All the data you can eat
Visualisation of popularity of We Didn't Start The Fire
Nerds

We didn’t start the fire, but this guy did visualise it

Jason Norwood-Young
Jason Norwood-Young
2021-06-04

Tom Lum’s shower thought about Billy Joel’s seminal We Didn’t Start The Fire didn’t result in a modern interpretation, as it does for most people. It launched a massive data project that saw him teaching himself D3.js to discover which lyrics still resonate today. He uses Wikipedia entry popularity as a proxy for our interest in each line of the song, sometimes having to interpret what Joel meant at the time. (“Vaccine” means the polio vaccine specifically – Joel wasn’t scrying the future.) While Joseph Stalin still holds our interest today, five lines later, Rockefeller has lost relevance. See the viz here, and enjoy the process over on TikTok.

Jason Norwood-Young
  • Journalist, developer, community builder, newsletter creator and international man of mystery.

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