Tag Archives: fails

Charles Apple: Two Recent Infographic Fails You Ought to Know About

Readers:

Charles AppleI have been a big fan of Charles Apple’s work for a long time. I have blogged about him and his work in the past (see “Charles Apple” in my Categories on the right or do a search for “Charles Apple” on my blog).

Charles Apple (photo, right) is a longtime news artist, graphics reporter, designer, editor and blogger. The former graphics director of the Virginian-Pilot and the Des Moines Register, he spent five years as an international consultant and instructor. Currently, he’s Focus page editor of the Orange County Register.

I always like to reshare articles and blogs about what NOT to do in regards to data visualization and infographics. This morning, Mr. Apple posted a blog entry titled “Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about.” Charles has always shown a keen eye for detail and accuracy. He is also very reflective of his own work as today’s blog entry shows.

I hope you enjoy Mr. Apple’s thoughts as much as I do.

Have a great Good Friday and Happy Easter.

Best Regards,

Michael

Source: Charles Apple, Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about, http://www.charlesapple.com, April 18, 2014, http://www.charlesapple.com/2014/04/two-recent-infographic-fails-you-ought-to-know-about/.

Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about

A couple of charting debacles popped up this week of which you might want to take note.

POSITIVE VS. NEGATIVE SPACE

First, Reuters moved this fever chart showing the number of gun deaths in Florida going up after the state enacted its “stand your ground” law in 2005.

Just one little problem: The artist — for some unknown reason — elected to build the chart upside down from the usual way a fever chart is drawn.1404GunDeaths01Meaning the chart appears to show the number of gun deaths going down… if you focus on the white territory and consider the red to be the background of the chart.

After a lively discussion on a number of forums — most notably at Business Insider — a reader volunteered to flip the chart right-side around for clarity’s sake.1404GunDeaths02Is that better? Most folks seem to think it is.1404GunDeaths03Three important rules about infographics that I’m making up right here:

Rule 1: A graphic must be clear. If it’s not clear, then it’s not doing its job and should probably be put out of its misery.

Rule 2: It’s OK for a graphic to offer the reader a longer, more complicated view that requires more time spent observing a piece. But that’s not typically the job of a freakin’ one-column graphic.

Rule 3: Occasionally, it’s OK to flip a graphic upside down. But you’d better have a damned good reason for doing it. Other than, y’know, “I thought it’d look cool.”

This graphic fails all three: It’s not immediately clear — at least to many readers — and it’s a small graphic. So it has no business getting fancy. If the artist had a reason for turning it upside down, that reason eludes me.

Read more about the debate over this piece at…

UPSIDE DOWN YOU’RE TURNING ME

Full disclosure: I feel a little guilty criticizing this piece because I myself did something funky last week: I turned a map upside down:Unnamed_CCI_EPS

That ran in the middle of a page about John Steinbeck‘s the Grapes of Wrath. The intent was to show the route the fictional Joad family took in the book from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to what they hoped would be a better life here in Southern California.But vI really wanted to get those two pictures in there, which needed to read from left to right. I wanted those to sit atop my map showing the journey. I tried mapping it the usual way, but it was difficult to get the reader to stop — and then read this one segment of my page from right to left — and then resume reading the rest of the page from left to right.This would take quite a bit more vertical space and some very careful use of labels. And I was plum out of vertical space.So I elected to flop the map upside down. My logic: This time, it was more important to follow the narrative — to feel the twists and turns in the Joads’ journey — than to take in the geographical details of the trip. If the upside-down map was vetoed, Plan B would have been to kill the map and run the list of cities in a timeline-like format. There was just one problem with that: I already had a timeline on the page, just above the map:

Unnamed_CCI_EPS

We debated this and decided I was right to flip the map — This time. I can’t imagine too many times we’d ever want to run a map with the north arrow pointing down.And, y’know, perhaps we did the wrong thing. Another editor might have made a different choice.But the point is: We made a conscious decision here to let the map support the narrative. I don’t know what point Reuters was making with its upside-down fever chart. Whatever it was, it’s not apparent to me.It’s OK to make unusual choices. Just make sure your data is clear, your story is clear and readers don’t walk way from your piece puzzled as hell.

WHEN IS A MAP NOT A MAP?

This seems like a good time to present the other infographics debacle this week: This one is by NBC News.1404DemographicsOh, dear. I was just talking about using a map when the map wasn’t the most important element.What we have here is another fever chart, but this one has been pasted inside a map of the U.S. This has a number of effects that harm the greater good we do by presenting the data in the first place:Fever charts (and pie charts and bar charts and most other charts, for that matter) are all about showing proportions. If the proportions get screwed up — by, say, varying the widths of your bars or by covering up part of the chart — then the reader can’t make the visual comparisons you’re asking her to make.And that’s the case here: We see territory marked as “Asian” in the upper left of the chart and also at the upper right. But where is that set of data in 2010? I’m guessing it’s there, but it’s hidden outside the area of the map.

Rule 4: If you’re going to hide important parts of your chart, then your chart is no good. And, yes, it should be put out of its misery.

The data is displayed over a map. What is the artist trying to tell us? Where white people live in the U.S.? That Hispanics only live near Canada and Asians in Washington State and New England?No, the map is merely a decorative element. It has nothing at all to do with the data.

Rule 5: If you don’t need an element to tell your story, then eliminate it. Or I will.

Rule 6: If your decorative element gets in the way of your story, then not only do I demand you eliminate it, I also insist you come over here so I can smack you upside your head.

Rule 7: Don’t use a map if you’re not telling a story that includes some type of data that needs geographical context.

Oh, and don’t forget this last one:

Rule 8: Don’t tilt a map or turn it upside down. Not unless you have a good reason.

Go here to read more about the perils of rotating maps.

