Getting Feedback: Pandemic Edition

Note: I’m a graduate student at the University of Miami working on my capstone, a visualization of the Pictures of the Year International Archives. If you’re curious about my journey, here are my posts tagged with capstone.

So, as you may have guessed most universities went remote with classes. We had an extra week of spring break so that faculty and students could make some adjustments. I was thrilled to hear it because I’m still juggling caring for my hubs and trying to make the best of sorting out how to get groceries, what to cook (empty shelves of meat – really?), how long viruses live on surfaces (deliveries), and where to find masks and hand sanitizer. I was prepared long before most people but things have clearly gotten much worse and the scale of how the U.S. is so unprepared… I’m still digesting that.

Still, I want to make it clear that my situation is much better than most. I’m one of the lucky ones. I just wish people weren’t taking this out on Asians. But I’m not going there. It’s just another layer of stress. There have been a few incidents at the local grocery stores. Another reason I have avoided going out.


One of the hardest aspects about remote is that everyone has different tools they use. I hear Zoom is the meeting app of choice but I prefer Slack (Yes, there is video) because it allows you to share all types of content and the integration is stellar. Zoom doesn’t allow for sharing of content, only sharing of screens.

So I had to figure out a way to share the many charts I’ve been exploring. Sending out screen grabs and attachments in an email is tedious and doesn’t work. I thought about using Google Slides but the format and proportions are clunky.

Enter Mural.

I discovered this tool eons ago but rediscovered it while doing some team work for I believe our UX Research Methods class. It is an awesome whiteboard/collaboration tool. Super easy to use.

My explorations using RawGraphs, Flourish, and DataWrapper

The great part about Mural is that people can leave notes and draw on the board. Even during a screen share, you can see where people are drawing so communication is clear. I’m sure I haven’t used all the great features they offer and I’m looking forward to learning more about it. Right now, everything feels like “just learn enough” to get the project done!

Weekly Meetings

One of my advisors, Dr. Barbara Millet, set up a weekly meeting for all of her advisees. This was great because I could get additional feedback on the direction of my charts and focus from three classmates plus Dr. Millet on top of feedback from Alberto Cairo. Two advisors is a win-win. They offer different perspectives and see different aspects. I couldn’t have asked for a better “committee”. I also met with Lenny Martinez who is teaching many of us an intro to D3.js. My other source of feedback was my husband, who not long ago, expressed his frustration with charts online: “Some take took long to figure out”. He was my litmus test.

So, the best combination for feedback during a pandemic?

It depends on your project but for dataviz, I found weekly meetings, two advisors with Mural, What’s App, Slack and Zoom to be helpful.

But the first piece is you. If you are healthy and have the time to get out of bed, turn off Netflix … create!

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