More than a Meming? The Color of a Dress, an Interactive Tool, and Our Interpretation of Reality

Last Thursday was when I learned of the "what color is the dress" meme. The wave of interest has given way to irritated weariness as the next memes show up. However, this one is peculiar, and it feels like there is much more going on with it and how it reveals how differently and how strongly we can interpret reality.

I read how several people would have it flip back and forth between blue/black and white/gold, while others did not. This lead me to wonder about how to quantify the "degree" of your blue/black-ness or white/gold-ness. I put together a simple tool to try to do that - it is embedded below, and also available at

Avoiding a Performance Gotcha with Jquery Datatables and Deep Objects


If you are using the "data" attribute of jquery Datatables, it does a deep copy on all settings (which includes the "data" attribute), which can cause a significant performance hit if your "data" array contains complicated objects.

One solution to this is to use the "render" attribute to define a function that creates the html for the table element, and use an array of the ids for the objects as the "data" object.

I have been using jquery datatables to show lists of people in a family tree visualization tool I have been playing with (and I think datatables is awesome, btw). As the number of people in the tree can be pretty big, I wanted to use the deferRender property coupled with scroller.js to provide a fast "infinite" scroll that will render rows only when needed.

In setting this up, I was seeing fairly poor performance, and determined that the issue was that the datatables initialization function will (for some reason) do a deep copy of the settings passed in (here is link to line in the source code). The "data" passed in for the datatables is part of this "settings" object.

In my case, the objects in the array had multiple levels, and the deep copy was causing a huge performance hit before anything was even done with trying to render the table.

The solution (for now) was to use an array of simple objects that basically just contained the id's for the objects - then when the render function is called, the object itself is looked up from the id. The improvement in performance was striking, imo.

I'm not sure if this is really a bug or not or anything - this might be an edge case that doesn't come up very often: I've a largish number of (deep-ish) javascript objects already in hand and want to show some aspects of them in a table.

Anyway, relevant sample code is below.

$divEl.append('<table cellspacing="0" ' +
                        'class="detailTable table-striped ' +
                              ' table table-bordered table-hover table-condensed">' +

var $dt = $divEl.find('.detailTable');

//allPeopleByIdsArray = [{'id':id1}, {'id': id2},...];

that.theTable = $dt.dataTable({
                   'data': allPeopleIdsArray,
                   'deferRender': true,
                   ... other initialization properties...
                   'columns': [
                     'title': 'Name',
                     'data': 'id',
                        function (data, type, full, meta) {
                          var p = allPeopleById[data],
                              sLink = p.getGoogleLinkIfApplicable();
                              s = '<a href="' + sLink + '">' + 
                                       p.getNameLastFirst() + '</a>';
                          return s;
                     'className': 'detail-person-name'

Using d3's attrTween to Animate Bezier Curves in a Family Tree Visualization

I have been playing with a d3.js-based family tree visualization tool (available at with part of the British monarchy tree loaded; you can also load your own GEDCOM file or view other samples).

When viewing the whole tree, and focusing on a single person in the tree with its path winding its way to the root person, I was wanting to be able to "collapse" the path to a straight path and show all of the people in that path.

I implemented this using d3's attrTween for the relevant svg path attribute of the (cubic) Bezier curves, and thought it seemed pretty cool.

A short video demonstrating this feature is linked to below (video is cued to where the feature is used). A few screen shots of the before and after are also shown.

Using d3 attribute transitions/tweens to "collapse" a family tree path
(video is cued to where the feature is used)

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