At the winter olympics the Dutch excel at speed skating, but the differences between the top skaters are extremely small, frequently only tenths or hundredths of a second. Moreover, they race in pairs and the true result can only be seen in the final ranking, which is presented as a dull list. For our newspaper readers we wanted to visualize the races in short animations, so that one can clearly see the differences between the riders. We made the animations in a simple gif format, which can easily be posted on twitter and other social media, as well as embedded in regular articles on the newspaper’s website. At the end of the games we used the data that we collected to also pit the best men and women against each other in our animations, to extend the comparison of the individual differences.
What makes this project innovative?
We largely automated the creation of the animations, using D3 code, so that we could publish the animations on social media within minutes of the end of each race. This is a quick way to reach the audience, because they immediately see the result and don't need to click on a link to an article. It was really meant as social media data visualization.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The tweets with the gif animations collected many likes and retweets and we received a lot of positive feedback on our social media platforms. We also recorded a short video in which we explain how we set up this project to collect the lap times and write a program for the creation of the animations. This video was immensely popular and collected tens of thousands of views within a week. It seems that our readers like to see the human labor behind a seemingly simple visual.
Source and methodology
Direct access to the olympic data feed was too expensive for us, so we resorted to jotting down the laptimes ourselves while watching the races. We did this in fieldbook, from which we automatically extracted the data into a program that generated the resulting animation using D3.js.
Fieldbook, D3.js, photoshop
Geart van der Pol