Tips & Tricks #2: In MicroStrategy Web, Report Execution Fails with Error ‘Results for this message cannot be retrieved from MicroStrategy Intelligence Server. This might be because the execution has failed. Please contact your administrator.’

I had this error the other day. Fortunately, I had just been reading about working set governor settings the other night to prepare for the CPA and MCE exams.

First, let’s discuss the issue.

Issue/Problem

In MicroStrategy Web, when I executed a report, I received the following error message (also, see screenshot below).

(Results for this message cannot be retrieved from MicroStrategy Intelligence Server. This might be because the execution has failed. Please contact your administrator.)

Results cannot be retrieved error message

Basically, what happened was my report request could not be processed. Looking through the MicroStrategy KnowledgeBase, it basically tells you to try to run the report again. If it still throws this error, contact your Administrator.

If you look at the Web Log on the Web Server, you will see an error similar to the following:

<record reset=`true`>
 <package>com.microstrategy.webapi</package>
 <level>SEVERE</level>
 <miliseconds>1157577081154</miliseconds>
 <timestamp>09/06/2006 14:11:21:154</timestamp>
 <thread>154</thread>
 <class>CDSSXMLReportServer</class>
 <method>GetExecutionResultsEx</method>
 <message>(Results for this message cannot be retrieved from 
MicroStrategy Intelligence Server. This might be because the
execution has failed. Please contact your administrator.) 
(com.microstrategy.webapi.MSTRWebAPIException)</message>
 <exception>com.microstrategy.webapi.MSTRWebAPIException: 
(Results for this message cannot be retrieved from 
MicroStrategy Intelligence Server. This might be because
the execution has failed. Please contact your 
administrator.)
 at com.microstrategy.webapi.
CDSSXMLReportServer.GetExecutionResultsCommon(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.webapi.
CDSSXMLReportServer.GetExecutionResultsEx(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.objects.
WebReportInstanceImpl.
getExecutionResults(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.objects.
WebReportInstanceImpl.pollForResults(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.objects.
WebReportInstanceImpl.populateUserReportCache(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.objects.
WebReportInstanceImpl.pollStatus(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.beans.
ReportInstanceProxy.pollStatus(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.beans.
ReportBeanImpl.localCollectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.beans.
ReportBeanImpl.doCollectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.beans.
AbstractWebBean.collectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.app.beans.
AbstractAppComponent.collectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.app.beans.
ReportFrameBeanImpl.collectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.app.beans.
AbstractAppComponent.collectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.app.beans.
PageComponentImpl.collectData(Unknown Source)
 at com.microstrategy.web.app.
MSTRWebController.processRequest(Unknown Source)
 </exception>
 <userName>Administrator</userName>
 <clientID>172.19.19.2</clientID>
 </record>

The DSSErrors.log file on the MicroStrategy Intelligence Server contains the following errors:

[Kernel][Error] MsiWorkingSet::PersistMsg(): 
failed to attach RI to msg, error 0x80003F79
 [Kernel][Error] CDSSServerMessage::put_OriginalRI: 
WSResultPool->AddRI for msg xxxx return error 0x80003F79
 [Kernel][Error] CDSSServerMessage::put_OriginalRI: 
WSResultPool->AddRI for msg xxxx return error 0x80003F79
 [Kernel][Error] CDSSServerMessage::GetReportInstance():
get_OriginalRI() return error 0x1

Now what?

Solution

The size of the report that was to be executed has 40MB report cache size while the ‘Maximum RAM for Working Set cache size’ is set as 102,400KB, as shown in the image below:

Governing Rules - Default - Working Set

The MicroStrategy Intelligence Server was unable to swap out the report instances of 40MB in the Working Set.  To resolve this issue, I needed to increase the size of Maximum RAM for Working Set cache to a higher value, for example 512,000KB.

What is the ‘Working Set’ Governor Setting?

When a user runs a report from MicroStrategy Web or Web Universal, the results from the report are added to what is called the working set for that user’s session and stored in memory on the Intelligence Server. The working set is a collection of messages that reference in-memory report instances. A message is added to the working set when a user executes a report or retrieves a message from his or her Inbox.

The purpose of the working set is to:

  1. Allow the efficient use of the web browser’s Back button.
  2. Improve web performance for manipulations.
  3. Allow users to manually add messages to the History List.

This setting is accessible via the MicroStrategy Intelligence Server Configuration as shown below:

Governing Rules - Default - Working Set

Working Set Governors

The ‘Working Set file directory’ is the location in the filesystem where the Report Instances may be persisted on disk. A report instance will be persisted on disk in binary format if its size exceeds the limit set by the ‘Maximum RAM for Working Set cache’ governor or none of the report instances in memory can be swapped to make room for the new report instance. The persisted report instance will be persisted as the <filename(GUID)>.po and may be reused if the report is invoked again.

The ‘Maximum RAM for Working Set cache’ is the governor that modulates the size of the WorkingSet Result Pool. The Maximum value is: 2147483647 MB, the Minimum value depends on version and is 200 MB in 9.3.1, and the Default value is: 200 MB. Note that if the value specified is greater then the machines memory it uses the default of 200 MB. The default value is usually sufficient, but if memory issues arise, as noted above, the setting can be increased. Increasing this setting means that the MicroStrategy Intelligence Server may be operating with a higher average memory footprint during its lifecycle, so proper tuning may be needed if memory usage becomes an issue.

Important Notes

  • There is no Working Set (WS) for a session created by the MicroStrategy Desktop client.
  • This is a MicroStrategy Intelligence Server configuration level setting, so it applies to all the projects and all the users and is not specific to a project. If these settings are changed, MicroStrategy Intelligence Server may need to be restarted.
  • The MicroStrategy Working Set is not the same as the Microsoft Windows Operating System Working Set.