Visualizing Progress

December 6, 2011by

In the summer of 2011 I worked with a friend on setting up the Do the Work Community. The project was designed around the principles of creative work laid out by Steven Pressfield in his guidebook Do the Work. As an extension of these principles, the community would be an online collective of individuals working on their own respective projects, i.e. “doing the work,” in an atmosphere of “assistance and accountability” with other like minded workers.

Participants would be required to publish weekly updates on their work, so I decided to experiment with ways one might chart progress on a creative project. This would offer an easy way to ‘show’ rather than just ‘say’ how things have been going.

The remaining design challenges was discerning which charts/graphs would best display how things are progressing. A few problems there though:

  1. Data is not the driving force behind the kind of creative work being done in the DTWCommunity.
  2. The learning curve for getting comfortable with creating visualizations can be immense.
  3. People need to easily be able to add visualizations to their updates without spending a lot of time creating it.

After researching several tools, I landed on Google’s open API for Charts and Graphs. It offers a variety of fairly easy to create options, and fit this project for two very particular reasons:

  1. It offered several very simple, easy to edit visualizations.
  2. It could be set up and taught to others without requiring them to learn a new program or write code.

I decided on two concepts derived from Pressfield’s narrative, one of which would indicate long term growth, and the other short term: (1) Which chapter am I on in the Do the Work continuum? and (2) Who has won the battle this week, me or the Resistance?

After testing several options and gathering feedback from others in the community, we decided on the following (reprinted here as it was introduced to the DTW community with instructions):

Progress Meter

To display the progress meter, copy and paste the following code into your post where you want it to be displayed. Be sure you are in the HTML and not the Visual tab of the editor in WordPress! To change the position of the arrow just edit the number “30″ in “…chd=t:30&…” toward the end to indicate where you are on a scale of 1-100.

Changing 30 to 90, for instance, renders the image like this:

The Battle

Who's eating who for lunch?

To display the Who’s Eating Who pie, copy and paste this code into your post where you want it to be displayed. Again: Be sure you are in the HTML and not the Visual tab of the editor in WordPress! To change the relevant sections of the pie, just edit the “20,80” at “…chd=t:20,80&…” toward the middle, again on a scale of 1-100, to indicate the score in your battle royale against the resistance. If you want you can also edit the title by changing the words (but leave in the ‘+’ sign) “Who’s+eating+who+for+lunch”.

Who's eating who for lunch?

Here’s what it looks like with the tables turned: resistance – 70, Me – 30:

Who's eating who for lunch?

We certainly hope none of us have weeks like this, but when we do we can trust the Do the Work Community’s got our backs, whether we need assistance, a gentle nudge, or just a plain old shove in the right direction.