Blog Archives

An overused chart, why it fails, and how to fix it

April 17, 2014
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An overused chart, why it fails, and how to fix it

Reader and tipster Chris P. found this "death spiral" chart dizzying (link). It's one of those charts that has conceptual appeal but does not do the data justice. As the name implies, the designer has a strong message, that the...

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The reality is most A/B tests fail, and Facebook is here to help

April 16, 2014
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Two years ago, Wired breathlessly extolled the virtues of A/B testing (link). A lot of Web companies are in the forefront of running hundreds or thousands of tests daily. The reality is that most A/B tests fail. A/B tests fail for many reasons. Typically, business leaders consider a test to have failed when the analysis fails to support their hypothesis. "We ran all these tests varying the color of the…

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Conventions, novelty and the double edge

April 15, 2014
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Conventions, novelty and the double edge

This chart from Reuters is making the rounds on Twitter today. Quickly, tell me whether the Gun Law in Florida did well or poorly. That of course is the entire purpose of the chart. *** If you are like me,...

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Talking shop about probability

April 11, 2014
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It strikes me that the media loves to talk about probability, a subject about which journalists are ill-trained to write. The latest example of this is Forbes' attempt to draw a lesson out of the Warren Buffett's gimmicky $1 billion NCAA pool. As we all learned, by the time the 25th match drew to a close, all 8.7 million entrants have gotten at least one winner wrong, thus there would…

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Law of small numbers, in action

April 10, 2014
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Law of small numbers, in action

Loyal reader John M. expressed dismay over Twitter about 538's excessive use of bubble charts. Here's the picture that pushed John over the edge: The associated article is here. The question on the table is motivated by the extraordinary performance...

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Some past talks

April 10, 2014
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For those who weren't able to attend my recent talks, a few have surfaced online. *** JMP put up the video of the webcast from last Friday with Alberto Cairo, a data visualization expert and author of The Functional Art. You can access it from here. This event is part of their Analytically Speaking series with recent guests such as David Hand and Michael Schrage. I also appear on this…

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Round-up of coverage of the Big Miss of Big Data

April 9, 2014
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There is now some serious soul-searching in the mainstream media about their (previously) breath-taking coverage of the Big Data revolution. I am collecting some useful links here for those interested in learning more. Here's my Harvard Business Review article in which I discussed the Science paper disclosing that Google Flu Trends, that key exhibit of the Big Data lobby, has systematically over-estimated flu activity for 100 out of the last…

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Numbersense Pros: Cathy O’Neil talks about trust in data analysis

April 7, 2014
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Numbersense Pros: Cathy O’Neil talks about trust in data analysis

Cathy O'Neil may need no introduction to blog readers. She's the author of the hard-hitting MathBabe blog, and she shares my passion for explaining how data analysis really works. She is co-author of the recent book Doing Data Science (link), with Rachel Schutt. Cathy has a varied career spanning academia and industry, as she explains below. *** KF: How did you pick up your impressive statistical reasoning skills? CO: Thanks…

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Advocacy graphics

April 6, 2014
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Advocacy graphics

Note: If you are here to read about Google Flu Trends, please see this roundup of the coverage. My blog is organized into two sections: the section you are on is about data visualization; the other section concerns Big Data...

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Big delusion

April 4, 2014
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This article printed by VentureBeat is too much. The title claims "The Internet is killing off marketing surveys & it's for the best". This article is tagged as "Big Data". Big delusion is what it is. This is a great example of the kind of revisionist history that is practised in the name of Big Data. You'd also notice that there is no data or evidence presented to support any…

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