13 of Your Questions Answered with Flowcharts

Dan Zak
Dan Zak / Dan Zak

Flowcharts were originally designed to illustrate algorithms, or the process by which something happens. As flowcharts moved from engineering to internet humor, they began to rely more on human decisions, as flawed as they are, than logical analysis of existing conditions. And there’s no shortage of people who will help you make your decisions with a humorous, or sometimes not-so-humorous, flowchart. You can use them to make the most mundane everyday decisions, or to change your life.

1. Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s?

A new Trader Joe’s store opened last year in Washington, D.C. in the same neighborhood as an existing Whole Foods. This caused some confusion in the area, so Dan Zak designed a helpful flow chart for readers of the Washington Post to figure out which store best suits them. The chart poses a series of questions designed to peg your lifestyle and food preferences to one store or the other. They are both foreign to me, as my small town has three groceries (four if you count Walmart), and Kroger is the fanciest of them. But at least they will accept a check.

2. Are You a Good Mom?

This is a question that nags every mother ever—and judgment from family, fiends, and the general public doesn’t help our self-confidence a bit. Maybe this flowchart from HuffPo Parents can help bring you a bit of assurance. It was posted as a gift for Mothers Day.

3. Do You Like Me?

Remember back in fifth grade when you got a note that asked this very question? Or maybe you were the one who sent it! Those notes had a simple yes or no to check, which left no room for finesse. The new version, from College Humor, goes beyond the simple question and turns into an interrogation about the nature and depth of that “like” feeling. Take a look at the full chart to see what I mean. It’s not only exhausting, it contains NSFW text.

4. What Kind of Beer Drinker Are You?

College Humor will help you determine what category of beer drinker you fall into. Go to the full chart for the procedure that sorts beer drinkers into these distinct types. Contains NSFW text.

5. What Kind of Beer Should you Drink?

There are so many types of beer available at your local store that you may be overwhelmed by the variety. Maybe you could try a different kind each week until you’ve tried them all. Or maybe you could take a shortcut to a new favorite with a handy flowchart from Cool Material. Shown here is just the beginning of the process.

6. Do You Deserve that Foul Ball?

Videocameras often zoom into the stands when a foul ball goes to the crowd. If there’s a scuffle over the ball, everyone and his brother will know about it before nightfall, and if you go home with the ball while a cute child cries, you are no winner. This flowchart from Deadspin helps you see the bigger picture, because that bigger picture will be on YouTube tonight.

7. What Kind of Spoiler are You?

Once upon a time, everyone watched TV at the same time, and saw the same movie at the same theater in the same weekend. DVR, on-demand TV, and streaming services have shifted us to a watch-as-you-want culture, but we still talk to each other, which leads to someone spilling the beans about what happens in a current movie or TV show. Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken was commissioned by Netflix to study people who spoil movies and TV shows, which is supposedly all of us at one time or another. Netflix used McCracken’s findings to construct an interactive flowchart detailing the various personalities behind people who spoil those shows for their friends and enemies. You can see a smaller, non-interactive version here

8. Which Star Trek Novel Should I Read?

TrekBBS user Thrawn constructed an intricate flow chart called The Almighty Star Trek Lit-verse Reading Order Flow Chart to help you navigate the many Star Trek novels by where they fit into the continuity of the Star Trek universe. The screenshot here is just a small corner of the huge chart.

Whether you're a fan of TNG, DS9, Voyager, or Enterprise the chart below will show how they spin off into New Frontier, Titan, Klingon Empire, or Vanguard, and crossover into Destiny, Typhon Pact, The Fall, Mirror Universe, and more; letting you chart your own path through the Trek-litverse. Once you've got to grips with the flow chart you might also find some of my lists a useful reference too.

The chart encourages a reader to start anywhere, as the novels themselves fill you in on what you need to know. However, the chart will help you to decide what to read next and how the stories fit with each other. There aren’t many novels included from the era of Kirk and Spock, just a few that were set after the movie era began. More reading suggestions can be found with the chart at the Trek Collective.

9. Would You Survive in Game of Thrones?

In the world of the HBO series Game of Thrones, you have to be really tough to survive. Probably tougher than almost anyone who watches it. In fact, the characters that are in it have little chance of surviving themselves. I honestly do not think you’re that tough, but if you want to take your chances, follow the flowchart at Dorkly.

10. Should You Vaccinate Your Child?

You might think that’s a dumb question, but hear me out. Scott Bateman of The Nib designed a flowchart that seems like it should answer the question for you, but what it’s really doing is preparing you for the inevitable debate with someone who may have a different point of view. It might not help, but it will prepare you.

11. Do You Have Ebola?

This flowchart at Vox is short, simple, and to the point. You can send it to anyone who forwards a frightening ebola story to you, along with the facts about ebola on the same page.

12. Should I Clean the Sink?

If you have to ask whether you “should” do some chore around the house, it means that you don’t really want to. In this case, the flowchart was left by redditor masterofthefire’s significant other. It boils down to an order, dressed up in a joke, so there’s really no question about what he “should” do. The real question is: did he do it?

13. Should You Ever Use the Word Moist?

It’s been long known that people hate the word “moist.” It just doesn’t sound right. Is there ever a proper time to use that word? Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal lays out the rules in this flowchart. Always remember the proper use.

Make the rest of the decisions in your life with the help of other flowcharts we've posted.