In March, when COVID-19 first hit the U.S. hard, Schenectady native Dan Goodspeed was spending most of his time in Chicago. The data-driven web developer decided it would be a good idea to compare both of his favorite states — Illinois and New York — to see which had the most COVID cases.
“I wanted to see more historical context,” Goodspeed said. “I searched around and I didn’t see any charts that existed with that. But I did find that the New York Times put up a [spreadsheet] of all the data, every single day of the year, for every single state and even every single country. I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is really cool.’ And they encourage people to use it to do things with it. I figured I’ll take it and make a chart.”
That discovery led to Goodspeed’s now-popular homemade COVID charts. In just a few months, they’ve been picked up by various networks and websites, gone viral on Twitter a few times and earned him some donations to keep it all going. They’ve also crashed his website a bit, he admits, but it’s all worth it.
His first chart was a state-by-state comparison of COVID cases by date. He admits it was initially flawed, as it had far too many columns to look presentable on mobile with its red dots, which sort of looked like “chicken pox.”
“I shared it with people on Facebook and a few dozen people liked it and told me to keep updating it. So I did keep updating,” Goodspeed said. “I was trying to think of some way to animate it. As time goes on, that was my plan.”
After some initial love on Facebook, Goodspeed took to the internet site Flourish to fix up some animation. He landed on a chart that showed states moving around as their COVID cases fluctuated. That was an even bigger hit.
“All these lights were going off in my head and I was like, ‘This is really fun to watch your state. And I can really see people liking this,’ ” Goodspeed said. “I didn’t know how much they would, because I’ve had a few things go viral before. I was expecting maybe 100,000 views from it. And it’s gotten close to 500,000 by now.”
That first chart — comparing states by new cases — inspired Goodspeed to make four others in the same format, comparing states by new deaths, total cases, total deaths and partisanship.
The ‘cases-by-partisanship’ graph has gained a lot of traction, as it illustrates the breakdown of the distribution of COVID cases by political party, either Democrat or Republican, and it shows the red states gradually taking over the chart with the most cases.
His charts have done fairly well after he’s posted them to Reddit, he said, and have seen new life on Twitter. The charts have since been picked up by The Guardian, Yahoo, Slate and other sites. They’ve also led to his website, DanGoodspeed.com, seeing more traffic than he could’ve ever imagined.
His biggest lesson learned from the experience: “Make sure your server is up to par.”
“I guess it’s just more of an educational thing to get people to understand how your state is doing compared to others,” Goodspeed said. “There’s a lot of charts with just numbers. And if you’re reading down a list of like 50 numbers, you can say, ‘Okay, my state is currently a 75, whatever that means, and this other state is 200.’ But [mine] is digestible.”
Editor’s note: Goodspeed is a web developer for the Daily Gazette.