Star Wars & Pizza

This was originally posted on my first blog, Data vs Food, in December 2017

This post is inspired by a couple of other blog posts I read Don’t apologise for your work. Ever. by Eva Murray and Where is the joy? by Neil Richards. Both of these posts are fantastic in their own right and well worth reading, both of them resonated with me following one of my visualisations (Just to note, I started this post ages ago and I decided it was about time that I got it finished).

At the end of May 2017 I uploaded a straightforward viz to Tableau Public. It was a bar chart from a data source that had only 7 rows. So very, very simple. Putting it all together into Tableau took maybe 5 minutes even after fiddling around with the formatting. I did spend more time doing some image editing to create a background image and two shapes, so overall I probably spent closer to a couple of hours getting everything how I wanted it.

Being unable to give sheets a transparent background and because I really wanted to have tooltips to give the viz some context, I had to split the background image of my viz into two parts (the top left corner/everything else). Due to these requirements, all the objects in the viz are floating. I set the images to actual size as opposed to fitting to their window, this allowed for more accurate positioning without having to bother with varying scales of the images.

Here’s a small tip for positioning floating objects:

When you hover your mouse over the relevant position value (x, y, w, h) and scroll, each mouse wheel “click” changes the value by one pixel up or down. This allows very fine control without having to click the arrows or type in a value. If you hold control while doing this, each click changes the value by 10. The same thing happens when adjusting the padding.

This also works in a similar manner when sizing the dashboard but the values are multiplied by 100. So one click changes the dashboard size by 100, holding control changes it by 1000.

For the overall design itself I wanted something as minimalist as possible, even to the point of forgoing a title. I wanted nothing to detract from the overall effect, all I wanted were the bars for the chart/x-wing trail, the shape of x-wing’s and the background image.

A lot of what I did in this is far from best practice:

  • Unclear where the bars start

  • Unclear where they end due to the custom shapes

  • Complete lack an axis and axis labels

  • No instructions on how to read the chart, how it’s sorted or what you can interact with (if anything)

Some of this list can be left out depending on what else you include, but not all of them! But then again, that’s not what I was setting out to create.

All additional information regarding data source, title, and what the viz was actually about were hidden away in a tooltip on the Millennium Falcon in the bottom right. I wanted this included as there’s nothing more frustrating than diving into something like this and having no clue where the data is actually from.

The data was taken from IMDb which I put it into google sheets as I hadn’t connected them to Tableau before, it was nice to see how easy it was.

The viz itself was inspired by a t-shirt I’d seen showing 3 X-Wing fighters flying in front of the Death Star. Whoever had designed it had given the fighters a trail so they looked suspiciously like a bar chart, or possibly like bottles of ketchup/mustard. From that strange bit of inspiration this is what I ended up creating:



Click on the image for the interactive version

Click on the image for the interactive version

I use Reddit fairly regularly and one subreddit I look at is Data is Beautiful, from my point of view there are very few “beautiful” posts here but I suppose that’s a little subjective. I was really pleased with how this viz turned out so I thought I’d submit it and see what people thought. It got quite a reaction from the subreddit

views.png

To say I was stunned is an understatement, and with nearly 1500 comments as well it was a little overwhelming. There were lots of positive comments, but also a significant number of negative comments. Have fun reading them if you really want to. I paced myself and went back to look at them much later. There are only so many pieces of criticism or insults you can read before getting a little disheartened.

I posted the viz as an image to make sure a thumbnail was displayed and included a link to Tableau public in the comments. I’ve since found out that if you append ":showVizHome=no" to the end of a tableau public url It provides a thumbnail. Though I have a feeling it wouldn’t have got anywhere near as many views, especially as I didn’t create a mobile view for the viz. This may go some way to explain the somewhat hostile (but completely understandable) reception it received.

A little excerpt from Neil’s blog that I really liked and summed up pretty much what my thought processes were when making this,

“So should I just show a bar chart instead…    …but this won’t be remembered, discussed or explored”.

I realise I did literally just create a bar chart, but I wanted something bold, fun and memorable. And it definitely created a lot of discussion.

