Top 15 Albums of 2008 from Michael Surtees Visualized

Top 15 Albums of 2008 from Michael Surtees Visualized

Just like last year, I’ve thought it would be interesting for me to plot out my top albums for the year. I changed the data axis of the 2 x 2 grid as my music habits shifted quite a bit from 2007. I barely listened to internet radio from a real station and I didn’t bother listening to any music review podcasts from NYT. I can’t really pinpoint any one source for knowing what to buy aside from an assortment of music blogs. It was interesting to note that I bough almost every one of those albums via my iPhone for what it’s worth. I decided to swap that info with a subjective credible vs. embarrassing axis as we all can relate to not wanting to admit to everything we listen to. While I don’t know anything about how the music industry decides to release albums I was curious to see what months were more successful than others for my listening habits. The reason why I’ve chosen 15 albums and not 20 is that I couldn’t think of five more albums that I wanted to add. I don’t think there’s much more to add except that four of the top five are from the UK. Is there anything that I’m missing?

It might be a while before I have time to annotate each album like I did last year…

01. Portishead: Third
02. Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid
02. The Streets: Everything Is Borrowed
04. Q-Tip: The Renaissance
05. Duffy: Rockferry
06. Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
07. Wolf Parade: At Mount Zoomer
08. Magnetic Fields: Distortion
09. Kings of Leon: Only by the Night
10. Flying Lotus: Flying Lotus
11. Tv on the Radio: Dear Science
12. M83: Saturdays=Youth
13. Tricky: Knowledge West Boy
14. Girl Talk: Feed the Animals
15. Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III

Following News Online + Getting Information on the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

news flow

For my own sake I thought it would be interesting to flow how I tend to get my news. Last week w/ the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks that changed slightly after I went to the exact news source on the ground and watched it live online on NDTV. One thing that I wasn’t expecting was by Saturday is that I just had to turn it off. It just became overwhelming.

My News Flow:
1. Twitter: It’s been like this for a while, anytime I find out about something really newsworthy first – it’s from Twitter.

2. Trusted Mainstream News Source: After I read something crazy on Twitter I’ll check to see if any real news sites are mentioning it.

3a. No News: If none of my news sources are mentioning anything I’ll go back to Twitter, do a search on on it and see what people are saying about a particular topic.

3b. Mentions Story: So the original story can be confirmed that I read on Twitter, I’ll take a look at what the trusted news source (and Daylife of course) has to say about the topic.

4a. Follow Links from Twitter: More likely than not, I can get more links via Twitter on subject than following trusted news source, plus they still haven’t mentioned anything yet.

4b. Read Story and from Other Trusted Sources: Try to read a bit about what other news sources are saying about the same topic

5. Watching NDTV Online: This is where things changed in regards to the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks. For the first couple of hours nothing was being mentioned online via the trusted mainstream news sources, there was a decent amount of news chatter, but to get details of what exactly was going on I watched it live online from Mumbai. What I noticed is that the reports that NDTV did would then be relayed to the mainstream sources in just about the same detail afterwards. I figured I might as well get it from the original source as opposed to second hand…

Link Drop for the Week Ending in Friday the 10th (October 2008)

At this point in the news cycle it would be hard not to be influenced by what’s going on in US politics and the economy. Interestingly enough a lot of the sites that I found useful this week had a nod to those issues. There’s tons of statistical data out there that should make things easier but is that really the case? Behind that information are the stories – is it easy to find a truthful pov on the news that reflect those stories? I dunno if we’re at the end or the beginning stages where things get clearer but I do know that there’s a lot to have an opinion on. Till next week…

– m

About: “The maps that now appear on the front page of and other parts of the site allow you to quickly scan the latest trend poll trend estimates for every state in the Presidential race, as well as races for Senate and Governor (with U.S. House coming soon). The maps also allow you to navigate to our poll charts by clicking on the state.”

eismann-sf »’s Charting’s Charting Widget
eismann-sf wrote: “I’ve seen these widgets popping up on various political blogs around town, and think they are fairly well designed. It’s tough to cram as much information as they do into such a small space, but they succeed by practicing the right approach to information design: content is king.” - Graphing the Debates_1223592991242Graphing the Debates
Graph Paper wrote: “One thing that’s been fun about watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates on CNN is that you get to also watch a scrolling EKG-like graph of how viewers are actually responding to what is being shown.”

