Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The United Tastes of America

There have been a few maps this week purportedly visualizing distinctive features of each state in the USA.

For example the Most Distinctive Causes of Death map visualizes the most 'distinctive' cause of death in each of the 50 states. The map doesn't show the top cause of death in each state but the cause of death which is proportionally higher in each state than in all the the other states. Or something like that - there is a formula.

The most distinctive cause of death in each state is at least twice the national rate for that cause of death. Therefore I'm guessing that the map could be quite useful to health care practitioners in highlighting causes of death in a state which appear to be abnormally high.

I'm going to say that despite being an ugly map that it might actually be useful to planners in the health care profession.

The opposite is true of Foursquare new America's Most Popular Tastes map, which is a beautiful looking interactive map but essentially useless. The map supposedly shows the most unique flavor in each state.

Foursquare claim that they used a mix of data sets (menus, tips, ratings, and more) and normalized for size against other states. Which seems to be a similar approach to the Most Distinctive Causes of Death map. My guess however is that a few ageing hipsters at Foursquare just sat around and came up with a list of what they thought were the most distinctive foods in each state.

The map is gorgeous though. I love the little icons for each state. The mouse-over interactions on each state are very nice as well and, if you select a state on the map, the map automatically zooms in and picks out the state in a different highlight color.

To be fair the map isn't really pointless. When you select a state on the map you can view the restaurants in that state with the highest ratings for the state's most distinctive food. If you click on one of the restaurants you can also view its listing on Foursquare.

So America's Most Popular Tastes Map is successful in identifying some top places to eat in each state and of course Foursquare hope it will be succesful in promoting Foursquare.

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