Thursday, July 4, 2013

Visualizing alt-coins

I've been teaching myself a Javascript visualization library called D3. It gives the chart creator an incredible degree of control in making interactive web-based charts. My previous interactive charts, including my interactive Eurosystem balance sheet tool, have all used the Google Vizualization API, which is far less powerful than D3.

You may want to read my last post was on bitcoin alternatives in order to understand what I'm trying to get at in this post. In visualizing the cryptocoin market, I think it's important to convey information about both the relative size of each cryptocoin and the date on which it was born. In doing so I'm trying to illustrate how being the first mover engenders network effects -- early cryptocoins tend to attract the largest market share. I also want to capture the mini boom in new coins since May 2013. Below I've pasted a D3 visualization of this data. Users can interact with it by hovering the mouse over each circle. The code is here.

I'm sure that chart nerds will accuse me of unnecessarily using a circle chart. The areas of circles are not as easily compared by our eye as, say, lines with differing heights. A quick glance immediately picks up height differentials -- it takes more effort to pick out area differentials. Far better would be to use a chart like this:

The logarithmic scale in the above line chart adds resolution by rendering each alt-coin's bar more comparable to what would otherwise be a humongous bitcoin bar. If I had time, I'd allow the user to zoomover the busy part in 2013. The problem with this chart is that the lines get jumbled together when the births of new coins comes in bunches. In this respect, the circle chart is superior to the line chart since it can easily handle simultaneous births by overlaying the circles one on top of the other.

The other problem with my line chart is it really doesn't convey the sheer size of bitcoin. I think the circle chart is pretty successful in this respect. The blue dot that represents BTC is virtually spilling off the page. When I came up with the design for the circle chart, I was thinking about the chart below:

Bitcoin is like the sun. The alternatives are still wimpy planets.


  1. The circle-areas work great for the intended purpose!

    Would be neat to work in a few other treatments of time.

    For example, plot all current-caps as circles at a rightmost 'now', and project prior capitalizations (as fainter diameters) back to to the left to moment-of-origin, on a calendar-time scale.

    Or, compare growths-over-time in age. (Which alt-coins are larger than Bitcoin was, at the same age?)

    1. Yes, it would be nice to see growths-over-time-in-age. Sort of like:

  2. you should do a circle diagram which includes the US dollar.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This classic TED talk shows the most comprehensive use of the bubble manner of visualizing data over time.

  5. Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no data
    backup. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

    Visit my webpage :: clash of clans hack

  6. Nice graph! Yes, areas make comparisons harder but the solar system metaphor makes your design very worthwhile, specially with the spilling over.

    Interestingly, we seem to be in a period of consolidation in this latest slow boom (by bitcoin's standards). When you wrote this litecoin's market cap was 5.7% of bitcoin's, currently it is 4%. Nowadays bitcoin accounts for ~92% of the total value of altcoins.

    (On the other hand, the celestial bodies are volumes, not areas... and everything else in the solar system doesn't even account for 1% of the sun's mass. ;)

    Playing with Gordon Mohr's idea of time... what about a coin solar system where the orbits are a comet trail of former marekt caps, waxing and waining?