I adore charts of all kinds. Because I am what is referred to as a “big dork”. So I was very happy when the extremely cool and non-dorky Jason Oberholtzer agreed to talk to me his successful Tumblr and new book, “I Love Charts“.
Julie: Hi Jason. I found your Tumblr “I Love Charts” because I also love charts very, very much. Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for me. I’m a little worried you’re going to think these questions are really stupid, mostly because they are. Here goes. Why do you love charts?
Jason: I love that they can tell a concise story, whether that story is about data or about somebody’s experience.
Julie: What is your favorite kind of chart?
Jason: The kind that gets sent to us at 3am, scrawled on a bar napkin.
Julie: Good answer. Is there a special kind of person who loves charts? What characteristics do you think define those who love charts, as we do?
Jason: I think what we chart lovers have a common curiosity, which is different than a desire to learn. Curiosity has more joy involved and those who chart their lives and would see the world charted seem to find joy in the process.
Julie: Why did you decide to make a Tumblr about them?
Jason: Ironically, the story is not particularly joyous — though it is in a certain light. I Love Charts‘ cofounder Cody and I had set up personal Tumblrs to keep in touch with our college friends when we graduated in 2008. In September 2009 found ourselves (like many people our age) somewhere in the realm of underemployed with the threat of being unemployed. The economy was a mess and so we amused and comforted ourselves by trying to outdo each other in the search for the most depressing chart possible, putting these on our personal Tumblrs — unemployment charts, charts on the collapse, etc. At a certain point, we were finding so many of these, we thought it would be fun to do a spinoff blog dedicated to our search and I Love Charts was born.
Julie: Can we veer off course for a second? What the f*ck is a Tumblr? Does it have something to do with photos? I thought that was Instgram.
Jason: Tumblr is a blogging platform that does a few things incredibly well. To the “outside world” Tumblrs look like any other blog — the HTML is fully customizable, so you can build your Tumblr as you would any other webpage — but the backend is where the fun is. Tumblr combined the backend functions of a blog (where you read your messages, see your comments and create your posts) with a social element, specifically a stream of those you follow and ways to interact with them. It makes blogging really simple and rewarding and proved an ideal format for community building. So, a Tumblr is a lot of things. A webpage, a blog, a stream, a record of your interaction with a community.
Julie: So what’s the difference between Tumblr and Instagram? Because I think that most of the Tumblr’s I’ve seen are mostly pictures and stuff…
Jason: Instagram is some pictures with filters. Tumblr allows you to post text, links, video, audio and photos, and allows you to share and comment on the posts of others.
Julie: Why isn’t Tumblr just called a blog for people who are cool/younger than 30/live in Brooklyn/wear knit hats/don’t drive minivans?
Jason: While it is true that many of us on Tumblr are very, very cool, and while I acknowledge that I fit that description perfectly (minus the hats), one of the Tumblr community’s strengths is that it generally encourages individuality and the formation of smaller communities, such as the one we have built around chart appreciation. While things do tend to skew younger and more progressive, you will find all sorts of people united in common interests, enjoying the opportunity to express themselves and be a part of a conversation.
Julie: Back to I Love Charts… Are Gantt charts good or evil?
Jason: They are fine conceptually, but in practice I fear them because they usually mean somebody is asking me to do work.
Julie: Oh my GOD. You’re totally right about that. Do you use charts in your everyday life? I totally do. My kids have a “Good Choices” chart. My friend came over and saw it and she was all: “Where the hell was this when I was in college?”
Jason: That’s awesome! I don’t write out a lot of charts, but seeing so many each day, I’ve noticed that my thinking has developed a more visual component. Thinking in charts often helps organize ideas.
Julie: I hear there’s an I Love Charts book. That’s so exciting! Tell us all about it.
Jason: We are really excited about it! The book includes about 200 of our favorite charts, culled from the Internet, our Tumblr community and our super talented friends — people like Ben Greenman, Zach Weiner, Gemma Correll, the list goes on. We arranged the charts into chapters based on subjects like love, the Internet, nerds, music and art, and used them as a framework in which to write essays about those subjects. So, the fun part (and the part you don’t get when you go to our blog) is the writing. We set out with a simple premies — why do we chart? — and explored the human element behind the charts we love. From there we tease out themes of love and humor but also of anxiety and loss. Charting the world is a joyous act, but it also tells us a lot about what we feel we don’t understand, what we are trying to come to terms with. In this book we share a lot about ourselves, ask some questions, answer some questions to the best of our ability, and do it all while enjoying some charts.
Julie: Let’s wrap this up with a BIG finale. What is your all-time favorite chart?
Jason: The next one.
Julie: See? You’re too cool for me.“My favorite chart is the one I can only imagine….” Well, Mr. Cool Pants, here’s my all-time favorite chart. It’s from the brilliant Ilana at Mommy Shorts.
Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on her posts for Babble Pets and Strollerderby, too – where she is often slightly less stupid.