Profile (belated) and data story: Sands Fish

I interviewed Sands Fish for our class profiles assignment months ago and decided to try to profile him through the medium in which he is an expert: data visualization. However, I ran into a road block that I wasn’t able to resolve until our data visualization class. So I’m combining two assignments in one and finally presenting my results.

After Sands and I talked, I transcribed 25 minutes of our interview, including even the “um”s and “yeah”s. Then I analyzed the text from several different perspectives, trying to echo Sands’ work with MediaCloud, which crunches massive amounts of data to discover the relationships between words and the people who use them. In our case, I wanted to get a visual representation of the themes and rhythm of our interview.

First, I analyzed the language we each used. Here are the words I used most often:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.52.27 PM

And the ones Sands used most often:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.53.21 PM

There wasn’t a lot of overlap.

Then I counted the number of words in each uninterrupted chunk of speech and made a spreadsheet recording each of those chunks under our respective names, with the minute timestamp interspersed. For example, here is the first five minutes:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.12.56 PM

Here is a streamgraph that shows our individual share of the conversation, and the overall give and take. I used total words per person per minute to produce this graph on

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.56.54 PM

Then I took a more granular look at the first 10 minutes of conversation, using cumulative word count instead of minutes as the x-axis value. That gave me a better sense of the frequency of volleys between us, and the duration of each uninterrupted chunk of speech:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.15.35 PM

Here are a few takeaways I gleaned about my interview style by representing the interview visually:

  • I affirm understanding in lazy ways (yeah, OK, mhmm), and I interrupt a lot.
  • It would be better would be to remain silent until the end of my interviewee’s explanation, and then affirm my understanding in a summary that uses key words and phrases that he or she has shared.
  • Overall the share of conversation is roughly appropriate for interviewer and interviewee, though the spike at 22 represents a story I shared that probably didn’t add much to the interview.