Why Reddit’s moratorium on Bar Chart Races is a good thing

Here’s my reasons why Bar Chart Races are a fad, and Reddit’s moratorium on them is a good thing.

Ahem – note that this might be slightly tongue in cheek! If you want to counter this with arguments such as the following, I may struggle to counter back:

  • But Andy, they are a compelling way of showing data to lay people who don’t find line charts engaging.
  • But Andy, isn’t it true that any time you’ve made a bar chart race, it’s had more engagement than any of your other high-falutin’ high-brow “proper” charts [yes, it is true – Andy].
  • But Andy, didn’t you yourself propose a law that any innovative chart would ultimately be dismissed by the line “It should have been a line chart?[yes. I did. – Andy]

I implore you to watch the video above and decide for yourself whether these are a good or bad thing. And whether or not I believe my own arguments.

What do you think? Are they good or bad?


Add Yours →

“But Andy, they are a compelling way of showing data to lay people who don’t find line charts engaging.”

Isn’t that a good thing? Like all charts , used with the right context may deliver the message more effectively than another chart. Are we arguing that race charts are spammy? Or are we arguing that race charts are being used incorrectly? Not dissimilar to options about the pie chart. There is nothing wrong with the use of a pie chart with a few slices eg where the contrast is significant. More than 5 slices- well it’s too hard to visualise the message effectively. A bar chart racing through monthly data over 10 years would give me vertigo. Aggregating the same data into quarters or yearly and then highlighting only one bar to see how it changes over time…well that’s a different story completely.

Hi Wendy – you’re right, and if the text below the video wasn’t clear, I take responsibility. Bar Chart Races *do* have value in some circumstances, especially in an attempt to tell data stories to people outside our bubble. A line chart will always show insight faster, but “fast” shouldn’t always be the only objective.

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