Solving the hairball problem

This was published more than 6 years ago

Attitudes and opinions change and evolve.

You know that feeling you get when you stumble upon something you wrote in the distant past and it's terrible? There are many cringe-worthy bits of immature writing on this website (and I'm probably still creating more).

As well as the mere cringe-worthy, there are also opinions and attitudes expressed that I no longer hold and am, frankly, embarrassed by. (Please don't go looking, they're deliberately hard to find, but left for the sake of posterity.)

I hope if you've stumbled across some here, you'll give me the benefit of the doubt.

I did a rare scan through my spam folder today. Unfortunately I didn’t find what I was looking for—I thought Melody Kramer’s emails might have found there way their since I haven’t seen one in a while—but I did find a stray INN Nerd Alert I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Julia’s link of the week was an interactive look at the family trees of European royals by Nadieh Bremer. To go with the impressive visualisation, Nadia did a great writeup of how it came together for the data sketch|es project.

But I still felt like it wasn’t really getting anywhere. I continued again on another day and I was so depressed with the network and its potential that I didn’t even take screenshots of my attempts for quite some time.

I’m so glad she didn’t completely neglect to take screenshots, because the ones she did take show clearly the kind of process it takes to solve a difficult problem: the hairball problem.


The hairball problem is one that anyone who’s ever tried to visualise a network has encountered; it’s one I’ve tried to solve myself.

Look at the problem enough and you’ll probably conclude that the solution depends strongly on the story you’re trying to tell.

And that’s when I finally started to see some potential. I decided that I had to focus on that connection to a current royal leader more and see where that would take me.

It’s an impressive piece of work to get done in two weeks around other commitments. Highly recommended.