Would I make something similar in future, in the respect of ignoring dataviz best practice in favour of aesthetics? Definitely, but I think I would include caveats and an explanation at the time going into detail of what I did and why. Would I post something similar to this on Reddit again? Probably not to that subreddit, it got lots of views and votes however I have a feeling that was largely due to the subject matter and the demographics of Reddit. This was my 35th Tableau Public viz and it got me my second viz of the day, which was fantastic surprise! As I’m writing this I’m just shy of my 80th viz and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. From this experience I try to always keep one piece of advice at the front of my mind regardless of what I’m doing:

Know your audience


Pizza

This is a combination of a few recipes and makes 4 pizzas, if you don’t want that much the dough freezes really well. You will want to make the dough at least a few hours before you plan on eating, so bear that in mind. Don’t start at 7pm unless you don’t mind eating late!

pizza.jpg

Ideally when making a pizza you’ll need your oven as hot as it will go, you don’t want to wait too long for your pizza. And I would highly recommend getting a pizza stone and pizza peel, they aren’t expensive and they’re fun to use.

Ingredients

  • 500g ‘00’ Flour

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 7g Bread Yeast

  • 325ml luke warm water

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • Cornmeal

  • Passata

  • Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella

  • Pre-grated mozzarella

  • Dried oregano

  • Fresh Basil

  • Any other toppings you might like

Method

Making the dough

  1. Fill you a measuring jug with your water. Add in the yeast, oil, and sugar. Stir to combine and leave to one side for a few minutes to allow the yeast to activate.

  2. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, once a few bubbles have formed on top of the water, pour it into the bowl and get mixing. If you’ve got a machine, use the dough hook attachment. If you haven’t, dive in with your hands and get kneading.

  3. This will take a good 5-10 minutes. You want a dough that’s smooth and slightly elastic. If it feels a bit sticky, add a bit of flour and knead for a little longer. I find it’s always worth finishing it off on a floured worktop a doing the last part of the kneading by hand.

  4. Once the dough looks good, put it into a floured or oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes.

  5. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured work top and knead the dough roughly for about 15 seconds. You just want to knock out all of the air.

  6. Divide into four equal sized balls and place on a floured baking sheet. Make sure you leave enough room for the dough to expand. Covering with cling film is very important at this point, otherwise the top of the dough will dry out and develop a crust.

  7. Let the dough prove again until it’s doubled in size. This could take at least two hours, or you can let it prove in the fridge overnight. If you’re not going to be using all the dough you can freeze it after it’s proved for the second time. Oil the inside of whatever you freeze it in so the dough doesn’t stick.

Making the Pizza

  1. If you’re using a pizza stone place it into a cold oven, then put the oven at the highest temperature. It’ll take at least 30 minutes for the stone to come to temperature. If you’re not using a pizza stone, just put the oven to the highest temperature.

  2. Flour a work surface and your hands, take a ball of dough and begin to stretch it out into a pizza shape. You can use your hands to be authentic, I usually resort to a rolling pin.

  3. If you’re using a pizza peel, lightly dust it with cornmeal so that the pizza dough doesn’t stick when you transfer it to the pizza stone. If you’re cooking it on a baking sheet I’d probably recommend doing the same. Then put the newly shaped pizza onto either the peel or the baking sheet, give it a little shake to make sure it hasn’t stuck. If it has, add a little more cornmeal beneath it.

  4. Pour some passata into the centre of the pizza and spread with the back of a large spoon until the pizza is lightly covered. Leave a gap around the edge for a crust (you can make this as narrow or as wide as you like).

  5. Tear your fresh buffalo mozzarella into large pieces and place on your pizza, make sure you reserve some for you next one (or two, or three…)

  6. I like my pizzas nice and cheesy, so at this point I’ll sprinkle over some pre-grated mozzarella. It lacks some of the flavour of the fresh stuff, but it doesn’t release any oils when it cooks like other cheeses might.

  7. Sprinkle with some dried oregano and any other toppings you’d like.

  8. If you’re using a peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. If you’re using a baking sheet, just stick it in the oven. My oven will cook it and give a nice crispy base in about 6 minutes, yours might be faster or slower so keep an eye on it!

  9. Once it’s done, remove it from the oven (either with the peel or just take the baking sheet out). Put onto a board, place some fresh basil on top and cut into slices.

I’d recommend enjoying your pizzas whilst watching a film, one of the Star Wars films perhaps?