Makeover Monday: Not Saying “Groin”

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Sometimes I take things too seriously. This week’s Makeover Monday is a great example. It comes from a fivethirtyeight article about how the sports media refers to male professional athletes getting kicked in the groin, referencing a particular example from this year’s NBA playoffs. After Steven Adams was unceremoniously jumbled in the porker by Draymond Green, hundreds of journalisms gleefully took to the internet to write about it. The article, written by Kyle Wagner, takes a lighthearted look at the differences between the styles used by various sports media outlets, noting the proliferation of the word “groin” and surprising avoidance of the word “penis.” Wagner suggests that this is of some concern, possibly implying that journalists avoid terms the public will react to in disgust especially in an internet-medium where traffic is king. I have a hard time leaving it at that. Outside of having fun using phrases like “jumbled in the porker,” what I see when I look at this data set is a study in the evolution of language. The viz in Wagner’s article is heavy in text and settles for telling the story that “Groin” is used more than other terms. It is largely a crosstab, useful […]

Makeover Monday: The Next to Die

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Andy and Andy have been posting a series of relatively morbid Makeover Monday topics recently, perhaps none as somber as The Next to DieĀ – an exploration of death penalty executions across the United States since 1976. It’s possible that this topic is on my mind because we’re currently in an incredible political season in America, but I’ve found myself thinking more and more lately about the concept of communicating facts and their importance when making a persuasive argument. “The Next to Die” repeatedly makes claims to its own impartiality, reflecting upon the lack of opinion it portrays about the morality or efficacy of the death penalty. However it is clearly a politically-driven document, and its motivations are transparent the second you read it. Any critique of the visualizations presented within “The Next to Die” must consider the intended argument and the language used in addition to the visual design of the pictures portrayed within. The Map This map is still difficult for me to understand. While i appreciate the effort to normalize the size of states to avoid the intrinsic bias in over-representing larger geographic areas, I find the use of color confusing. The brightness of the red coloring indicates […]

Makeover Monday: Data journalism isn’t just about design, it’s about honesty

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After a bit of a hiatus, I decided to try my hand at another of Andy and Andy’s Makeover Monday challenges. This week’s view comes from UK business insider. The headline: American women work way more than their European counterparts. I think the problem with this viz isn’t the chart type. A stacked bar is actually a fine way to represent distribution for a data set like this one which buckets “hours worked” into 5 categories. You can clearly see that the percentage of people who work more than 40 hours are higher in the US versus the other countries shown, and higher than the average. But here lies the problem: not very many countries are shown! The author handpicks Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK as countries for comparison, but I see no reason why those countries should be a representative sample of all of Europe, as the title of the article indicates. As a journalist, I think it’s one’s responsibility to make sure that your claims are backed by data, and not just the part of the data that you think supports your argument. When I looked at the data I saw something different. Sure, there were […]

Viz Wiz – The Finals

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At our company meeting in Seattle, the four Viz Wiz finalists met to present their final data visualizations in front of an audience of over a thousand. It was a great even and Wilson and I always love seeing how excited people at Tableau are about the skills and expertise made possible by our technology. Here’s a brief overview of the entries with a few comments on each (click each name to open the viz in a new window). Tony Kao Tony did a very thorough analysis of the data set. I think his first viz is fantastic – something I haven’t seen before that really tells a story. Could fit right into an article about gender representation in film. The rest of the views are analytical and deep. If there’s a flaw in this presentation is that it loses cohesiveness. I’m still learning about the best use of Story Points, but I find that they work best when there are only a few different visualizations where the pagination can point out progress or discrepancies between the views, and not as well when each visualization adds a new point. Simply leaving one viz and navigating to another causes me to […]

On Controversial Vizzes

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On an April 11th Podcast, Wilson and I talked about Andy Cotgreave’s Computerworld article about data visualization criticism. Since then, that article has become a bit of a hot button in the data viz community. I’ll not recap the entire argument here but if you’re interested you can visit Andy’s article which contains comments from Randy Olson and Stephen Few, and links to the original Wall Street Journal visualization as well as Randy’s critique of the viz. I mention this debate merely as a lead-in to my own data viz debate which occurred last week at Tableau’s annual All-Hands meeting in Seattle. There, Andy taught a class about analyzing Time Series data, in which he explored many different techniques for visualizing information that has to do with time. The generally accepted best practice for time series data is of course line chart, but Andy also discussed other techniques including the highlight-table approach linked in the article above. At the end of the class he called for a bit of a competition. Andy shared a data set with the class and asked everyone to build their best time-series view. Well, you all know how much I love competitions. I built the […]

Makeover Monday: Viz-Off

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This week Wilson and I decided to both try our hand with the Makeover Monday challenge and compare notes afterward. We were sitting in Tableau’s New York office and decided to both start around the same time, cutting off our efforts after an hour. Even though it wasn’t intended to be a competitive exercise we are always trying to one up each other a bit so it was fun to trash talk as we created our respective vizzes. He didn’t tell me this until afterward, but Wilson cheated and started an hour before talking to me about it. This week’s viz comes from Andy Cotgreave before he was famous. Andy published this viz based on Guardian data from 2001-2007: What works: This is a very straightforward approach, with appropriate views to easily interpret the data. The major details stand out and it passes the “5-second test” of knowing exactly what the viz is about very quickly. It’s also easy to rank/sort the information dynamically. What needs some work: It isn’t very engaging. If the point of a dashboard like this is to quickly analyze and come away with facts, this viz nails it. But it’s not going to compel a […]