LinkedIn Just Turned You Into a Butterfly

Don’t you think these bizarre new media “visualizations” have gone too far? The picture above is not a map of Africa on Acid, it’s a new LinkedIn product called InMaps. Here is how the company describes it:

“InMaps is an interactive visual representation of your professional universe. With it you can better leverage your professional network to help pass along job opportunities, seek professional advice, gather insights, and more.”

Here is my official review of it:  “Bite me.”

I am so sick of “info-graphics” that make you work for information. Will somebody please hand me a freaking pie chart so I can soothe myself?  What am I supposed to learn from this ridiculous LinkedIn cotton candy butterfly?

Now in all fairness, this illustration does not give credit to the interactive majesty of the real thing. If I hover over a nodule I get somebody’s face. So I all day long I can decorate my butterfly with little pictures of my friends.

Isn’t there anybody at LinkedIn who is thinking “Ya know, this is really dumb. We’re about to embarrass ourselves.”

And while we’re on the subject of visualizations, stop with the damn word clouds people. Here is a word cloud from a blogging blog. Would you have ever guessed that their cloud indicates they write about blogs and blogging? Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Isn’t THAT a surprise?

Here’s another “visualization” showing the power of my Twitter connections.  Like me, I’m sure you’ll spend all day staring at your naval trying to figure this one out …

And let’s not forget the popularity of nodes. When new media really wants to create a chart with impact they node-ify it.  Like this example, they usually put the user in the middle, creating a Zen-like chart that shouts “YES!  In fact the world DOES revolve around you. That’s why we’re on social media in the first place, right?

At the end of the day, we have simply forgotten how to properly display information. The medium is obscuring the message.  Let me demonstrate what a real “info-graphic” is supposed to look like:

See how simple this is? No user’s guide required.  You don’t even have to ‘splain it.  Using information from my own statistically-valid study of Guy Kawasaki, his strategy emerges before our eyes! We can easily see how Guy contributes to the endless fun of the Internet with his intellectual tweets that captivate, stimulate and drive the all-important “conversation.”

For you new media types, I would like to introduce another innovation called the “bar chart.” No nodes, no butterflies, just good ol’ helpful data:

In this example, collected from the latest U.S. census, we see that the people who identify themselves as a “social media guru” in America actually exceeds the current population. Talk about a growth industry!

I hope this lesson in displaying data will help all of you realize that it’s time to return to a simpler life, when we could use statistics to lie about our companies in ways everyone could understand.

I for one have had enough. I’m beginning a new non-profit organization called Better Information Through Charts and Histograms, or BITCH for short.  Please join me, won’t you? Give generously so that I may continue my efforts to stamp out clouds and spyrograph thingys.

Remember my dear friends, before you make a pitch, send money to BITCH.

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