Data, Patternicity, and Biases
Last Wednesday, Alberto Cairo gave a keynote presentation at the Tapestry conference. The day after (Thursday), he spoke at the Investigative Reporters and Editors meeting (CAR2014.) In both talks Alberto discussed some topics that are concerning him.
Mr. Cairo is considered by many (including me) to be one of the industry’s leading experts on infographics and a person I respect and view as a mentor.
Mr. Cairo’s keynote focused on the rise of activism and P.R. (he views them as expressions of the same phenomenon) in visualization and in communication in general. He discusses that he has nothing against people having opinions and agendas —is it possible not to have them? However, Alberto feels that some designers and journalists seem to be too willing to surrender to their biases rather than working hard to curb them.
He continues that these communicators usually argue that being transparent about their motives and goals is enough. Mr. Cairo argues that it is not. Writing about journalism, Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis have suggested that transparency is the new objectivity. Mr. Cairo disagrees. He states,
Transparency is necessary to gain credibility, but it’s not sufficient, and this is valid for non-journalistic infographics and visualization, too. The old notion of ‘objectivity’ in journalism was simplistic and unworkable, but that doesn’t mean that we should rush to drop the ideal outright.
Another area of concern that Mr. Cairo mentioned at CAR2014: Opinions that may lead you to cherry-pick data are not the main risk. Unconscious cognitive biases are even more dangerous. He discussed Michael Shermer’s patternicity. Mr. Cairo expressed concern that the more he learns about patternicity and cognitive biases, the more worried he becomes about our lack of understanding of them. He further points out that they are not explained in schools of design, as far as he knows. They certainly aren’t studied seriously and systematically in journalism schools. That, he states, is a huge issue.
Interesting Sound Bites from Alberto
- Conscious decisions are not the only risk. Cognitive biases and political ideals can lead us astray, as well. They are much more dangerous, in fact.
- When we are strongly ideologically or politically motivated, we are also more likely to find patterns in the data that confirm our preconceived ideas.
- We journalists like to say “trust your instincts!” Well, that’s very bad advice. PLEASE, DON’T. Don’t trust your instincts. Your instincts are a source like any other. And you should always try to double-check your sources.
New Book in 2015
Mr. Cairo will have a new book out near the end of 2015. It is tentatively titled ”The Insightful Art.”
On the left, in the image below, is the cover of “The Functional Art,” which was published in 2012 and a book I highly recommend you read. The cover example on the right, shown below, is just one of the alternatives he is pondering for the new book.
New MOOC Course in 2015
Mr. Cairo is currently working on a completely new MOOC, co-taught with Scott Murray (photo right) Mr. Murray wrote the book Interactive Visualization for the Web. I have included an image of the cover of his book below. Alberto and Scott’s goal is to offer something at the beginning of 2015.
Stay tuned. I will provide more information about this course in a future blog post as I get more information.
Gartner has just released its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
I need a few days to soak this in and better comment on it. But, for now, I thought I would share the Magic Quadrant with you.
You can see the entire report by clicking here.
Gartner describes and defines the market as follows.
The BI and analytics platform market is in the middle of an accelerated transformation from BI systems used primarily for measurement and reporting to those that also support analysis, prediction, forecasting and optimization. Because of the growing importance of advanced analytics for descriptive, prescriptive and predictive modeling, forecasting, simulation and optimization (see “Extend Your Portfolio of Analytics Capabilities”) in the BI and information management applications and infrastructure that companies are building — often with different buyers driving purchasing and different vendors offering solutions — this year Gartner has also published a Magic Quadrant exclusively on predictive and prescriptive analytics platforms (see Note 1). Vendors offering both sets of capabilities are featured in both Magic Quadrants.
