Helping tame information overload


We’ve made a change to our San Francisco site to cut down on information overload.

On our San Francisco site, we publish calls made to the San Francisco Police Department. It’s interesting data — but there’s a lot of it, and it can get overwhelming, particularly in very large neighborhoods. With that in mind, we’ve changed our system to collapse them into daily totals rather than displaying each individual police call.

Here’s what it used to look like (taken from the page for San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood).

First screenshot of site

Note that there were 256 police calls on this given day, so this screenshot doesn’t really do justice to the sheer length of the data. Because each police call was displayed on its own line, this resulted in some huge lists.

Here’s what the same data looks like now:

Second screenshot of site

It’s much more compact and gives you a higher-level look at the data. Of course, you can click the appropriate category (e.g., “3 gun-related calls”) to view all of the individual records.

We’ll be applying similar treatment to a couple of other data sets across our 11 cities, and we’re going to continue to experiment with different approaches to collapsing the data intelligently. If you’ve got any ideas, let us know by e-mailing feedback at

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