Infographics are out of control

This year to date the stream of infographics seems to be out of control. Every day there is a new infographic that tries to explane some phenomenon. If I search twitter for #infographic I get 20 more results within 5 minutes! Again triggered by Juuso Koponen I feel that most of these infographics are not adding the value they should and could. Juuso posed that infographics should reduce data and junxtapose data. I would like to add that they should be visual attractive and recognizable. This makes the visual experience more profound, fun and adds to comprehension.

But most infographics comply with the first requirement. Mostly these infographics consist of a large number of sub-infographics, this means they actually try to cover a lot of different data. For these individual infographics they reduce data somewhat. These infographics do not add value and help comprehension by the reader because it actually takes a lot of time to understand the complete infographic. The usage of text in maybe half of all infographics actually supports my theory. The infographic is not self explanatory if you need more than a sentence of, lets keep it simple, 140 characters to make your point. So lets add another item to the list of requirements for a good infographic: 80/20 rule for visual/text data.

The complete list would be:

  • reduce data for emphasis
  • juxtapose data for comparison
  • beautify data for inspiration and recognition
  • use max 20% text to support the visual

What do you think? Do we need to simplify infographics to add value again?

How neuroscience could make your presentations better

Today I had a thought about presentation and neurosciences. My main question was: how can neuroscience help presenters tell their stories better to an audience? I see two important things here. the first is using multiple visual slides for each sentence. If you want to do this you should use visuals only and maximum one word per slide otherwise people will lose speed. Secondly you can use these visuals to prime your audience for better comprehension.

During PICNIC Juuso Koponen talked about the speed of the brain interpreting information through different senses. Sight is much faster than hearing (as Juuso mentioned in his speech). This implies that your eyes are processing the information on your slides or prezi much and much faster than your audience can hear you talk. Speedreading in a way is all about using your subconscious or automated brain processes to read. Your eyes can read much faster without you using you ‘inner voice’.

The other angle is that you can use priming to show certain elements in a presentation before you actually mention this element. If you can do a test better if you think about a day in the life of Albert Einstein, you can influence your audience in the same way. Repeat certain images like a returning theme. Use images of happy people if you want the audience to like your ideas. If you want a decision use more red visuals (remember the ties of politicians in election time). Think about your conclusion and use a visual that supports that conclusion.

If you are in my next presentation beware of a lot of slides. An old colleague once used 100+ slides for a 15 minute presentation and left time to spare,so it can be done!

Thanks to lokiv7 for the nice picture on speed!

PICNIC day three

Yesterday was the third and final day of PICNIC. The picture (courtesy of PICNIC) was taken in the NANO supermarket and is a bonzai tree powering a cellphone. In this supermarket artists gave impression what could be done with nano technology. This wonderfull day started with the Open Data Breakfast. First Yuuso Koponen of the Aalto University in Finland kicked off with a very good presentation on information design & visualisation. One great insight was that visualisations enables the reader to choose the sequence of the information whereas in text the writer forces the sequence. Infographics are more pull than push so to say. Another important lesson to be learned was the speed in which your brain gathers data. Sights is the fastest with 10 Mbit/s while hearing is only 10000 bit/s. This explanes why visualisation can enable faster comprehension because it simply get’s in your brain faster. A third take-away I want to stress, is that visualisations should reduce data and to set the data side by side to enable easy comparison.

The second part of Open Data Breakfast was a workshop by Nokia on This site offers people the opportunity to submit ideas for using open government data. We worked on some very nice ideas. One of the ideas was the parking space problem. During the discussion the project and the Code for America project got mentioned. Both use open source to help municipalities open up their data and services to the public. During this discussion I wondered if citizens really want to be engaged in the government, business and people triangle. My idea is that as citizens we appointed government to take care of public service on behave of us. Why would we get engaged again?

After lunch  I really enjoyed the discussion on storytelling which was hosted by Dr. Beth Coleman. First was the director of Wasteland, a story about people living on a wastesite in Brasil. Second was Jeff Hull, the creator of the Games of Nonchalance for the Jejune Institute in San Francisco. Third was Euro Beinat, professor of context awareness in Salzburg, who talked about the currentcity project. Last but not least was Howard Goldkrand, creator of the Alternate Reality Game (ARGDexter. All showed remarkable ways to tell stories that change lives of the people in the story. Where a film the audience is not a part of the story but in the Games of Nonchalance and the Dexter ARG the audience participates. The Dexter APG had three tiers of participation from just viewing to full blown participation. These stories are told in a number of media at the same time because people all have different preferences to enjoy. It even got that far that in the game a game emerged between the makers and hackers who tried to hack the game. They were discovered and in a playfull way were engaged on their turf.

[vimeo w=600&h=375]

Games of Nonchalance from Nonchalance on Vimeo.