Picture 15Minor Landscapes and the Geography of American Political Campaigns
bldgblog wrote: “If you’ll excuse a quick bit of landscape-inspired political speculation, I was reminded this morning of something I read last year on Boing Boing and which has stuck with me ever since – and that’s that there are more World of Warcraft players in the United States today than there are farmers.”

Google Reconsiders Its Aversion to Advertising - WSJ.com_1223592739856Google Reconsiders Its Aversion to Advertising
WSJ wrote: “Since its earliest days, Google Inc. has largely promoted its search engine and search-advertising products through word of mouth and partnerships. But in recent months some of the Internet company’s executives have been pushing for the company to overcome its aversion to paid advertising. That has created some conflict within Google, which is maturing and looking to reinvigorate its slowing growth.”

The Contrarian_1223592761284The Contrarian
About: “The Contrarian is a tool that brings into focus disparate facts and views in today’s media narrative. Taking content entirely from published articles and photos, The Contrarian seeks to sharpen the edges of the hazy world view presented by internet media. The product of this effort seeks not to discredit any particular source, but to encourage users to seek out other sources for information.”

Bagpipes_1223592800504Joel C. Robinson Historical Woodwinds
About: “While the first instrument I played was the modern oboe, the first instruments I made were harpsichords and organs. A talent for metal and woodworking as well as an attraction to early music led me to recreating woodwinds of the past. It was 1973 and I bought a metal lathe and designed and made my first instruments: cornamuse and bagpipes.”

 Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards_1223592810046Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards
A List Apart wrote: “We’ve been talking about Web 2.0 for so long now it’s already passé to argue about what it means and what it doesn’t. But one thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of data out there on the web these days. And as web designers, we’re designing a lot of data-driven sites.”

Meat & Cheese Combo Proves Edible | Jason Santa Maria_1223592854579Meat & Cheese Combo Proves Edible
Jason Santa Maria wrote: “Armed with empty stomachs and discerning taste buds, we descended upon New York City determined to find a cheesesteak of quality. I’m happy to say, we succeeded.”

Creative Edward de Bono quotes | David Airey » graphic designer, logo designer_1223592927674Creative Edward de Bono quotes
David Airey wrote: “Edward de Bono is one of the very few people in history who can be said to have had a major impact on the way we think. He has written numerous books with translations into 34 languages (all main languages plus Hebrew, Arabic, Bahasa, Urdu, Slovene, Turkish etc).”

 Muji Chronotebook — jackcheng.com_1223592967949Stuff I love: Muji Chronotebook
Jack Cheng wrote: “Start with the simplest thing imaginable: a blank sheet of paper. Add a rows of lines and it becomes a notebook. Add a grid instead and it becomes an drawing pad for architects. Add a few tiny boxes and it turns into a to-do list. Put in dates and you’ve got a calendar. But as they teach you in your high-school econ class, everything has a cost. For each function or feature you add, you lose a purpose.”

 12 Year Old McDonald's Hamburger_122359297970312 Year Old McDonald’s Hamburger
the Sherman Foundation wrote: “What does a 12 year old McDonald’s Hamburger stored in tupperware look like? It looks exactly like it did 12 years ago. A woman named Karen Hanrahan who teaches a workshop titled Healthy Choices for Children uses this to show parents the true nature of what children are eating when they eat fast food.”

Life_1223593003469Book Mining: Work/Life
pica-n-pixel wote: “I thought I’d share a peek into some of my most recent book acquisitions. First up is the Uppercase Gallery directory of Canadian illustration and photography Work/Life. I don’t know what they feed those folks north of the border but it makes them crazy talented!”

3rings » Could outdoor LED walls have saved Wall StreetCould outdoor LED walls have saved Wall Street?
3rings wrote: “Just this past Friday, both Congress and our President all signed off on a $700B rescue package. Personally, I am in favor of this legislation as it effectively aims to help both the wealthy and the poor, but I often question how we might have prevented this crisis sooner.”

