Rock Around The Clock

My friend Chandoo proposed a chart to show website traffic vs. time of day in Plot your data around the clock [Excel charting idea]. He thought he’d use the analogy of a 12-hour analog chart, and put a bubble at each hour, where the size of the bubble is related to the pageviews during that hour. Well there’s 24 hours in a day and 12 hours in a clockface, so he had to make a pair of charts. Here’s the result:

Chandoo's Double Bubble Chart Around the Clock

Well, this probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and I like the fact that Chandoo keeps trying new ideas and shares them with his readers. But this dual chart has some shortcomings. The chart reminds me of a pair of Elton John glasses with jewels all around the frame, or maybe if I draw a few lines, it looks like a bicycle. And Dubble Bubble is a brand of chewing gum, not an Excel chart type.

Issues with the chart

  1. The data is a time series, but it’s presented nonlinearly in two separate sections, and the passage of time is only implied by the parallel to an analog clock.
  2. The horizontal line made me wonder at first where the jump occurred between left and right charts. Finally I downloaded the data and saw that the jumps occurred at midnight and noon.
  3. The bubbles do not show the relative pageviews clearly. I first looked at this goggle chart and thought it was telling be that there was a pair of peaks in the hourly pageviews, one around 9 am and another around 4 pm. This illusion was partly due to the bubbles and partly to the leap between sides of the chart.
  4. The colors are deceiving. The brighter color (orange) made me think of daytime and the dark color (black) made me think of night. A better break for the colors you used would be 6AM to 6PM and 6PM to 6AM. But then my confusion over point 3 would be magnified.

Remediation

At first I thought a 24 hour circular clock might work better, since it removes the jump from left to right. It could be done as either a bubble chart or a radar chart. Then I realized that nobody would understand it. “Oh, you mean 6 am is to the right? I thought it was pointing down.”

The KISS principle requires us to “Keep It Simple”, which means a simple time series, using an Excel XY chart.

The data is a simple list of pageviews vs hour of day:

Chandoo's Double Bubble Chart Data

I modified it slightly, converting to a 24-hour time format, and plotting each point in the middle of the hour (i.e., the 5 am point is plotted at 5:30 am). I came up with the following chart, a simple time series.

Jon's Alternative Chart

I probably shouldn’t have pimped the chart this way, because most people won’t get it, but I colored the daytime points (6AM to 6PM) yellow and the nighttime points (6PM to 6AM) dark brown. People would more likely get it if I used smiley suns for daytime and a happy moon for nighttime, but I’d probably lose clients over that.

As I said, I appreciate Chandoo’s effort here. Innovation is partly about trying strange new things. However, this was a case where simpler is in fact better. As any innovator would tell you, most innovations end up on the cutting room floor.

Update

Jorge Camoes has chimed in with a radar chart solution in Charting around the clock.

Jorge Camoes' Curator's Egg Chart

I have the same issue with this radar chart as I had with Chandoo’s double-trouble bubble chart. I don’t know where the day and night series cross, unless I read the fine print and point with my fingers on the screen until I locate the 8AM-8PM crossover.

In Jorge’s spirit of consensus, I’ve created my own 12-hour circular graphic, which addresses my conceptual problems with the charts shown thus far. It’s actually a combination radar-XY chart, using the radar to reproduce Jorge’s nice Roman-numeral clock face, and the XY series uses Chandoo’s trig algorithms to locate the actual data.

Jon's Alternative Chart

I show how I made this chart in Radar-XY Combination Chart

Peltier Tech Chart Utility

Comments

  1. nicely done

  2. Jon, I would look at the data before the daytime/nighttime split and create a split that creates more consistent groups, instead of some kind of standard split.

    I kind of merged both charts:

    Charting around the clock

  3. Jon, thanks for highlighting all the problems with this chart. I was in two minds whether to share it or not as I felt the double bubble did come out looking wierd and puzzling. I went ahead and wrote it as a fun alternative though.

    The alternatives suggested by both you and Jorge are fine examples. I have suggested my readers to visit both of these posts in order to know what they are getting :D

    I will do a follow up later when I get on to my pc, on mac now, so everything still looks beautiful :D, good day to you

  4. Why not just use a twenty four hour clock?

  5. Derek –

    You answered your own question in your post. Here in the States, 24 hour clocks are uncommon and unfamiliar. We can use 24-hour format time in digital format, but I fear that using the graphical equivalent would result in more confusion than understanding.

    Your version of a radial chart also seems to emphasize area, and I would be reluctant to use it to compare two series, given the confusion engendered by data which is encoded by area.

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  1. […] Jon Peltier doesn’t really like the idea and suggests a much more conservative aproach: […]

  2. […] this, nearly fainted at the carnage of a familiar metaphor and posted their awesome reviews here: Rock around the clock by Jon, he recommends a line chart over this for all the valid reasons Charting around clock by […]

  3. […] then led to another iteration that makes the continuation of the data series clearer. Jon Peltier modified the polar chart to […]

  4. […] Jon Peltier doesn’t really like the idea and suggests a much more conservative aproach: […]

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