Blog Archives

How a fraud detection algorithm conspired to ruin my recent trip

October 30, 2014
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I have been traveling quite a bit lately, and last week, I went to Rome for a few days, and spent time at the KDIR conference. Rome is one of my favorite destinations and apart from the architecture and museums, and the restaurants, I also enjoy shopping there. To my dismay, a gray cloud followed me around this entire trip - in the form of a misfiring fraud detection algorithm.…

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Misguided warheads in the classroom

October 28, 2014
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Misguided warheads in the classroom

Alberto Cairo just gave a wonderful talk to my workshop, in which he complains about the state of dataviz teaching. So, it's quite opportune that reader Maja Z. sent in a couple of examples from a recent course on data...

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The class pondering Big Data

October 23, 2014
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Note: I'm traveling a lot lately and it is affecting my ability to post on a regular basis. It's three weeks into my chart-building workshop (link) at NYU and we are starting to discuss individual projects. One of the major...

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Chatting with Facebook scientists about charting

October 15, 2014
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Chatting with Facebook scientists about charting

I had the pleasure of visiting the Facebook data science team last week, and we spent some time chatting about visual communication, something they care as much about as I do. Solomon reported about our conversation in this blog post....

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Count data are less useful than you think

October 14, 2014
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Count data are less useful than you think

A lot of Big Data analyses default to analyzing count data, e.g. number of searches of certain keywords, number of page views, number of clicks, number of complaints, etc. Doing so throws away much useful information, and frequently leads to bad analyses. *** I was reminded of the limitation of count data when writing about the following chart, which I praised on my sister blog as a good example of…

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Pondering OCCAM data in medicine

October 9, 2014
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Pondering OCCAM data in medicine

The New York Times Magazine has a pretty good piece about the use of OCCAM data to solve medical questions, like diagnosis and drug selection. I'm happy that it paints a balanced picture of both the promise and the pitfalls. Here are some thoughts in my head as I read this piece: Small samples coupled with small effects pose a design problem in traditional clinical trials. The subjects of the…

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An infographic showing up here for the right reason

October 9, 2014
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An infographic showing up here for the right reason

Infographics do not have to be "data ornaments" (link). Once in a blue moon, someone finds the right balance of pictures and data. Here is a nice example from the Wall Street Journal, via ThumbsUpViz. Link to the image What...

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Experts clinging on to their predictions

October 7, 2014
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Andrew Gelman touches on one of my favorite topics: prediction accuracy, and experts who cling to their predictions. Here's Andrew at the Monkey Cage blog. His starting point is a piece by sociologist Jay Livingston on how various well-known economists made vague predictions (e.g. "I see inflation around the corner") and kept clinging to them (eventually, there will be inflation). Several theories are given to explain this behavior. One is…

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Data decorations, ornaments, chartjunk, and all that

October 7, 2014
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Data decorations, ornaments, chartjunk, and all that

Alberto Cairo left a comment about "data decorations". This is a name he's using to describe something like the windshield-wiper chart I discussed the other day. It seems like the visual elements were purely ornamental and adds nothing to the...

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A patently pointless picture

October 3, 2014
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A patently pointless picture

I am mystified by the intention behind this chart, published in NYT Magazine (Sept 14, 2014). It is not a data visualization since the circles were not placed to scale. The 650 and 660 should have been further to the...

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