5 Inspiring Computational Notebooks of May 2022

Tom Larkworthy
6 min readJun 1, 2022

May had 4 times more engagement with the Trending Notebook Bot than April! This is an unprecedented jump in activity! I think this was due to @waynesutton returning as community manager for Observable (👋 great to have you back Wayne!) and retweeting us a lot. Thanks Wayne, it makes a big impact on us! I had to rescale all my plots to accommodate!

May had four notebooks, in particular, that broke from the pack this month, each gaining many likes and retweets. I would say we are still waiting for a true viral Tweet authored by the trending bot, but we are getting some close calls!

The very top notebook was Hello MapLibre which had 18 likes and 6 retweets. @neocartocnrs is a familiar name in the Map Dataviz and Observable community. MapLibre is the OSS fork of mapbox-gl-js, and requires a little Observable know-how to get working properly. Creating a Hello X notebook is an Observablehq community norm when getting new technology into the ecosystem, and MapLibre is a highly desirable dependency for the mapping community. Thus, getting that library working was a big deal, which was eagerly snapped up by the community. Since publishing, we have seen some other notebooks building on the path cut by @neocartocnrs, for example, Terrains with MapLibre by @bert.

The next big hit of the month was written by me! I can tell you that Interactive Sequence Diagrams was a shower thought that struck me at 1 a.m. at night. It’s an extremely simple technique for creating user steppable sequence diagrams on Observable, which solved a problem I was having with technical documentation. It only took about 15 mins to code up. I was surprised by how well the notebook did on the trending page, leading me to submit it to Hackernews where it reached the front page. That notebook received more traffic than I usually get in a whole month over all my notebooks. Clearly, Observable has great potential as a technical documentation host.

Another big notebook of the month was DarkCideS: Bats in Caves Data by the creators of Observable. That notebook is simply a stellar example of how to do sophisticated data analysis on the platform. In…

Tom Larkworthy

Observablehq/Cloud consultant. Developing webcode.run to serverless to Observablehq. Ex-Firebase, Ex-Google Cloud.