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Current unresolved subs: the bar chart


We've only got about 100 stories left to respond to. Woo-hoo!

(That again may sound like a lot, but out of about 4500 submissions this year, it's not many at all. And it means we've replied to about 180 stories in the past four days or so.)

A while back, I was playing around with the Google Chart API. It's nifty: you send query parameters to Google, as part of a URL, and it returns a chart or graph. It does bar charts, pie charts, and a bunch of other stuff, and if you're working with a non-changing set of data, you don't even need to do any programming.

It occurred to me that I could use it to create a bar chart showing our unresolved subs at any given time. Our response status page shows how long ago the oldest story we're still considering was submitted, and that's great; but sometimes we're only considering one story from that long ago, and we've responded to everything submitted for a week after that one story. So I wanted to show a graph of submission dates (along the x axis) against number of unresolved subs per submission date (along the y axis).

After some trial-and-error, I put together some code to construct a Google Charts URL based on data from our submission database. Here's a snapshot of the chart as of tonight, December 2, 2009 (click the small image to see the full-size chart):

IMPORTANT NOTE: The chart shown in this entry does not update live; this is just a static screen snap, shown here as an example. It will no longer be accurate after the next time we respond to a story.

Unfortunately, it's not very clear, even in the full-size version. I'm going to work on improving the labeling; in particular, I want to add month names along the bottom, which should help a lot. But for now, thought it would be fun to show y'all a picture of the work-in-progress.

Date-of-month is shown along the bottom edge of the graph, and each bar shows how many as-yet-unresolved subs were submitted on that day. For example, the leftmost bar (height of 1) shows that we're still considering one story submitted on the 28th of September. Then there are six 0s, indicating that we've responded to all stories submitted on the 29th of September through the 4th of October. (Unfortunately, a quirk in the code makes it difficult to show date labels for days where we've responded to all stories, so I put a dot instead of a number. Sorry about that.) Then there's a 2-height bar showing that we're still considering two stories submitted on October 5. And so on, up to the 13 stories that we're still considering that were submitted on October 31, the last day we were open.

Note that a "day" for us starts just after midnight, Eastern US time. So if you want to see whether we've responded to all stories submitted on the day you submitted, you'll have to figure out what the date was in (say) New York at the time that you submitted.

When/if I manage to add month names (and perhaps a couple of other labels), I'll probably add a live-updating version of this chart to the status page. I'm not sure it'll help—the time zone thing may result in too many queries for stories we're still considering—but I'm hoping it'll be of interest and/or use to authors.

Of course, I'm hoping that another system will be of even more use: I think I've figured out (with help from various friends) a way to fairly securely let authors query their individual story's status by visiting a web page. (Don't worry, the page will not give out your name or the story title to anyone. We'll be careful to maintain privacy, and we've thought through a lot of potential issues/concerns.) That would be a huge help. But I'm not sure when or if I'll get that working, so this bar graph might still be a fun toy in the interim.


*eyes the graph*
*checks own submission data*

...That's exciting.

Heh—it didn't occur to me that making this kind of chart public might increase a few people's nervousness, given when they submitted.

I wonder if it would be more kind to authors to just list the days for which we still have unresolved subs, rather than saying how many for each day?

Oh well, you know how writers are, any information makes us more nervous, as does no information :)

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