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January 14, 2010

Filed under: journalism»new_media

Your Scattered Congress 2.0

It's been a big week for CQ's vote studies, which measure the presidential support and party unity of each senator and representative on a series of key votes. Our editorial and research team finished up the results for President Obama's first year in office, leading to a pair of NPR stories based on that data, in addition to our own coverage, of course.

To accompany our stories, I built a new version of our vote study visualization, leveraging what I've learned since creating the original almost two years ago. It is, as you'd expect, faster and better-looking. But there are subtle improvements included as well, ones I hope will make this a solid base for our vote study multimedia during the Obama administration.

  • It's auto-bounded, with no hard-coded graph boundaries. If Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, or Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, decide to diverge from their party even more than they already do, I won't have to go in and mess with the graphing algorithms to keep them inside the plot.
  • The math is more precise, and now adapts to any viewport dimensions. If we want a version of this that fits in a smaller or larger space, it will handle that without distortion.
  • It's more informative. The tooltips and display mechanism have been beefed up so that more information is available at a glance, including the ability to see the name of individual members on mouseover if there's only one for that specific datapoint, and the option to see all members in a column for the distribution views.
  • The "Find Member" function has been beefed up and made considerably easier to use.
  • It combines my lovingly-crafted graphics and the data table view into one movie, instead of splitting them into two individually-loaded Flash objects. This, as much as anything else, has probably lowered the initialization time substantially, but it also puts all the information right at your fingertips with no need to scroll the page.

As I've said before, I'm extraordinarily proud of the work our vote study team does, and thrilled to be able to contribute to their online presence in this way. Check it out, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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