Final Grades

May 14, 2010

in BasicInfo

We had to get grades done quickly. We followed what I said at:

We will send more detailed information next week.

– A=consistently contributed to class
– B=sometimes contributed to class
– C=contributed only if called upon
(this was done by Michael C and I agreeing subjectively, which
happened to agree with some objective metrics Michael was tracking)

Participation includes extra posts (like the "cool stuff" posts)

Your participation score is hurt by not being in class (since you
can’t contribute if you’re not there).

Readings: There were 12 readings to comment on, but because of
confusion, many people missed 1.
– A = commented on 10 or more
– AB = commented on 8 or 9
– C = commented on at least half
– 0 = commented on less than 1/4

Critiques: Everyone gets an A. The person who didn’t do the critiques
gets a B since they didn’t even offer to make it up.

Design Challenge:
Everyone gets an A for the presentation part (and trying to do
something with it)

Commenting on Others:
– A = 5-7 comments provided
– AB = 4 comments provided
– D = 1 comment provided

Design Challenge Writeups:
OK, I never gave you feedback. Whoops. All the ones we received were
great. Some of them were a bit long. So all the ones we received get
an A (actually that’s everyone).

Final Projects:
I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and intend to give more detailed
feedback. But I need to get grades back to people quickly.

In terms of the work, the presentations, and the writeups: I think
everyone did well. Especially given the lack of guidance about
expectations, and the lack of feedback along the way. Basically, all
projects are As, except for places where you didn’t turn in pieces.

Everyone will get a purple crayoned (well, using the pen annotation
tool with a purple pen) version of their writeup back.

While I have some disappointment that some projects didn’t really
reflect what I would have hoped you learned in the class, this would
have been better had we had an iteration of design. So for the project
content (including the writeups), I will give everyone an A.

The postmortems vary, but if you turned one in, you get an A.

Status reports were check/no check – you either sent 0, 1 or
2. (A,C,F)

Reading lists and summaries:
While there was dynamic range here, we’re generally just giving people
check/no check. Or half a check if you turned in a bibliography
without summaries

– 30% Final Content  (A)
– 30% Final Presentation/Writeup (A)
– 10% Initial Parts (A – everyone did it)
– 10% Intermediate phases (status reports)
– 10% Post-Mortem
– 10% Readings (summaries)

Final Grading
– Final Project: 1/4
– Participation: 1/6
– Readings:      1/6
– DC:         1/6
– Free:         1/4

You are all probably frustrated by the lack of feedback I’ve been providing. I apologize. Giving feedback to this class has been on my todo list (I realize lack of feedback is a problem), but things keep getting in the way.

Ideally, you should be doing this since you want to learn the material, but I understand that marks on your transcript are meaningful to some of you (the idea of grades in a graduate class is still wierd to me).

Your grade for this class will be a combination of:

  1. A big break for putting up with the experimental nature of this class.
  2. Do you show up? (I’ll be arrogant enough to believe that you’ll learn something by just being there)
  3. Do you contribute in lectures? (alternatively, do you contribute in other ways, like making posts, or sending lecture summaries – since I understand not everyone is comfortable contributing directly.
  4. Do you do the required minor assignments (e.g. do you make posts, …) – this is just counting?
  5. Are your minor assignments any good? (do you just make minimal posts on the readings, or do you routinely have something interesting to say)
  6. The major assignments (design challenge, critiques)
  7. The final project.

Some of those things are quantitative. But, others are highly subjective.

Michael and I tried an experiment to quantify participation, but it basically confirms our subjective experience.

Here is how I propose to give out grades (to those of you who get grades):

  • 25% of the grade is for putting up with me (so everyone gets an A on this part).
  • 25 % for the project (it’s 1/3 of the time of the class (5 weeks), but it’s not everything in that part).
  • 1/6 for the major assignments (they took up 5 weeks (1/3), and were 1/2 of what you were doing at that time).
  • 2/6=1/3 for the actual class part (2-5 above).

This week I will send you feedback on everything before break:

  • An assessment of your “major assignments”
  • The quantitative information we’ve gathered (how often do you show up, how many of the required minor assignments have you done)
  • Subjective assessment of your postings and participation (with the quantitative attempt as well).

For the subjective participation part, I expect to categorize people as:

  • Adequate/good/excellent – regularly contributes to the discussion or makes extra postings / sends summaries of lectures, etc.
  • Inadequate to Adequate – occassionally contributes to the discussion, rarely adds anything extra
  • Unacceptable to Inadequate – pretty much only contributes when called upon.

As its too hard to subjectively put things into finer divisions. You can probably guess which category I think you’re in.

