A Visual Data Hash


On the Enigma Public team we are lucky to spend our days thinking about how to make to public data accessible and relevant to more people. This also means we spend a lot of time thinking about public data in general, and certain datasets in particular. We talk about public datasets enough to feel affection, association and devotion for certain ones. What’s a way to rep the datasets we love?

One afternoon a conversation about data migration and a dataset’s hash string led to the idea...what if these were visual? (Maaaan.) This went on our whiteboard of mostly less silly project ideas, but was one we kept circling back to, turning to each other and saying:

  • “OK — check out this link I came across on from the Identicon wikipedia page…”
  • “Oh cool! Check out this Identicon generation library I found….”
  • “...what if the identicons were QR codes?”
  • “Is it more important for the identicons to be unique or for them to reflect the semantic contents of the dataset? Or both?”
  • “Would you expect two identicon of datasets that were very similar to also look similar?”
  • “How can emojis be involved?”
  • “...should the identicons be emojis?”
  • “OK — we have larger features in the roadmap. How can we make this a Friday afternoon project?”

And so Enigma’s Visual Data Hash was born, an exploration of what could be a dataset’s emblem or coat of arms. We explored a number of different Identicon generators, ultimately drawing inspiration from the simplicity and the Rorschach test potential of the Github version. (Did you know Github generates a unique identicon for every user of the platform? Well, you do now!) We wanted to reflect something of the contents of the dataset, but also to keep it simple.

We decided to make use of identicon.js to create the visual data hashes. The color palette was swapped to feel more like Enigma, and we added a single touch, the border, to reflect the number of rows within the dataset.

The Visual Data Hash project is silly, but our love for public data is sincere. When we have free time another afternoon, we’re interested in trying to build this out more. We have our own thoughts on approaches to take in the future, but are open to your ideas on what we should do instead. Get in touch.

Are you, too, interested in helping others connect with public data? Enigma is hiring!