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What are your tools and tips for web development?

Useful Resources


There are many other great data sources out there. This is a small list to get you started.


Sightline is a Chrome extension that passively collects interactive data visualizations you visit on the web.

Sightline’s history functionality may help you keep track of and rediscover visualizations you visit throughout the semester.

Boston DataVis Meetup

The Boston DataVis Meetup is the best way to become immersed in the datavis community in the greater Boston area. I’ve met a lot of students, practitioners, and researchers at these meetups. Go!


OK so we are all WPI students, and, chances are, we start assignments the day before it’s due. I have done this. Professor Lane probably knew exactly which assignments I started the day they were due (so around 1AM to 6AM the day it was due). Please start early - it’s a good idea given the complexity of the assignments. I’ve had one or two groups come up and ask me how to implement a full server and data exchange THE EVENING RIGHT BEFORE a project was due with minimal programming experience. Not a good situation to be in. If you start early, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t - different data, charts, approaches, you name it. There are a lot of useful resources on the web for making visualizations - one of the more notable ones is Block Builder for D3. As Professor Harrison says: “Ah, don’t write it yourself - use an example and modify it!” It works rather well when learning D3 because you’re not constantly refreshing the page (trust me, that’s a big one, because after 100+ refreshes you get sick of hitting F5). Flowing Data and Dashing D3JS also show beautiful examples of charts and approaches to handling data. There are many more, but some examples include: anything from Boccoup (data vis group in Boston and San Francisco), Dribbble and Adobe Color for color inspiration, Colorgorical (good for choosing distinct color schemes for visualizations, made by people at Brown University), Slack. Ask your friends on Slack - chances are, you will have a class channel. There are probably others facing the same issue, or have solved the same issue earlier. I remember grading WebWare and no one knew how to use Node JS. However, lots of good discussions were taking place and very few people ended up having trouble after their peers explained the concepts to them. In summary - start early and ask questions - ask lots of questions.


Do the readings! This is pretty much the best advice. Take notes and pay attention to details, tables and various definitions. In previous quizzes, questions ranged from defining a simple term that everyone is ought to know, to outlining how a data visualization is created (hierarchy, procedure and all). This is the type of assessment where one may think “Oh, I don’t need to know this, chances are it won’t be asked”. What ends up happening is that “this” gets asked. Again, make sure you pay attention to the readings and take notes. Study with a friend, and if you are not sure of a term - talk it over. Break it down into examples you understand to be able to explain it during a quiz. Quiz grading is rather simple - there’s not a lot of room for leniency. Chances are the grader will look at your answer, and say “Wrong, no credit” or “Yep, that’s all good” and move on. Sometimes, really rarely (emphasis on the really), partial credit will be given. Again, not likely.