New Ice Cream Flavors

Yet another daily update. I’ll probably scale back the pace at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, I encourage you all to send me any cartastrophes you happen to encounter in your travels. Email address can be found in the About section.

Today’s effort comes from the Church of the Brethren Network, in an article on comparing Bible manuscripts and translations:

Obtained from http://www.cob-net.org/compare.htm. No author given.

Obtained from http://www.cob-net.org/compare.htm. No author given.

Click the link for context – it comes from an article written by a Mr. Ronald Gordon, though I cannot say for certain if he authored the map. In the article, Mr. Gordon explains the four major biblical manuscript families, and the regions in which they originate. The map is provided for the reader’s enlightenment and edification.

From the map, I gather that the Western family of manuscripts appears to originate somewhere off the coast of Sardinia, in the Mediterranean, whereas the Caesarean one is off of the Lebanese coast. Many people lived in the middle of the sea back then, you know.

If you read the accompanying text, you learn that the Western family in fact came out of Rome and Carthage. Both of which are, I suppose, kind of close to the big green oval (sure would be handy to have a map right about now to help me figure out where those two cities are). It’s rather hard to tell how far the oval’s sphere of influence extends, and there are a lot of places that are closer to the oval which are neither Rome nor Carthage. The alternative to placing cities vaguely near the oval would be what the author does to indicate the manuscripts originating out of Alexandria: completely cover the entire area so that you can’t see anything and can’t tell entirely where Alexandria is.

Rather than putting large shapes which, in fact, completely obscure much of the geography the author is trying to convey, it would probably have been better to just mark the locations of key cities, with much smaller dots.  In the article, the author in fact lists off several key cities, so it’s not as though he was trying to cover up an ignorance of which ones they were.

The shaded relief on the map seems so mismatched, giving the background an unnecessary level of detail that highlights all the more the fact that the ovals were quickly slapped on. Quick tip: Information content first, spiffy details second. To grind the point home even more, I will point out that the map has drop shadows. Drop shadows, I say! Yes, they do make the ovals slightly less dull (I caution you against trying to imagine what it looks like without the drop shadows), but they don’t stop them from being large, brightly colored-ovals which convey minimal information and take up a lot of space doing it. I repeat: Communicate first, add drop shadows second.

The map title is both oddly placed (about 30% of the way down…why?) and hard to read, on account of all that geography going on underneath it. When the background color on which your text sits changes, it becomes much harder to read. Especially if those background colors are very different from each other. Like, say, dark blue and tan. I don’t mean to say that you cannot read the text on this map. Just that it strains your eyes a lot to do so.

Unsatisfied with the eye stress induced by the map title, the author decides to make his or her next bit of text, the “Resources provided through Church of the Brethren Network” line, partly transparent, making the map title look perfectly clear by comparison. Also, in so doing, the author reveals his or her knowledge of how to change the transparency of objects on the map, leading me to wonder: why didn’t you do that for the ovals, so that I can see a bit of the land underneath?

One Nice Thing: The colors of the ovals are, at least, reasonably sensible. These data cannot be ordered (they’re categorical data)…you can’t put Western above or below Alexandrian, etc. There is no natural ranking. So, you want to use colors which likewise not orderable, and the ones chosen are, indeed, not orderable. Though, yellow might have been better than blue, to make Alexandrian stand out from the water.

Check out the part of the website which has the map, if you want to understand this post’s title. It’s worth it.


4 Responses to “New Ice Cream Flavors”

  1. 1 Tina
    7th July, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Quick tip: Information content first, spiffy details second.

    Dude, will you make a cameo appearance in my presentations class this fall? All you’d have to do is wander in, tip your hat, and say, “Information content first, spiffy detail second,” then leave.

  2. 9th July, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Oh Huffman, when will you learn? Drop shadow = automatically awesome.

    On another note, while you pointed out the transparency of “Resources provided through Church of the Brethren Network,” what gets me is that this attribution, which most of us would add in small text at the bottom of the map, is in the middle of the map and the same size as the (also oddly placed, as you noted) title.

  3. 4 Kate
    10th July, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Someone sent me to your blog via Twitter, and I’ve been giggling hysterically for a good ten minutes now. This is excellent.

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