an annotated brainlog

Photofo: The Making of an Infographic

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Herein you will learn of Photofo, the “simple” computer program I wrote to help me to collect the data that went into the infographic “a picture about pictures”. My goal was to look at all of the photos I took while studying abroad in London last fall (of which there were over 2,000) and use the information I could glean (1) by looking at the photos and (2) by remembering what was going on at the time the photo was taken in order to learn a bit more about the places I visited—and about myself.

In order to make the task of collecting that data realistic, I decided to harness the Visual Basic programming skills I was just learning at the time to create what I eventually dubbed “Photofo” (“photo” + “info”). Here’s a snippet of the code in Visual Basic Studio 2008:

And here’s the finished product:

It’s not much to look at, I’ll admit. But when combined with some basic spreadsheets with EXIF data (data encoded in the pictures by my camera) pre-extracted thanks to Exifer, it became a full-blown photofo-ing tool. It worked like this:

  1. I’d click Open Data and choose the correct barebones spreadsheet for the folder of photos I wanted to examine.
  2. I’d click Choose Photo and pick a photo, either the first one in that folder or where I’d left off.
  3. I’d get the following view, with the greyed-out values on the left being the ones pre-extracted by Exifer and added manually to the barebones data files by me:(That was our tour bus during my first trip to Scotland, with Haggis Adventures. I highly recommend them, clever bus text or not.)
  4. I’d then fill in all the info on the right, based on what I saw in the photo and (in the case of properties like “Spontaneous” and “Tourism”) what I remembered.
  5. I’d click Next Photo, the next image in the folder would load, and the process would repeat. I did this for every single one of my 2,143 photos in 18 folders. It took a reeeaaaally long time.
  6. When I was done with that folder, I’d click Save Data to File and then move on to the next one.
  7. Eventually I came out with a fully-filled-out spreadsheet for each of the folders full of photos I had. When I was done with them all, I combined them all into one big spreadsheet, which you can see a snippet of here:
  8. In that spreadsheet, I used some Excel wizardry (thank you Google search) to quantify the data, as you can see in the rightmost columns. Then I used Excel to make charts and graphs out of the data, some of which went directly into the infographic. The rest I used as reference as I made the infographic.

And that was that (it looks like a lot less work in a blog post than it really was). It was a fun project, except for the part where I didn’t leave myself quite enough time to work through the photos at a reasonable pace (let’s just say it was my most hectic finals week ever).

The question is, where does Photofo go from here? Was it just a fun little personal project, or should I expand on and polish it for others to use? Good question. What do you think? Would you use it?