Visualization may not be as precise as statistics, but it provides a unique view onto data that can make it much easier to discover interesting structures than numerical methods. Visualization also provides the context necessary to make better choices and to be more careful when fitting models. Anscombe’s Quartet is a case in point, showing that four datasets that have identical statistical properties can indeed be very different. [Read more…] about Anscombe’s Quartet
Almost exactly 25 years ago, on January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated seconds after lift-off. One of Edward Tufte’s most famous examples of bad charts are the ones used by engineers who argued against the launch, and who failed to convince. It’s a fascinating story, but it has one major fault: it is not true. [Read more…] about Tufte and the Truth about the Challenger
John Snow’s map of the cholera dead after London’s 1854 epidemic is often heralded as one of the earliest examples of graphical data analysis. Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map gives a lot of background about the London of the 1850s, Snow’s work, and how central the map really was. [Read more…] about Review: Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map
After my interview with Swivel founders Brian Mulloy and Dmitry Dimov on what happened to Swivel.com, I felt there were still many open questions. So I reached out to Halsey Minor, whose (cleverly-named) incubator Minor Ventures had funded Swivel, and who had made the decision to pull the plug. In this interview, he talks about his issues with Swivel, his priorities in developing products, and what it would take to bring Swivel back. [Read more…] about Swivel, Part 2: Solving A Single Problem
Earlier this summer, the visualization website Swivel.com disappeared from the internet. To find out what happened, I tracked down and interviewed Swivel’s two founders, Brian Mulloy and Dmitry Dimov. [Read more…] about The Rise and Fall of Swivel.com
You all know what statistics is, right? I mean, everybody knows. But if you had to explain why it’s useful, and what it’s useful for, would you have an answer? Do you know how statistics makes a difference in all our lives, all the time? Even if you (think you) do, check out Kaiser Fung’s book, Numbers Rule Your World. [Read more…] about Review: Kaiser Fung, Numbers Rule Your World
The first episode of season 4 of Mad Men opens with Don Draper being interviewed by a journalist. He doesn’t tell him anything that’s of interest and then dodges the question Who is Don Draper? by claiming that he was taught as a child not to talk about himself. Scientists do an equally terrible job at communication, and for many of the same reasons. Cornelia Dean’s book Am I Making Myself Clear? offers fascinating insights into both journalism and science, and provides concrete ideas for how to do better. [Read more…] about Review: Cornelia Dean, Am I Making Myself Clear?
Information graphics (infographics) have gotten a bad rep lately because of a sudden wave of badly designed, uninformative graphics. But when they are done right, infographics can be both highly informative and enjoyable to look at and discover. Here are a few recent examples to demonstrate that.
[Read more…] about The Fascinating World of (Good) Infographics
Is visualization art? Are video games art? Is programming art? Is art art? You can discuss these questions at length, but without concrete criteria, they end up being academic exercises rather than leading to some kind of conclusion. One criterion, which I believe to be suited especially well for visualization, is the sublime. Art is sublime, visualization is not. Hence, visualization is not art.
[Read more…] about Visualization Can Never Be Art
There is almost universal agreement that any extraneous elements in a chart or visualization, elements that do not represent numbers, are detrimental to understanding the data. A paper that was presented at CHI recently described a study to figure out just how bad all this chart junk really was. As it turns out, it’s actually rather helpful.
[Read more…] about Chart Junk Considered Useful After All