May 7, 2018

Responses to open questions shown as tooltips in a chart

Open questions in surveys are a great idea. But often, we don’t really have time to looking at them in detail.

Here’s a suggestion to make more use of data from your open questions.

Suppose you have just implemented a survey on attitudes to public transport, which includes groups of numerical questions on which the respondents rate the local transport system on convenience and value. And suppose you’d thoughtfully added an open question asking for more information on those answers.

Try making a chart with the total or mean scores on the two groups of numerical questions on the x- and y-axes, and add the answers to the open question as a third column to give the tooltips. It encourages the reader to look more closely at individuals who are extreme in one way or the other … who are the people who think the system is convenient but too expensive? And what about the typical” people in the middle?

Of course you can’t have tooltips on a printed document. I believe it’s really tricky in PDF. So it makes most sense to share your document on the internet. Here are some ways to do it, and one way using Excel.

Tableau public

The easiest way to do this is probably in in Tableau Public, as above. Full embed_code_version here.

Tableau Public is a free download - you install the program, work on your chart on your computer then press a button to share it to the Tableau website. You can also embed the chart as I did above (though I had to delete some whitespace in the embeddable code to make it work).

Google charts: HTML

With Google charts you just edit a piece of HTML and paste it into your webpage. It is not too difficult to edit the HTML, but it isn’t so easy to connect it to a database, e.g. a Google sheet. Still, the results are nice. Here I’ve included a third dimension (the sizes of the points — you can do that in Tableau too):

Google Charts in a Google Sheet

There is also a point-and-click version, when you embed a chart within a Google sheet, data connection is trivial but you can’t customise the tooltips so it doesn’t really answer the question I posed in this blog.

Google Fusion Tables

I also tried the same trick in Google Fusion Tables: here’s the template, you can copy it and adjust it to your needs.

However, it doesn’t seem to be maintained any more.


If you’re into R, you can do it with htmlwidgets. I found it a bit fiddly though to make the tooltips work.


You can do something similar in Excel, but you have to publish the workbook as an Excel macro-enabled file, which might scare some people.

Other uses

Rather than using the narrative data as a mere adjunct to the numerical data, you can also turn the method on its head. So you can focus mainly on the narrative answers - the numerical answers might be just e.g. age etc or some other variable which helps to put the narrative answers in context.

Sensemaker® uses some ideas like this too.

March 21, 2018

Examples of trivial graph format

Examples of trivial graph format. Can be imported by yED.

The simplest version is this:

one two label for edge from one to two
three four another label on the other edge
one three


This version allows you to have longer node labels: (a list of nodes followed by a list of edges, separated by #”).

one   the label for one
two   the label for two
one   two label for edge from one to two
three four another label on the other edge
one   three

(you don’t have to line up the labels as I have here, you can just have a one-space gap, but it looks nicer)


1      goal
1.1    outcome one
1.1.1  activity one
1.2    outcome two
1.2.1  activity two
1.1    1
1.1.1  1.1
1.2    1
1.2.1  1.2
tgf tech
March 20, 2018

yED graph editor

Here I’m going to make some notes about using yED graph editor for Theory of Change diagrams. I’ll add to it as I find out more.

TL;DR: Seems like a very useful tool for Theories of Change.

Online version

There’s an online version. It has plenty of functionality but you don’t seem to be able to save to a public address, so that you could for example share a link to a diagram with someone else. So the main advantage is just that you don’t have to bother to install anything, rather than that you could work or share collaboratively. (I might be wrong on this.)

Offline version

I installed the offline version for Windows. (Looks like it’s available for Mac and Linux too.) I had to install as administrator because otherwise the installation routine said I didn’t have the correct rights.

Important for Theories of Change:

Various automatic layouts, e.g. hierarchical

It allows you to put nodes inside groups, and these can be nested, and also opened & closed - good for complicated diagrams.

Supports plenty of unicode symbols and emojis (I haven’t found any which aren’t supported.)

You can import node and edge lists from xls and from trivial graph format. That’s pretty important when you’ve got a lot of text. Looking at the diagrams which people make at, lots of text is a pretty common problem - though I’m not a fan of it myself.


It’s pretty powerful.

Some features:

There is a Properties panel which allows you to change the properties of a multiple selection of nodes.

Cut, copy and paste.

Multiple undo.

You can easily create non-standard edges.

Not implemented or I’ve not worked out how to do it:

I’ve not worked out how to make nodes auto-fit to the width of the text - you have to do this manually with tools/fit node to label

I’d like to be able to inter-operate with R. yED can write graphml and the R package igraph should be able to import it, but the import fails with warnings. Found the same complaint on StackOverflow but no solution.


It’s a bit clunky to add a lot of material initially. There is very limited support for keyboard shortcuts, basically you can press Ctrl+W to add a child node or Ctrl+D to duplicate one.

In my opinion it is really important to maximise use of space, i.e. text needs to be as big as possible without too much white space, so you can actually read the diagram e.g. when pasted into a document. yED is not so good on this.


I did try Lucidchart, which is free for small diagrams with up to 60 entities - but it doesn’t have groups and doesn’t seem to re-route connectors.

Comparison with my own Theorymaker apps:

For me, it’s really important to be able to put nodes inside groups, and that these can be nested. (Actually I don’t nest groups very often at all, but as Theorymaker, my Logic of Theories of Change” ;-(), allows for it, I need a graphing app which can do this too.) I couldn’t find any suitable graphing app which could do this easily, which is one reason why I started creating my drag-and-drop app at Perhaps I was wasting my time, as yED can do it, at least it can, now in 2018 ;-(

The comparison with my text-based app is more interesting. One thing yED can do is easily draw arrows to and from groups, which can’t do without a hack.

(to be continued)


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