Blog Archives

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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Princeton’s loss of nerve

October 2, 2014
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Princeton’s loss of nerve

I have earlier reported that Princeton's new President has initiated a review of their "grade deflation" policy that was put in almost ten years ago. As you may recall (link), grading in U.S. colleges has become a farce: at top-tier schools, getting an A means you are an average student; not getting an A is many times more informative than getting an A. The new administration at Princeton has now…

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Hypothesis: pie charts are correlated with muddled thinking. But which direction is the causal arrow?

September 29, 2014
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Hypothesis: pie charts are correlated with muddled thinking. But which direction is the causal arrow?

RealClimate (link) deserves a pie in the face for printing a set of pie charts. (Thanks to @guitarzan for the tip.) This is a case of the chart telling a different story from the data. Let's look at one of...

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A little something while I’m away

September 26, 2014
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Note: This is cross-posted to both my blogs. I have been on vacation. Regular posts will resume next week. Before then, here is a little something for you. ASA News recently asked me to describe "a day in the life of" a business statistician. My response is here, together with responses by two others. As a statistician, I am worried about describing an "average" day for an "average" statistician. Better…

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