Some 3+ months ago I started a 100 day project focused on dataviz cartoons. 50 days in I published a small progress article (link below). This article is a follow up that rounds off the project and gives an overview of what I have planned next, but here’s the first one:
Turns out DataViz is funny
I blame Alli, it’s all her fault. I was happy doodling figures for a Medium post when she told me I should do a 100 day…
Let’s talk comics:
How did the second half go?
Pretty good. Day 50–70 felt pretty smooth. Did a lot of reading at the same time and around Day 80 I settled on a process that works for me on a daily basis. Since I am a sucker for sharing (and likes, claps, retweets, etc) I started to write the process up. It’s not ready for sharing and I am still experimenting with the format (e.g. Medium vs code repo.)
I have to say I was skeptical of the benefits of doing a project at all, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s not like I don’t know the value of consistency. For years I used to train 6 days a week swimming. But putting consistency into a project where creativity was at the core, was something I was skeptical about. You can do a mile or two without putting your brain into it. You can’t do that with creative work.
The best ideas showed up when I’d hit the bottom of the idea barrel and it was 10 minutes to midnight. I did develop a process that allowed me to generate dozens of ideas for comics, Medium posts, and beyond. (Some of which you may see in the future.) The fear of running out of ideas is gone, and so is the anxiety of putting content out. My advice to anybody thinking about doing a 100 day project: Do it. Don’t prep, don’t think about it. Jump in. Stick with it. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Your brain will find a way for it to work.
Would I do this again? Yup. Actually, I am experimenting with a variation of the 100 day project already, more details below.
Let’s talk social media
Generating the content is one thing. Getting it out is a different beast altogether. I shared my content via Twitter and Instagram and boy did I learn lessons.
Instagram feedback was consistent (~20–30 likes per comic) but text-based engagement was low. Over the 100 days I gained about 50+ new followers. I would sum it up by saying Instagram and I are friends, but not buddies yet. Would love it if anybody had hints or pointers (DM, blog, books) on how to work Instagram with non-photo content.
As for Twitter, it’s a different story altogether. I went from 18 tweets a month with ~11k impressions to ~91 tweets a month with ~125k impressions. And about 240 new people decided to follow my account. So not bad.
While I got better at guessing which comics would get retweeted, there is still a lot of randomness in it. My biggest duds were things I thought were going to go viral. My biggest successes I dismissed as “meh” when I released them.
Also, I found that there is no best day for comics. I got hits on Friday and snoozes on Monday, and the next week Wednesday was the one that worked. The number of direct messages has increased by a bit, and for some reason, people keep adding me to lists. Mostly dataviz comic and humor lists, but not only.
So what didn’t work?
I wanted to give something back to people that have supported me in this run. I used a survey to pick what it would be (posters of all 100 comics) and put together a very simple schema on how to get one. In the end, 2 posters went out instead of 7. Didn’t see that coming. I am chalking this one up to a combination of being too enthusiastic and bad timing. Around July 4th I noticed a slow down in general twitter activity. Guess I scheduled this too close to a vacation/summer hole. Ah well, live and learn.
Let’s talk about Data Humorism
Around day 74 the project changed for me. I would say that at that point I had figured out how to generate somewhat entertaining content. The interplay between text and graphics started to click. But I felt that I had more to give. People told me that they got a lot out of the comics, even more than I thought I’d put into it. They said I was making great points; that they were learning something. That floored me. I never meant the comics to be educational. But if humor helps make ideas more accessible then why not use it? This idea got me excited and I typed up an article with first thoughts on it.
Since I posted the Data Humorism article I started to experiment more with humor as a tool. Based on what I have seen, I’m now advocating that humor should be front and center during the creation process. I’m still struggling to turn my intuitive understanding into words, but being a researcher by training, I will continue exploring this and sharing what I learn in the process.
Let’s talk about what’s next
When it started to sink in that 100 days had come to an end I took some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. The answer I came up with was quite simple, but again, surprised me: I want to keep doing this. It’s fun. There is room to grow, and the occasional response of “I love the comics, never stop doing them” is fuel for my latent narcissism.
When I started the project I didn’t really think about the setup. I focused on the creative challenge and the content generation process. I didn’t think about how it would affect people that already follow me Twitter. Many of them were supportive, but not everybody that likes to keep up to date with what I’m doing wants a daily update. So: time to experiment.
Let me finish this article by introducing some ideas:
- I will share my new dataviz comics on a dedicated Twitter account (datahumorism). I’ll keep talking about dataviz on my account, but it will be more balanced with other projects I am working on. I am tempted to give weekly recaps a try.
- Feedback to the Data Visualization Comics article got me thinking. With the daily comics, I lead the charge for funny in dataviz. In its wake, people far more talented than I am are getting more (well deserved!) recognition for their work. I want to do more of that. I’ll use the new account to not only get my work out but to curate funny work others have done.
- My Twitter/Instagram experience made me curious to experiment with other platforms. I created a webpage and a Facebook page. I will start sharing content there as well. I guess it will take me a bit to figure out the mindset that comes with conversations in different spaces — but hey, I love the climb.
- I am starting to develop sub-projects of varying length to see if I can’t get folks to jump in. Just to tease, the most mature idea has the code name “DataViz Playoffs”.
- I am missing some merit badges in my collection. Long-form writing and comics with story plots and story arcs are among them. I’m tempted to try to collect one of these badges in the next year.
- I got teasing by friends that doing comics is easy, but speaking in front of a crowd is hard. Yeah, not buying it. I did presentations, press interviews, and TV edutainment clips as part of a former job. So if you are in the market for somebody that can entertain a crowd let me know.
Sounds ambitious? Well, some of the ideas are still fresh so they might still sound easy to do. If you have strong views on some of them and want to share them with me, please reach out. Both cheers and “hold on buddy” are very welcome. And with that I am ready to say: Break is over. Let’s get back to it. And let’s have some fun!
PS. I pasted below comics 50–100 for your entertainment. If you want to see all of them on Twitter, follow this link.
I’d like to thank the DVS editorial team, for making sure this article is halfway readable.