Is the easy way always the best way?

During the 1st semester of the fellowship, fellows are responsible for completing a series of tasks focused on certain topics such as project management, web mapping, and data visualization. As a returning fellow, I completed these tasks last year. Because of this, groups usually include at least one of the three returning fellows to help current fellows complete these mini-projects. I have found over the past semester that though this is beneficial, there are some times when the knowledge I have of an easy way to do something is a hinderance when showing others how to complete the tasks.

For example, during the data visualization challenge, I showed my group members the data visualization tool ‘’, which is the program that we used in our data viz project last year. Silk is convenient because you can just input your data and imbed simple code into your html, which then pulls directly from Silk’s website. The problem with this is where the data is actually being pulled from. Pulling the visualizations from a third-party website is problematic if the site’s server goes down or if the third-party program you are using ceases to exist. In these cases your visualizations would no longer appear.


After we completed our webpage using Silk for the data viz challenge, I realized that what we did seemed too easy and went back to our directions. The directions specifically say to use a “javascript framework” to tell your data story. A javascript framework creates the visualization in your code, so it is not pulling from any third-party sources for the information. Concerned that my group had ‘broken the rules’, I went to Dr. Watrall to ask about using for our challenge. He made it clear that Silk, is a data visualization tool, not a framework. After explaining my error to the group, we moved forward and completed our project the correct way. Our group used “Google Chart Tools” (a javascript framework) to create our visualizations through the html and javascript of our project’s webpage.

An example of one of our visualizations, showing National Park vs. Reserve Land in Canada

An example of one of our visualizations created using a javascript framework, showing National Park vs. Reserve Land in Canada

I have realized a few times this semester that knowing an easy way to do something is not always the best or right way to perform the task. However, I keep realizing that making mistakes is just part of the project development process. Now that our group challenges are over, I will need to remember this as I move forward with my individual CHI project, which I will discuss in my next blog post.