1273: Tall Infographics
Title text: 'Big Data' doesn't just mean increasing the font size.
This comic is a satirical infographic, which is usually used to simplify and help visualize information that would be dreadfully boring otherwise. Randall takes this "simplification" to the extreme by making an unhelpful infographic, complete with unnecessary data and ironic and blatant misuse of common graphs and charts. At this point, he is not even simplifying his sentence "By the year 2019, all information will be communicated in this clear and concise format." He makes a sarcastic claim, pointing out how needlessly complicated some infographics make things they are supposed to condense.
In the chart:
- The number 2019 is huge and placed between the numbers 2018 and 2020, which is bordering on extraneous considering that the fact that 2019 precedes 2020 and succeeds 2018 is blindingly obvious.
- The graph of information represented by this format is extrapolated off of and intersects with 100% at 2019. This is a running joke on xkcd and is ridiculous for multiple reasons, as shown in 605: Extrapolating and 1007: Sustainable, for example.
- The word "information" has the letters "info" highlighted differently for the typical abbreviation despite the text splitting after the "r", a rather silly graphical styling.
- A pie chart, with one part labeled "will" and one part labeled "be", which is completely nonsensical as pie charts show the proportional relationship of parts of a whole (for instance, people up to 30 years old and over 30 years old in a human population), and "will" and "be" are merely words and the chart isn't showing their proportional representation in a population.
- "6 years from now" is more blindingly obvious fact at the time (2013).
- "72 months" is an unneeded and obvious conversion from six years; it is also false precision as 2019 (January 1) arrives 63 months from the comic date. The word "months" is also split across two lines, mid-syllable.
- A corny illustration of Megan telling Hairy the word "communicated" and Hairy enthusiastically responding "Yes!", despite the absurdity of the situation.
- The word "this" in huge font, and the word "in" with a bracket, taking up an inordinate amount of space.
- A Venn diagram. As anyone who has seen a Venn diagram knows, the two circles are two concepts or qualities, and objects or concepts that fit inside the circles go within. The words "clear and concise" plastered across the Venn diagram have absolutely nothing to do with Venn diagrams, and are ludicrously inappropriate for this jumbled and overblown presentation, but the word "AND" is in the intersection of the two circles, which is meta-humorous.
- In the lowermost bar graph, the bar height shows the alphabetic position of each letter of the word FORMAT (the bar labeled "F" has a height of 6, the "O" bar has a height of 15, etc.), with T highlighted because it is the highest.
It is also likely that this comic is a send up of the recent trend towards presenting information in tall graphics that are easily viewed on smartphone screens. A tall graphic with the same pixel width as an iPhone, for example, can be viewed without zooming and using only vertical scrolling. Another discussion venue for the topic and this comic is Gizmodo: Tall Infographics Suck.
The prediction communicated in the comic did not actually happen by the year 2019. Alternatively, it did happen but was reversed so quickly nobody noticed it happened.
The title text mentions the often-hyped term "big data." "Big data" normally refers to the challenges of working with and visualizing a quantity of data which is hard to process using traditional tools and methods. Randall, now speaking unsarcastically, tells us that just because the font size is huge doesn't mean you have handled the big data well.
- BY THE YEAR
- 2018 2019 2020
- ALL INFORmation
- [Graph representing all information.]
- [X axis of graph: 6 YEARS from now (72 months)]
- WILL BE [in two segments of a pie chart]
- Megan: COMMUNICATED
- Hairy: Yes!
- in THIS
- CLEAR and CONCISE [in a Venn diagram]
- F O R M A T [on the x axis of a bar graph of where these letters fall in the alphabet (the bar labeled T is shaded with a different color)]
- [Arrow pointing to the bar labeled "T": T]
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