I realize that I never formally said some things that might wonder about:

  • We do keep score. Participation is a large part of how I know that you’re learning things in the class. We keep track of whether people show up, if they do show up do they participate, etc.
  • If you don’t like to participate in the conversation, there are other ways for people to show me that they are learning (for example, one student sends me notes summarizing what he learned from the class). But participation means more than just taking in from lectures: it means giving back to the class.
  • If you are assigned to work in a pair/team, I assume the work comes from the whole team unless the team all tells me otherwise. I will not try to assign different credit within a team (unless the entire team says so).

I will be better about providing feedback (it’s something I realize that I am bad at).

You have all given me a great deal of slack as I try to figure out how to make a class like this work. I promise to be equally understanding when I need to evaluate people.

In case you’re wondering, the elements of the class (as far as grading) will be (I am finally far enough into it that we can predict it):

  • Participation and readings
  • Assignments (besides readings) and challenges (like the critique assignment and the design challenge)
  • Project(s) – my plan is to have people do projects after break. The idea is to break things in two (2 projects) with the idea that if the first one goes well, the second one can be an extension of it. But if you make a bad choice in your first project, you can try something different for the second half.

How the web page works

January 26, 2010

in BasicInfo,News

This is coming up enough that it deserves a little discussion…

My experiment in how to set up the course web is having a few problems – people aren’t finding stuff, can’t figure out how to do some things, … The design is flawed. I’m the first to admit it.

Some of this is we (staff and students) just need to get over the initial learning hurdle. Some of it is we need to make a few tweaks in order for things to be less confusing. And finally, some larger improvements to the design (and potentially a total redesign) need to be done. At a deep level, I’m trying to use blogging software to be a course management system – its not clear that this is a good idea.

However, in the short term, I want to focus on getting the course content better organized – and see how things stabilize, and what happens after people get used to the quirky system. So no major redesigns. To make things go more smoothly:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, read the post on how wordpress is setup for this class.
  2. A lot of the issues are related to first-time startup (the first time you make a post, the first time you have to find a reading). Now that you’ve done it, it should be easier.
  3. Understand the difference between a posting and a comment. For readings, you’ll be asked to make comments on the reading posting. For assignments, you will (usually) be asked to make postings. I will try to be clearer.
  4. I have tried to make assignments (things that you do) and readings (things that read and comment on) distinct. Except for readings/assignment 1 which was both. I’m not sure this distinction is important: so I’m going to (try to) merge the categories from now on.
  5. In the “this week in 838” posting, i’ll include links to the things you will do.
  6. If someone finds a way to add links to the google calendar, please let me know.
  7. I am going to map out the assignments/reading/class content more than a week ahead of time (famous last words). This should make it easier for you to see what’s coming, so you don’t need to find everything for the first time at the last minute.

Thanks for your patience – this is all a big experiment, and so far, it seems to be going OK.

Class Location

January 20, 2010

in BasicInfo,News

A reminder that class meets in Room 1207 Computer Sciences.

The main readings for this class will be provided (they will come from papers, or book chapters that I can provide). However, I was going to use so much of Colin Ware’s book, that it defies academic fair use, so itis a required textbook.If you don’t want to buy it, it will be on reserve at Wendt library.

Required Textbook:

Visual Thinking: for Design, by Colin Ware. Published by Morgan Kaufman, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0123708960. (amazon)

This is a fabulous book. We’ll use all of the chapters. The only downside is that it isn’t as comprehensive as his earlier book. But I picked this one since Information Visualization might be a little bit too much for some people.

There will be required readings from this book, but there will be alternates for those of you who buy Information Visualization instead.

Alternate Textbook:

Information Visualization, Second Edition: Perception for Design, by Colin Ware. Published by Morgan Kaufman, 2004. (amazon)

This was going to be my choice for the textbook, but I thought it might be a little much for most students. If you’re really into visualization, you probably want this book instead of Visual Thinking.

Another Useful Book

Visualizing Data. by Ben Fry. O’Reilly 2008.

This is less a book about visualization than it is about the process of doing visualizations and how to program in Processing. If you’re not a computer scientist, and you need to learn some simple programming to do some visualization, this book is a good place to start. Its more about working through the process of simple examples than giving you insights into visualization in general.

You don’t need to buy this book – UW has access to an online copy (here’s a link that accesses it through the proxy so it works off campus):

Recommended Reading

Tufte’s books are an essential guide to the design aspects of visualization. Its hard to justify them as textbooks. I have requested that they be put on reserve at Wendt.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition. By Edward Tufte. Graphics Press, 2001. (amazon)

Envisioning Information. By Edward Tufte. Graphics Press, 1990. (amazon)

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. By Edward Tufte. Graphics Press, 1997. (amazon)

Beautiful Evidence. By Edward Tufte. Graphics Press, 2006.  (amazon)

At the surface, Scott McCloud’s books seem to be about comics. But, if you dig deeper, you realize that he has a lot of amazingly insightful things to say about visualization in general.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. by Scott McCloud. Harper, 1994(amazon)

I don’t think people would take me seriously if I made this a textbook. But you’ll learn a ton by reading it. It will help you rethink what visual communication is about. His new book seems good too, but I am just reading it now.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics. by Scott McCloud. Haper, 2006.

