Why and when we use unconventional visualizations

Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a discussion among Data Visualization Society members about injecting creativity into client-based work. I have always admired those dataviz designers who can create vibrant, purposeful visualizations without compromising their messages.

Familiarity versus unconventionality

There are those who expect data visualizations to be intuitive, able to be processed at a glance. This school of thought maintains that visualization techniques that require time to learn lose the audience or result in inertia. This thinking has contributed to the popularity of forms like lines, bars, and scatter plots. These mainstay charts are familiar to both designers and most…


Introduction to the data

In my NLP class’s final project, I chose a dataset of Amazon video game text reviews coupled with their star ratings. I’m an avid PC gamer, and you can catch me playing a lot of simulation racing games nowadays. I wanted to explore the language used to rate video games from Amazon reviews. This dataset included physical games, consoles, and gaming peripherals. The goal of the project is to classify the text review to match the associated star rating. …


Statistics are becoming more and more popular in all realms of games whether it be traditional sports and video games. Organizations staff an army of nerds that did belong in sports 10 years ago. Smart people write research papers for the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Fans barrage one another with efficiency statistics in discussions about why your favorite player is terrible. Media members use all-time statistics to compare players between different eras or assess their places in history. How many total points? Rebounds? Assists?

For the NBA, these statistics still hold some water because the game has never…


It’s no secret that I love mechanical keyboards. By now, I’ve spent upwards of $800 on a total of five keyboards in 4–5 years. This is what I use daily.

It’s weird. I customized the key mappings, bought blank key caps, and use it almost exclusively to do work. It’s mine. Even what’s underneath is custom. It’s insane. I think it’s fair to say I know my keyboards.

A while ago, a cousin asked me which mechanical keyboard he should buy. He gave me a small list of his preferences, so I let him borrow a one of mine just…


Esports or electronic sports is the term for competitive video games. Some examples include StarCraft, League of Legends, DotA 2, Hearthstone, Counter-Strike, and Street Fighter. Every game presents a unique set of mechanical and dynamic strategic challenges. However, those who aren’t able to look past its stigma or don’t understand video games dynamics dismiss gamers as a group of socially awkward, degenerate nerds. Competitive esports are not that different from well-established, physical sports.

Just three years ago, Jimmy Kimmel belittled professional gamers, streamers, and gaming enthusiasts all together. He was quickly bombarded with hateful comments because gamers do often reside…


For the longest time, competitive StarCraft is dominated by South Koreans. They play in stadiums filled with crowds (Crowds with girls!) watching the likes of SlayerSBoxer and YellOw play. They had sponsors. They had teams! It is clear that gaming is not simply a hobby for Koreans. There was a complete training infrastructure in place without even the game’s creators knowing about it. Although gaming does not hold the prestige that academic degrees do, Koreans still lionize their professional gamers.

As a tiny Asian American kid, seeing professional gamers celebrated is a completely foreign idea. Even though video games are…


In the past few years, we’ve seen various statistics showing the NBA audience all the new 3-point records and how differently the 3-point line is used now. For comparison, the leader of the ’87 — ’88 season was Danny Ainge who made 148 3-pointers. In comparison, the ’17 — ’18 season is about 45 games in, and Klay Thompson leads the NBA with 154 3-pointers made. This post takes a look at how players have improved to take advantage of the 3-point line.

Since the introduction of the 3-point line in the 1980–81 season, 3-point attempts and 3-point percentages have…


This video about life as a ramen shop owner surfaced about a month ago. I felt it did a wonderful job illustrating the owner, Kunimoto, and his life as the owner. I loved and hated this video at the same time because it brought back all the good and bad feelings I have for the food industry. I’m here today writing about what it’s like growing up as the elder son in a family that owned restaurants for most of his life.

My parents moved to the states from a small, poor village in China. My dad was 27…

Benjamin Xiao

Former biologist and poker player turned data analyst making pretty visualizations

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