During the break I witnessed the Appsterdam reward ceremony where an app won that enabled, again, to find free parking spaces. This seems to be a big issue in cities of all kinds and especially in Amsterdam.

The last session was about the business case for cities.  The session started out really great with Isis Spuijbroek, creative strategist for the City of Rotterdam. She gave us some insight in the way a city works and what it’s role is. I really liked the metaphors of businesses that Rotterdam could be. The presentation by Auke Ferwerda showed some insight in incubators and the effort to lower risk and a higher success rate. The combination of these speakers, in my opinion, did not make a business case but was interesting.

PICNIC day two

Today was day two of PICNIC and another great day, maybe not as great as yesterday but never mind! The weather had improved tremendously over night. The day started with the Vodafone Mobile Clicks presentations. After a short delay and an introduction that was a little bit to long they kicked off with Wunderlist and Frogtek. Both were clearly startups in a more mature phase indicating the level was high. Wunderlist is a task management app for a number of platforms. This app already has a large fanbase and a number of mentions on prominent media! Frogtek is a service for small shop owners in developing countries to help run their businesses more efficient. Frogtek was my favorite because for me it was more innovative than a task management app. I did not stay tuned for the other candidates but the prize money will be rewarded tomorrow.

After lunch I sat in on a discussion about database cities and urban stories. The panel consisted of some great minds from the US and The Netherlands on this topic. Combining the data that cities are generating and augmenting this into the real world will shape the urban stories that make culture. A nice art example is The Catalogue made by Chris Oakley in 2004, where he envisions a world where tremendous amounts of data are combined. The internet of things comes into play. This is a big theme of PICNIC this year. The internet of things will be combined with social media (the internet of people?), ambient intelligence and mobility to improve life in cities. The discussion ended with the thought that although technology is great, people that are interacting with each other is the real stimulus for creativity and knowledge sharing.

My day ended with two great talks by Charles Landry and Victor van der Chijs from OMA. One of the thoughtfull questions by Charles was why people asked what the Zuidas is but the NDSM area is completely clear. The zuidas ,nice name for a financial district with international aspirations 😉 costed 2 bilion euro’s, where the NDSM island started with a briefing on the feel and culture of the area. Victor talked about the dimise of the creative class. Inspired by Richard Florida he made a case for creative class to team up with other the other promising sectors in The Netherlands to add value. An example is the Energy Roadmap 2050 to create an european powergrid.

PICNIC day one

My first ever PICNIC festival day started with a nice talk by professor Robbert Dijkgraaf, president of the KNAW. He talked about the relationship between creativity and physics. One of the best parts was about most important element of a formula, the equals sign. This sign brings together two worlds and lets ideas and concepts flow between these two worlds.

The second part of the creativity session was by Mark Runco, who talked about ideation and divergent thinking. Three elements are important in ideation: originality, fluency and flexibility. Time and associations have an effect on ideation and thus creativity. Playfullness will produce better ideas than being serious, so there is a wise lesson for all workshops!

The third part of creativity was about the concept of fractal. This shape is used by nature all the time and can be applied to business problems aswell. Searching the right information should use fractal trajectories to cover the most space on an efficient way.

During lunch I really enjoyed the Boom Chicago Pitch Training, where we learned a lot about giving a good pitch or presentation. A lot of good tips on stature, eye contact, acknowledging energy and presence. In speaking we should avoid “uhmm” and similar words, which can be done by a more than average preparation. At the office we discussed the hitchcock effect, that is to state the conclusion upfront and elaborate afterwards. During this session we talked about the scheme to state a conclusion “I like this bottle of water”, state three short reasons for the conclusion (“because it is fresh, sustainable and a good presentation prop”) and than elaborate on the reasoning. You can take a half day workshop at Boom Chicago for €95 euro, which should be fun and a good investment in your presentation skills!

After lunch I attended a workshop together with @ARoelofswaard on open data combining data from cities and people. The last one is trending as the Quantified Self lately. They mentioned some great stuff that is happening right now like, a site generates a fake person based on a big mix of data. The other service that was really nice is, a site that lets you make a litte app or service combining a number of channels, based on the priciple “if this than that”, hence the name ifttt ;-). Pachube was mentioned shortly, what is a nice service to manage data in the internet of things.

All together a really, really great first day and I am excited to go back to Amsterdam tomorrow!

Neuroscience & Information Management

Yesterday I gave a presentation at Rabobank on neuroscience, the final frontier of information management. At VLC we believe there are four barriers to information management. The last one is interpretation. If your information is digitally available, accessibel and relevant, interpretation is the last barrier. Can a person make the right decision based on that information. The brain has a big impact on decision making and information interpretation. The other presentations will be shared after the weekend when John and Paul are back on solid land.


Neuroscience [slideshare id=9192869&w=425&h=355&sc=no]