Streamgraphs are very pretty!
Today producing a streamgraphs is much easier. For example R can produce code to get a streamgraph on a webpage (using d3.js) as shown from this stackoverflow post. There are some limitations to the R approach. For starters error interpretation is quite challenging because, for example, the messages are cryptic and their source is not unique. It took quite a bit of digging to figure out the error I was getting was from not setting a time series variables in my dataframe, whereas I thought simply specify I was using milliseconds was enough). Moreover, it might happen that even without error nothing is displayed on the html file and one does not know why. However, for simple things the R approach will work, and it will make your pictures look stunning, if not more comprehensible.
The question remains whether streamgraphs are also helpful in term of visualization.
I suspect the visualization is complex to grasp. This feeling was (partially) comfirmed during the feedback session of the data visualization course in which one of the five students reviewing my work literally stated he had no idea what s/he was looking at. I appreciated the honesty. The other four students just really liked the visualization, but the assignment required the students to work with the same data, so these guys knew what they were looking for. Otherwise I wonder whether they would have had a clear idea of what the pretty ‘tresses in the wind’ represented if they would not have worked with the data or followed the data-visualization course themselves.
In conclusion, it is my impression that if a picture/graph is worth a 1000 words, streamgraphs might not be there yet. But maybe it is me who should find more adequate data to visualize using this truly beautiful visualization technique.
I have been working with streamgraphs in R as well. In later posts I describe how to make a simple streamgraph in R (see here). Here I use streamgraphs to give a more elegant and comprehensive representation of some data set I have been working.