Tina Brown’s Daily Beast Starts With A Growl, Not A Roar | paidContent.org_1223593031669Tina Brown’s Daily Beast Starts With A Growl, Not A Roar
paidContent wrote: “By now, anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Tina Brown’s online project with Barry Diller’s backing is called The Daily Beast after the paper in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. Brown’s high-profile move to the web from glossy print is scheduled to go live Monday at 7 a.m. eastern, in the softest of launches, scant months after a team was assembled in the Gehry-designed IAC headquarters.”

‘the village pet store and charcoal grill’ by banksy_1223593054880‘the village pet store and charcoal grill’ by banksy
designboom wrote: “the infamous UK street artist banksy has been overseas in new york. last week, he was spotted painting a large mural that touched on the US economic situation. now he has opened a pet store in the west village. as you would expect from banksy, ‘the village pet store and charcoal grill’ isn’t your typical pet store; there are definitely no gold fish for sale here.”

 Blog_1223593065347Photo Essay: The Denim Factory
DFP:Blog wrote: “I shot these photos at a denim factory in Kentucky that specializes in distressing high-end jeans for a few top designers. I used to scoff at paying a premium for jeans that come with holes in them already.”

What's New York ReadingWhat’s New York Reading?
About: “Books people are reading on New York City subways. Send your photos (along with the book title and train) to whatsnyreading [at]”

 I will do one thing today._1223593013513I will do one thing today.
swissmiss wrote: “No more of this multitasking business. I need to focus more. Right after I finish blogging this.”

[command save]_1223592958223[command save]
About: “Portland State Graphic Design! Keeping PSU Graphic Design Grads, Students, Faculty & Friends in Touch”

The Money Meltdown_1223592997815The Money Meltdown
About: “Everything you need to know about the global money crisis of 2007-?.”


Remember those Girl Talk mp3’s from a couple months ago? Here’s the diagram to the music

Mashup DJ Girl Talk Deconstructs Samples From Feed the Animals

Remember a while ago when the latest Girl Talk music files were floating around? Now that you’ve probably stopped listen to it there’s a diagram from Wired Magazine that illustrates all the influences. Even if it’s old it’s still interesting to see how the musicians influenced it. Read more from Wired at Mashup DJ Girl Talk Deconstructs Samples From Feed the Animals

Why can’t I embed these to show their cool interactivity?

A Map of Olympic Medals

A Map of Olympic Medals

I’m really liking how the NYT’s Map of Olympic Medals is designed. Nice interactive features that show the medal count via geography and ranking. But as I took the screen shots to post on my blog it got me to think about how cool it would be if I could actually embed the who thing into my post like I can w/ videos from Youtube. Seems like a great idea to me, there could always be a link back to the original story. Do you think there’s any negative reason why embedding the original flash interactive piece wouldn’t be a good idea?

Play w/ the live map at

Did you like Clerks because of the dialogue?

Design by

I was clicking through a lot of links this morning when I came across the above gem. It wasn’t exactly easy to figure out who designed it though I think it was by Rich Watts. You can see a larger image of it on his site at The diagram itself is showing all the conversations that happened in the film Clerks. At a thumbnail level it takes some squinting to read everything, but the legend is as follows: “Each colored block represents one second in the movie with individual blocks grouped into rows of sixty seconds… The color of each block indicates the character speaking at that specific moment in time. Seconds with no active speaker are indicated by a split gray block and character lines containing profanity are indicated by white dots in the corresponding blocks”.

Twitter time and date viz. tool

Picture 9

Always on the lookout for tools that can show me something new viz. wise w/ twitter – I came across the above tool at In a simple timeline it shows the relative comparison of all hours and days of the week that I’ve sent twitter messages. I haven’t come across a timeline like this before that effectively shows comparisons like hours to days to the number of inputs. I’m def. going to use that type of tool for other experiments down the road. Some of the more interesting points from the above chart is that the bursts typically follow the patterns of when I have coffee.

