really bizarre that the two most effective “interactive” features on CBC’s website are both incredibly morbid: a “where did people find feet washed up on beaches?” map, and a map of gang hits in Metro Vancouver. (Wow, that map certainly makes the Downtown East Side look quiet. “DTES: Too poor for gang-bangers.”)

Both of these, predictably, use Google Maps, and colour-code the different categories of event at that location. (“Raccoon paw hoax” or “stabbing”, for example.) This conveys a decent amount of information without having to select the icon to view additional details. However, you still do have to click the thing to find out anything more.

I will say, though, that the effectiveness of both of these horrible death maps could be improved by taking time and date into account: personally, I want to see how long ago those people down the street got murdered in their attic. I mean, really, now. (I remember seeing a Google Maps mashup that did this, with a slider at the bottom. Can anyone help me out with a URL?)

The New York Times, on the other hand, takes online infographics to a whole new level, rivaling the quality of their print features. I’ll explain more about this in 30 minutes.

[1] Yes, seriously. (Stupid Conrad Black. Stupid CRTC.)

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