This course web is running in WordPress – this is an experiment for me.

Part of the idea behind using WordPress is that it should give us an easy way to have a collaborative web page – that is one where students can make contributions, and we can use it as a mechanism for class participation. Therefore, as a student in class you may need to know a little about how wordpress works.

Getting an Account:

Things are set up so that you can create your own account as a “subscriber”. A subscriber has limited access – they can read everything, and can comments on posts where commenting is allowed.

Once you’ve created your account, the instructor or TA will promote your account to be a “contributor”.

What you can do:

For some posts (generally not on “News” or “BasicInfo”) you can add comments – this will be an important mechanism for class. For example, you will be asked to write comments on postings about readings.

You can write posts, however, since you are a “contributor” (in WordPress speak), your posting must be approved by an administrator (the instructor or TA) before it appears. Unlike the standard WordPress setup, you can upload pictures to go along with your posts. We will use student posts for things like “Visualization of the Day” and project ideas postings.

If you have ideas on how we can make things better, tell the instructor. Be warned: you might be volunteered to implement your idea.

Categories are the key organizing principle. The list of categories is on the right sidebar.

About this WordPress Setup

Students will be given “Conrtibutor” Accounts.

Some tweaks that have been made:

  • The “uncategorized” category is not shown in the categories widget by implementing the hack here.
  • The “OptInFrontPage” plug in is used so that only news appears on the home page.
  • The “WPFrontPageBanner” plugin is used to add to the front page.
  • Its using the “Thesis Style” – that I paid for. I’m still learning to tweak it.

Course Announcement

December 27, 2009

in BasicInfo,News

The original course ad can be found here.

Course Announcement for Spring 2010:
CS838: Visualization: getting from data to understanding

Spring Course Announcement:
CS838: Visualization: getting from data to understanding

Mike Gleicher
Tuesday/Thursday 11-12:15
Intended Audience
students who work with data and need to use visualizations effectively and students who are interested in creating tools to help people work with data
nominally 3, but variable credit possible (especially for dissertators)

Please contact the instructor if you are interested.

This course will explore the foundations of visualization: how we turn data into pictures to help in understanding or communicating it. We’ll cover visualization in the broad sense: including scientific visualization, information visualization (the presentation of abstract data), and visual analytics (the use of interactive tools for exploring large and/or complex data sets).

The content (the topics, not the teaching style) of this course is modeled after the visualization courses at Harvard (cs171) and Berkeley (cs294). Here, we will teach the class in a bit more of a “seminar” style – using class time more for discussion and student presentations than lectures.


Visualizations range from crayon sketches on the back of a napkin to immersive virtual reality display of the fluid dynamics around an airplane; from a bar chart in excel to a fancy, realistic 3D model.

Our goals are to understand the principles that lead to effective visualizations across this range (design, the use of color and motion, basic design patterns, dealing with high-dimensional data, …), specific visualization designs and problems (treemaps, scatterplot matrices, focus+context, volume visualization, …), as well as looking at the kinds of systems and tools that support the creation of good visualizations.

By the end of the course, we will learn how to design effective visualizations for the kinds of data we want to interpret and understand the kinds of tools that support the creation of such visualizations.

For a more complete description, I steal this from the course at Berkeley (with 2 sentences removed):

In this course we will study techniques and algorithms for creating effective visualizations based on principles and techniques from graphic design, visual art, perceptual psychology and cognitive science. The course is targeted both towards students interested in using visualization in their own work, as well as students interested in building better visualization tools and systems. In addition to participating in class discussions, students will have to complete several short programming and data analysis assignments as well as a final project.

Update: 1/21/2010 – I have a different idea for this.

This “Category” of posts is for the “Visualization of the Day” – or “Visualization Show and Tell”.

The idea is that people can contribute a Visualization that they have found that they think is interesting, and that we all can all discuss it via the comments. Kindof like Show-and-Tell in Kindergarden!

Rather than being a free-for-all, we’ll all take turns contributing “Visualization of the Day”s. Your day will be assigned. When you publish the post, make sure that it gets put into the “Visualization of the Day” Category. Also, note that you should write your “Visualization of the Day” ahead of time – when we approve the posting, we’ll set it so that it appears on the right day.

Remember, as a student in the class, you can create posts, but they must be “approved” by the instructor or TA. (in WordPress speak, you are a contributor – except that we have added functionality to WordPress to allow you to upload images).

Course Calendar

December 22, 2009

in BasicInfo,News

The course calendar will be kept as a google Calendar (again, this is an experiment).

If you want to look at it as a web page, go to here.

If you want an iCal feed, use this.

If you want an XML feed, use this.