Visualize your delicious tags in a cool way

top 50 tags from / Michael_Surtees /  by Michael Surtees

I luv visualization tools – you’ll luv too if you have a delicious account. The above image illustrates my top 50 tags from The site has a really nice and simple nav to make modifications to how you want to display the results. Go figure that design is my biggest tag…

Mapping Animals – what is the name of this kind of diagram?



If you’re a vegetarian you might want to look the other way instead of reading this post. When I used to work near the Meat Packing District I would often walk by Zampa (great little place btw) and appreciate their pig diagram. It’s a fun diagram that looks cool and also is a major part of their website Recently I came across a poster using a similar technique. While this type of mapping is not taking over the nation just yet, it’s something to keep your eyes out for. Just one question – is there a proper technical name to this kind of diagram?

Raymond Biesinger flow-charted history of Edmonton bands

Raymond Biesinger flow-charted history of Edmonton bands

Raymond Biesinger Chart (small)

The talented illustrator Raymond Biesinger has created a fascinating 16 lane chart that covers Edmonton’s (Alberta, Canada) music scene between 1956 through today in 2008. While I wasn’t much of a gig person while living in Edmonton, it’s really interesting to see how long bands lasted, merged and contracted over time. You can see the ever expanding chart at I’d also check out his normal site at for work he’s done with Monocle, Fast Company, and Saturday’s Financial Times Weekend magazine…

Keeping Track of You


morale-o-meter 2

morale-o-meter 3

A couple weeks back I was have tea w/ Jack Cheng and he mentioned how he was keeping track and organizing things in work and life. One site that he mentioned was Morale-O-Meter, a simple way of keeping track of a number of personal related things. There’s a number of categories ranging from health, moral to the amount of caffeine you take. You rate each of those items on a scale from one through ten. After saving the numbers it creates a bar graph of that day and compares it with the rest of your days via another graph. I’ve only been using it for a couple days so my chart isn’t that telling just yet, but I could see over weeks and months how the data would show interesting trends. Another great feature is that you can opt in to have an email reminder to fill in your information from the previous day. Also contained in that email is some “fun”, it picks out one persons chart that seems of the scale which is kind of interesting in itself. If I had one complaint it would be that sometimes it’s a bit buggy – I’m guessing that when a lot of people are on the site loading information at the same time it will not allow me to log in. If I hit refresh a couple times the server error goes away. Not a big deal but if you go to the site and it doesn’t seem to work you’ll at least know to just hit refresh. Make your own chart at

For Fans of the Approval Matrix from New York Magazine

The Approval Matrix

If you enjoy going through New York Magazine’s print version of the Approval Matrix you’ll want to check out the live web version that someone has put together blog style at I could go on and on about how this really turns live pop culture into a tangible grid/visualization of great vs. bad in a static print way that is then transformed into manageable data bits that can be relived on my laptop at a time of my choosing – but I won’t and just suggest that this type of blog thing that is re-purposing pop culture is kind of interesting.

via Manhattan Users Guide

My Top 20 Albums of 2007 Visualized

Top 20 Albums of 2007 from Michael Surtees Visualized

The great thing about year end lists in music is that chances are you’ll find something that you missed through out the year. The album that I found (or so I think as I’ve only been able to hear one or two songs from) was Roisin Murphy’s Overpowered that I found via Refinery29. Too bad it’s an import that I haven’t been able to find yet. But I digress, the other thing about music lists is that there’s a lot of them out there. So to make my list more interesting to myself I decided to see what the patterns of my choices would show me. I decided a 2 x 2 grid would give me some options to visualize my listening habits via time and two sources that I used a lot through out the year. This was the year that I started to get tired of KEXP’s playlist and started listening a lot more to a station in Minnesota (of all places). Maybe my tastes are mellowing a bit, but I really like listening to Minnesota Public Radio’s the Current. I also like listening to the NYT Music Popcast, I knew that there was a number of albums that I bought after their reviews. So I was interested in how everything over the year would compare.

1. The National: Boxer
As the saying goes, “those who like it, like it a lot”.

2. M.I.A.: Kala
Posters do work, I had no idea that M.I.A. had a new album out until I saw this poster on a wall. Curious I went to iTunes, listened to some of the tracks – liked what I heard and thought that the visuals corresponded pretty well with the music. When was the last time both music and visuals were on the same path?

