Last November the New York Times ran an interactive visualization of one of the Republican debates that absolutely wowed me. On this week’s Interviews with Innovators show I spoke with two of its creators, Gabriel Dance and Shan Carter, about that project, and about some of their other work including the stunning Faces of the Dead in Iraq. It’s a great overview of how and why the NYTimes has been raising the level of its game — and therefore of everyone’s game — in the realm of interactive data display.
There’s an odd little Web 2.0 backstory about how we arranged this interview. When I cited the credits for the debate visualizer in my blog post, I had a hunch that my use of those names would appear on the creators’ radar screens. And sure enough, I heard back from Gabriel Dance. When I didn’t find any contact info for him on his website, I went hunting around and eventually found him on Facebook.
We then began an on-again, off-again dialogue that lasted for a couple of months, until we eventually settled on a time for the interview. At one point I tried to steer the discussion away from Facebook and into regular email, but for some reason that didn’t happen, so we wound up doing all the communication in Facebook.
When we finally got together for the interview, Gabriel mentioned that he’d never been involved in such a long Facebook email thread. Me neither. Somehow we got stuck in a loop where each of us thought the other preferred to communicate only in Facebook. I was glad to know that this wasn’t some kind of Gen-Y thing, and that we both thought it was a weird glitch.
The other delightful thing about this interview is the audio quality. Gabriel and Shan called me from the Times’ tape synch facility, so their half of the call was professionally recorded, then I merged their track with my locally recorded track. Nice!