Hello friends, my name is Duncan and this is Hello From Duncan - an email I send every ten days to a self-selecting group of people, charting my recent creative input and output. If you’d like to self-select out of that group, there’s a link in the footer.
This is a short one, because I spent last weekend seeing friends in Gothenburg, and I’m spending this weekend in a lovely little town called Röstånga on the edge of Söderåsen national park.
One habit that I’m trying to get into is to look up some data on places that I’m going before I go, and take it with me. For example, for Röstånga, I’ve looked up population statistics for the municipality, and done some basic data cleaning. I’ll be taking with mea nice database of how the place has changed between 1967 and today.
Part of this is that it’s nice to know a little about places you’re going before you get there. But part of it is to fuel any creative data explorations I get inspired to do while I’m there. I could make a little bit of generative art using those datasets, or make a simple sonification, strongly tied to the place it was made. I might not make anything at all. But doing that little bit of work in advance makes it much easier to start if the bug bites.
Here’s a nice blog post proposing a classification system for meetings. Cam Daigle, the author, argues that all meetings are either status meetings, feedback meetings or decision meetings - and that problems arise when two of those are blended.
(Via Christian Miles)
In the wake of my migraine sonification from last time, I spotted that the British Migraine Association ran a series of “migraine art” competitions in the 1980s, with the intention of sharing the varied experiences of migraine. The Wellcome Collection now owns all 545 of the entries, collected over seven years, and has a little showcase of them on their website.
(Via Lynn Cherney)
An occasional but vital part of a healthy community is the maintainence of community standards. It involves a gentle warning to people who are straying close to the line in their behaviour, which doesn’t scare them off entirely. It’s often a tricky task.
So I loved this blog post from Aja Hammerly about the joyful simplicity of “We don’t do that here”. Here’s a chunk:
It is a conversation ender. If you are the newcomer and someone who has been around a long time says “we don’t do that here”, it is hard to argue. This sentence doesn’t push my morality on anyone. If they want to do whatever it is elsewhere, I’m not telling them not to. I’m just cluing them into the local culture and values. If I deliver this sentence well it carries no more emotional weight than saying, “in Japan, people drive on the left.” “We don’t do that here” should be a statement of fact and nothing more. It clearly and concisely sets a boundary, and also makes it easy to disengage with any possible rebuttals.
Ghost, the non-profit, open-source blog platform that I have used since, what, 2015 or something? has launched a referrals program. So I figure it’s a good moment to talk about why I love it and recommend it all the time.
Ghost powers not just my personal blog, but also all the backend and membership infrastructure for the Elevate Dataviz Learning Community. I love it not just because it showcases a sustainable slow-but-steady-growth alternative to the traditional boom-and-bust startup model, but also because it’s lovely to use (way friendlier than Wordpress, in my experience), pretty cheap ($9/month for the “Ghost Pro” starter package if you don’t want to self-host) and just gets out of the way and lets me do the thing I want to do. I don’t need to think about it, it just quietly does a great job - which feels like the highest compliment you can pay to a piece of infrastructure.
If you’re thinking about launching a newsletter or a blog (paid or free), then Ghost is 100% my recommendation, and if you use that link to sign up then I’ll get a small kickback. Very happy to answer any questions, too! Just hit reply.
While I’m shilling for things I love, allow me to recommend my buddy and fellow Elevator Will Chase’s new course - the Glamour of Graphics. Based on his 2020 talk of the same name, it’s basically a crash course in turning boring charts into beautiful charts. If you’re a data person who wishes they had a bit more design flair, you’ll love it.
Oh, and if you want to join a friendly community to learn creative information design with, consider giving Elevate a try.
Alright, that’s enough. I’ve gotta go get on a train to Röstånga. See you in ten days!