3. Panda Bear: Person Pitch
Don’t buy this album from your iPhone – I did and it took three days. I suspect that the file sizes (on average 15 mb) had something to do with it. Tech issues aside this album is different like M.I.A.’s but in an acoustic way.

4A. Cam’ron: Public Enemy # 1 Part 1
4B. Cam’ron: Public Enemy # 1 Part 2
This was the only free as in really free album on the list – download a copy at Yes it’s a hip hop album, but I felt listening to this guy that he had something to say as opposed to bragging about talking. There’s a underlying tension that makes the album sound like he would would rather get something out the door rushed/unpolished as opposed to never getting the album out, and for this double album lends to making it sound authentic.

5. Feist: The Reminder
I truly wished that Feist wasn’t featured on an Apple commercial though ironically as many times as I’ve heard that song on tv I rarely skip over it when I’m listening to it through my headphones. You probably have the album too so you know why it’s on most people’s top music lists.

6. Dinosaur Jr: Beyond
When my friend Chet passed on this album to me I would have been surprised at the time to hear that I would have it on my top music list at the end of the year. The thing is/was, I almost always never skip on song from this album when it comes on. Go figure…

7. The Arcade Fire: Neon Bible
I’m surprised that this album hasn’t been featured on more of people’s lists, though the trend it seems that albums released in the second half of the year have a better chance b/c they’re still on people’s minds. Neon Bible was out in January I think, perfect timing for a tour, just not for a list. But each song is pretty strong – kind of sad I missed them live.

8. Maps: We Can Create
A consistent moody album.

9. Chromeo: Fancy Footwork
Very fancy indeed – a nice album to listen to if you’re feeling bit down b/c I doubt you’ll be in that mood when you’re done hearing it.

10. Sea Wolf: Leaves In the River
I’m still undecided if I’ll like this album a year from now, but for the time being it’s got a good vibe.

11. Alicia Keys: As I Am
This is probably not an album that I would go out of my way to tell people to buy, but it’s very tight as a package. Every element has been considered and considered very well.

12. Pela: Anytown Graffiti
Nice but not great album, maybe trying to hard.

13. Lupe Fiasco: Lupe Fiasco’s the Cool
The biggest difference between this album and Cam’ron’s is that this feels like a hip hop studio album vs a guy that’s pissed off enough that he’s got some stuff to get of his chest. Both are appropriate, but it also looses something when you have too many people telling you what to do which is what this album starts to feel like.

14. Justice: Cross
I don’t think there’s a better album to power walk to with in NYC in small doses. After a while it feels repetitive and predictable.

15. Peter Bjorn And John: Writer’s Block
There’s nothing really bad about this album though it seems like half the album has been featured in tv commercials. The difference between Feist and them, I didn’t want to hear the song after I saw it pushing something.

16. VHS Or BETA: Bring On the Comets
This another album that I’m not sure if I’m going to like a year from now.

17. Project Pat: Walkin’ Bank Roll
This is the only album on iTunes that you can buy through singles only – I hope more artists don’t start doing this cause it gets expensive. I like the rawness of the flow through out.

18. Radiohead: In Rainbows
I seriously hate the hype that Radiohead is getting for their business model so this album almost automatically gets thrown to the bottom of my list. I also noticed that I rarely listened to an entire track.

19. Architecture In Helsinki: Places Like This
I’m not sure why this is so far down on my list.

20. Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
I don’t listen to this album a lot, though I suspect if I did I would have placed it higher on the list.

