http://bl.ocks.org/ occupies an interesting space in the overlap of coding and writing. It lets you simultaneously view the rendering of a source page and its source code, together with commentary in the form of a README. Each bl.ock is defined simply as a github gist that follows the naming convention README.md for commentary (in markdown), and index.html for source file to be both rendered and displayed in source view. This is extraordinarily powerful when index.html is a single-page web application, of the kind that D3 (http://d3js.org/) encourages you to build – and Mike Bostock, the main developer of D3, just happens to be the inventor of bl.ocks as well.
bl.ocks are a great way to pull away the curtain and illustrate how a particular analysis or visualization works, and studying other people’s bl.ocks can be a fast route to learning a new technique.
From work with Christine Bannan on the Phoros project, I’ve put up this bl.ock as we begin to map changing patterns of Athenian tribute over time:
- Phoros project github repositories: http://phoros.github.io/
- Phoros project test site: http://beta.hpcc.uh.edu/phoros/