Writing

This here is a ghost town

This blog was created in 2008 and hasn’t been actively updated for several years.

For more recent work, please visit the Fathom site, where you can see current projects, or read the latest updates on what we’ve been up to.

For Processing Foundation work, please visit the site or check out our page on Github.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 | site  

New for 2010

Back in December, I made the decision to leave Seed and strike out on my own. As of January 1st (two weeks ago), I’m setting up shop in Cambridge. (That’s the fake Cambridge for you UK readers. Or, Cambridge like “MIT and Harvard” not “University Of”).

The federal government knows this new venture under the charmingly creative moniker of BEN FRY LLC, but with any luck, a proper name will be found soon so that I don’t have to introduce myself as Ben Fry, founder of Ben Fry LLC. (Which is even worse than having a site with your own name as the URL. I have Tom White—who originally registered the site as a joke—to thank for that.)

I’ll soon be hiring designers, developers, data people, and peculiar hybrids thereof. If you do the sort of work that you see on this site, please get in touch (send a message to mail at benfry.com). In particular I’d like to find people local to Cambridge/Boston, but because some of this will be project-oriented freelance work, some of it can be done at a distance.

Stay tuned, more to come.

(Update 1/21/2010 – Thanks for the responses. I’m having trouble keeping on top of my inbox so my apologies in advance if you don’t hear back from me promptly.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010 | opportunities, seed, site  

Dusting off

There’s nothing worse than someone keeping a journal or blog and having it go stale, so I’ve watched in horror during the forty day Lenten fast since I’ve had a chance to post. Things should be better in the next few weeks.

My guidance is Mark Twain, speaking in The Innocents Abroad, who lampooned blogging so accurately a short 139 years ago.

One of our favorite youths, Jack, a splendid young fellow with a head full of good sense, and a pair of legs that were a wonder to look upon in the way of length and straightness and slimness, used to report progress every morning in the most glowing and spirited way, and say:

“Oh, I’m coming along bully!” (he was a little given to slang in his happier moods.) “I wrote ten pages in my journal last night – and you know I wrote nine the night before and twelve the night before that. Why, it’s only fun!”

“What do you find to put in it, Jack?”

“Oh, everything. Latitude and longitude, noon every day; and how many miles we made last twenty-four hours; and all the domino games I beat and horse billiards; and whales and sharks and porpoises; and the text of the sermon Sundays (because that’ll tell at home, you know); and the ships we saluted and what nation they were; and which way the wind was, and whether there was a heavy sea, and what sail we carried, though we don’t ever carry any, principally, going against a head wind always – wonder what is the reason of that? – and how many lies Moult has told – Oh, every thing! I’ve got everything down. My father told me to keep that journal. Father wouldn’t take a thousand dollars for it when I get it done.”

“No, Jack; it will be worth more than a thousand dollars – when you get it done.”

“Do you? – no, but do you think it will, though?

“Yes, it will be worth at least as much as a thousand dollars – when you get it done. May be more.”

“Well, I about half think so, myself. It ain’t no slouch of a journal.”

But it shortly became a most lamentable “slouch of a journal.” One night in Paris, after a hard day’s toil in sightseeing, I said:

“Now I’ll go and stroll around the cafes awhile, Jack, and give you a chance to write up your journal, old fellow.”

His countenance lost its fire. He said:

“Well, no, you needn’t mind. I think I won’t run that journal anymore. It is awful tedious. Do you know – I reckon I’m as much as four thousand pages behind hand. I haven’t got any France in it at all. First I thought I’d leave France out and start fresh. But that wouldn’t do, would it? The governor would say, ‘Hello, here – didn’t see anything in France? That cat wouldn’t fight, you know. First I thought I’d copy France out of the guide-book, like old Badger in the for’rard cabin, who’s writing a book, but there’s more than three hundred pages of it. Oh, I don’t think a journal’s any use – -do you? They’re only a bother, ain’t they?”

“Yes, a journal that is incomplete isn’t of much use, but a journal properly kept is worth a thousand dollars – when you’ve got it done.”

“A thousand! – well, I should think so. I wouldn’t finish it for a million.”

Stay tuned for Mark Twain’s thoughts on Digg, YouTube, and Web 2.0.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 | site  

Goodbye red background, farewell imposing text blocks

I’m in the midst of rolling out a web site redesign. The former site (un)design was assembled just after finishing my Ph.D. I expected it to be bad enough to force myself to make a proper site. Three and a half years passed, with even friends who weren’t designers (including my future mother-in-law) taking exception. The redesign was done by my friend Eugene Kuo, who couldn’t deal with it any longer.

I’m currently building out the design and hooking up all the pages (including a handful of projects that weren’t linked before). The navigation at the top will slowly begin to work as this process continues. For instance, the “projects” link currently points to my old site, which is missing anything I’ve done in the past four years. The big images on the home page will soon be rotating through projects, while the new projects page will provide a better visual overview of what’s inside.

At any rate, thanks to Eugene and keep an eye out…

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | site  
Book

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.

Archives