Graphics and Relevance

by on November 14, 2006

This graphic “explaining” what the BBC’s honeypot might have been employed to do had it been hijacked (which I assume it wasn’t – how boring) is all but pointless.

While rather an extreme example, I think it highlights rather well what I’ve realised recently is the biggest single problem I have with graphical representations of things like this: relevance. For example, how relevant, if at all, are the pictures of “Net routers” in order to understand that a honeypot might be used to send spam? Do you need to understand what the arrows mean? If so, why are they all running from the honeypot through the “network” to the list of “possible uses”? What is the relevance of the “Wider Internet” and the “The Internet” and so on? Bad graphics are characterised by either missing out concepts or larding them with irrelevant ones. This seems to be an example of the latter type.

I sometimes think I’m the only person who struggles with this issue when confronted with graphics that are supposed to “explain” even moderately complex things. In this particular case, I would say that in order to do the same job as the graphic, you could use at most three lines of text for complete clarity.

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