Visualizing algorithms

I’m a visual learner 1. I use mind-maps to break down complex ideas, I draw on the whiteboard to understand complex systems, I prefer bulleted lists to long emails and I love to use color coding to help with categorization.

That’s why I was blown away by Mike Bostock’s recent blog post about visualizing algorithms:

Algorithms are a fascinating use case for visualization. To visualize an algorithm, we don’t merely fit data to a chart; there is no primary dataset. Instead there are logical rules that describe behavior. This may be why algorithm visualizations are so unusual, as designers experiment with novel forms to better communicate. This is reason enough to study them.

But algorithms are also a reminder that visualization is more than a tool for finding patterns in data. Visualization leverages the human visual system to augment human intellect: we can use it to better understand these important abstract processes, and perhaps other things, too.

Visualizing Algorithms

As a side note, I really love D3.js – check it out if you’re looking for a versatile library to represent data (static and dynamic datasets, including transitions). It’s more advanced than your typical charting library, but the applications are endless, as you can judge from the examples page.

  1. Wikipedia page on Visual Learning 

One word: focus!

We live in the age of distractions and interruptions: the world is moving really fast, everyone is out of patience, we get bombarded with email, the deadlines are piling up, we want to stay updated with news, status updates from Facebook and twitter, your friends are texting you, your calendar is popping up with a meeting reminder and you just remembered that your wife asked you to pick up the laundry on your way from work. Whew! does it ever end? Can we get something done around here?

I’ve got one word for you: FOCUS! Learn to focus on what’s important and you can go back to being in control of your life. I think it’s that easy.

What does focus mean?

You may have heard this before: Focus! What does it mean, after all? Here’s what it means to me:

  • choosing to work on what’s important
  • minimizing distractions and interruptions
  • finishing what we start

In the rest of this blog post I’m going to list a number of tips and techniques that have really worked for me over the years.

However, before I do that, I’m going to let you in on a secret: You’re completely in control!
Let me say that again: You can decide what to work on and how to do the work! not your co-workers, not your email, not your task list and not the reminders on your phone.

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