The Matrix Chart (2 x 2)

NYC to Seattle to NYC 24hr Trip

vino volo chart

The Approval Matrix - New York Magazine

I found myself in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) last night heading back to NYC on a red eye with a couple people from work. At Vino Volo in the airport, they had an interesting way to indicate how the wine would taste. They’ve created a small matrix with four categories; Bright, Rich, Light and Brooding. Each wine that they serve is marked with a dot to the corresponding flavour. As I was tasting a sample from the taste of Spain, the matrix reminded me of something else – the Approval Matrix – New York Magazine

Watching all those options before the move

Before move
Options for action/reaction

I think there’s always an advantage to having the ability to see your opponents way of thinking. If you can see how they react to a move, the ability to predict their reaction to your action increases. Keeping that in mind, Thinking Machine 4 shows a beautiful progression of chess movement once you make a move. Lines dance around the computer’s options for the next move. It goes by so fast that it’s hard to make any analytical decisions though. It’s more like taking the information in on a “feel” basis as opposed to a “think” basis. On a almost parallel level it reminded me of some of the soccer diagrams out there like Twenty- four steps to heaven. It plots out the movement and the eventual goal.

Nice blog and media spatial map demo

Brooklyn Buzz Online and Jonathan Cousins have created a pretty cool diagram of neighborhood buzz in relation to bloggers and mainstream media. Watch the demo at As the pie graphs grow and contract over months, the spatial relationship evolves. If you rollover one of the pie charts the subject matter appears. It would be great to see this go live at some point, having a blogger posting something with the subject’s address and then be able to follow the action months afterwards. It would also highlight attention of particular places in a more fluid way.

Nigel Holmes on Information Design

Nigel Holmes on Information Design

I picked up the book Nigel Holmes on Information Design by Steven Heller last night and was immediately drawn to the image Nigel created above. I haven’t finished the book yet, so I can’t give a full review. But from what I’ve read so far it’s worth every dollar of the twenty that I spent. I wouldn’t consider myself a total expect on information design, but I can talk Otto Neurath with the best of them. Within the first couple chapters of the discussion between Nigel and Steve, Nigel throws out a lot of names to be researched that I had never heard of before. I’m doing a lot of work with icons and other visuals to diagram information and frankly google and have helped some, but not all. This book looks like something that I’ve been missing for a while.

If there was only one suggestion from me, it would have been to show more visuals within the book. Or if there wasn’t the budget, have a secondary web site that could show images of what was being discussed.

Telling time visually


After talking about my new Nooka watch a couple posts ago, I wondered out loud about other forms to tell time. After doing a little searching I came across Tokyoflash: Watches from Japan. While some seem to be more functional then others, it’s still worth skimming to see some of the creative ways that you can tell time. Each of the watches comes with a schematic to explain how the time is shown. What should have been slightly obvious to me, but took until know to realize is that time (I think) is universal in that each language divides their time into twenty four hours, minutes and seconds. No matter what language or country you’re in, a normal analog clock will mean the same thing in no matter what language you speak.

Tree Map app for Macs

Tree Map app for Macs, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

Here’s a pretty neat app for Mac’s for no other reason then it indicates where all your space is being used in relation to everything else on your computer. The only dumb thing about the app is that the colour is in stupid 3-D colour. Why do this? Let me choose if I want to do this.
Check it out and download it at Disk Inventory X
Via Mr Turuk.

The battle of the blogging platforms


Here’s an interesting comparison with wordpress and blogger. I dropped my design*notes url into the website as graphs website at This is what the colour coding means:

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

I’ve found wordpress to be a lot easier to use and navigate, and the diagrams represent that.

The Agony and Ecstasy of the Diagram

Ticker Factory is one of those sites that has turned static diagrams and leveraged dynamic data entry into something for “the rest of us”, counting down to that great day you’re thinking about. Ok, I’m being somewhat sarcastic but is there anything really wrong with this type of diagram? Ticker Factory offers a lot of different types of countdowns; Trying To Conceive: Create a menstrual cycle day count, Pregnancy: Count your weeks and days of pregnancy, Due Date count down, Baby and Child Age, Display the age of your baby or child, Weight Loss: Display your progress, Count down to your target weight, Birthday: Count down to a birthday, Anniversary: Count down to your anniversary, Vacation & Travel: Count down to an upcoming vacation or travel, Event: Count down or up to a special event, Exercise & Fitness: Track your progress towards your exercise and fitness goal.

Once you’ve decided on the countdown, you get to pick out a lot of different graphics. There’s timelines, icons, ways to show the negative and positive steps to get to the goal. There’s a lot more to this that I’d like to say, but alas I have to head out for a workout…

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