Randy Olson was a “complete amateur” when he began haunting the data visualization corners of the social networking and content-sharing site reddit. “I started listing my [visualizations] in these subreddits,” he says, and quickly began getting feedback....
That was a few years ago. This month, Olson graduated from Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in computer science; now he’s a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, where he’s studying artificial intelligence. And he’s much, much better at data visualization. Olson is, in fact, a community leader at the data visualization subreddit /r/DataIsBeautiful. He’s also created this beautiful, sprawling map of the entire reddit universe:
Why do we a need a map of place that doesn’t actually exist? As Olson explains in a paper published this week in the journal PeerJ Computer Science, most social networking sites are organized haphazardly, their architecture built by enthusiastic users with niche interests that differ, perhaps, from those of the Japanese organizing maven Marie Kondo. It can be difficult, then, for other enthusiasts to find them. On reddit, many users start at the site’s famous front page—but don’t get much further than that.
A tip from an expert: “If you have an interest, no matter how dark it is, there’s a subreddit for it,” Olson says. Now it’s a little easier to find.