Tag Archives: visualization

The college basketball bracket … in ANSI

Title screen for “Bracket Browse,” an informational BBS door that lets you explore the NCAA tournament bracket.

Eleven years ago, when I worked as a designer of news and sports pages at a daily newspaper, I created a system to automate the production of our college basketball brackets in print. One year prior, data journalist Aaron Bycoffe pointed out on Twitter that NCAA.com was using a nice, clean JSON feed to power its basketball bracket.

I resolved to write a script that could parse the feed, and output the content we needed for our bracket as InDesign tagged text. It took a lot of work to set up, but I succeeded. I remember that first Selection Sunday, breathing a sigh of relief that my code worked.

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Who needs SVG when you’ve got ANSI?

Presidential election years are great times to work at a news organization. As a designer at a newspaper, I love to explore the cool election maps developed by folks at places like the New York Times or the Guardian.

FiveThirtyEight's Election Forecast map

My favorite is probably the 2016 Election Forecast from FiveThirtyEight.com, which is full of cool visualizations, and great analysis.

The explosion of great apps like this is made possible by modern libraries like D3.js, and formats like SVG. But what if you took away all the visual horsepower?

What would a retro BBS version of such an app look like, with all the inherent limitations of an ancient terminal: few colors (16, with caveats), low resolution (80×24), etc ?

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Trade Wars vs. Legend of the Red Dragon: Which was the most popular?


When I was on the Bobby Blackwolf Show in February, we discussed TradeWars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon. Early in our back and forth on LoRD, I said: “It became… you know, depending on who you talk to, probably the number one or number two game out of BBSes.” Blackwolf followed up by saying: “TradeWars is usually number one, LoRD is number two.”

I don’t think anyone would dispute that TradeWars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon were the two most popular BBS games. But which was the most popular? Is it even possible to know?

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Visualizing 314: The directories, the data, and the caveats

This is the final part of a three-part series.

In this post I’m going to discuss Fire Escape’s BBS directory formats, the directory parser and the dataset; I’ll also give some caveats about this data.

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Visualizing 314: Fire Escape’s BBS Directory

Users who wanted to chat with Fire Escape when she wasn't online would be greeted with this ANSI screen on her BBS.

Users who wanted to chat with Fire Escape when she wasn’t online would be greeted with this ANSI screen on her BBS.

This is the first part of a three-part series.

If there was a superstar of St. Louis BBSes during the 1990s, it had to be Fire Escape.

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