The BI platform market is forecast to have grown into a $14.1 billion market in 2013, largely through companies investing in IT-led consolidation projects to standardize on IT-centric BI platforms for large-scale systems-of-record reporting (see “Forecast: Enterprise Software Markets, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 3Q13 Update”). These have tended to be highly governed and centralized, where IT production reports were pushed out to inform a broad array of information consumers and analysts. While analytical capabilities were deployed, such as parameterized reports, online analytical processing (OLAP) and ad hoc query, they were never fully embraced by the majority of business users, managers and analysts, primarily because most considered these too difficult to use for many analytical use cases. As a result, and continuing a five-year trend, these installed platforms are routinely being complemented, and in 2013 were increasingly displaced, in new sales situations by new investments, and requirements were more skewed toward business-user-driven data discovery techniques to make analytics beyond traditional reporting more accessible and pervasive to a broader range of users and use cases.
Also in support of wider adoption, companies and independent software vendors are increasingly embedding both traditional reporting, dashboards and interactive analysis, in addition to more advanced and prescriptive analytics built from statistical functions and algorithms available within the BI platform into business processes or applications. The intent is to expand the use of analytics to a broad range of consumers and nontraditional BI users, increasingly on mobile devices. Moreover, companies are increasingly building analytics applications, leveraging new data types and new types of analysis, such as location intelligence and analytics on multistructured data stored in NoSQL data repositories.
I get a free pass to MicroStrategy World in Las Vegas which is the last week of this month. Last year, they gave us awards too. Not sure yet if they will do the same this year.
An Exploration of Tax Data
My dashboard is an exploration of tax data. It explores taxes rates for the top ten counties in terms of GDP.
I used horizontal stacked bar charts instead so that the viewer can visually see how social security and income tax rate add up to the total and explains visually why the countries are ordered the way they are on the dashboard. I also separated out $100K and $300K percentages into separate visuals.
In addition, I added the flags of the countries. Yes, I know, chart junk!
Now, you don’t see any numbers on the data points in this dashboard. The reason you don’t see them is because they appear when you mouse over a bar where you then see the country, category and the percent value as a tooltip.
Here is a screenshot of my entry. It was written with MicroStrategy v9.3.1, Report Services and the Visualization SDK.
Click on image to enlarge
Our data visualization community continues to grow and evolve as more and more people are becoming aware of how important it is to their organizations.
The community is constantly evolving, and one of the best ways to stay on top of the latest tech, trends, and tools is to attend industry conferences. The best ones feature a mix of cutting edge technology, thought leadership from industry experts, and incredibly collaborative, creative, and sharp attendees.
Here is a list of seven key data visualization conferences occuring this year.
- Dates: February 6-7
- Location: The Times Center, New York, NY
- Notable speakers:
In the heart of New York City, Visualized exists at the intersection of data, design and storytelling. From research and analysis to 3D and interactive, to social and educational storytelling, Visualized aims to inspire attendees and provide new ideas about how to visually communicate stories with data.
- Dates: February 3-5
- Location: Hilton San Francisco Union Square, San Francisco, CA
- Notable Speakers:
As a part of the annual IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging conference that takes place February 2-6, VDA takes a research-oriented approach to data visualization. Since the first VDA conference in 1994, the event has steadily grown into one of the industry’s premier conferences.
- Date: February 26
- Location: Historic Inns of Annapolis, Annapolis, MD
- Notable Speakers:
While Tapestry is an invitation-only conference capped at 100 attendees, the invitation request process ensures a high-quality, enthusiastic audience. The conference packs three keynotes and five “short stories” sessions into a single day. Tapestry also offers transportation to The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference, which begins February 27.
- Date: March 10
- Location: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
- Notable Speakers:
After a wildly successful inaugural conference in 2013, the Bloomberg Businessweek Design Conference returns with another group of world-renowned designers across a variety of disciplines. The magazine devotes a special issue to covering the conference, published a few weeks after the event.
- Dates: June 10-13
- Location: TBA, Minneapolis, MN
- Notable Speakers: TBA
- Cost: TBA
While the details about Eyeo Festival 2014 have not yet been released, it is too great of a conference to leave out of our 2014 must-attend list. During the beautiful early Minneapolis summer, 2013 attendees converged at the Walker Art Center to hear from experts at the intersection of art, interaction, and information. 2013 speakers included Jer Thorp, Co-Founder of The Office for Creative Research and Kim Rees, Co-Founder of Periscopic.
6. IEEE Vis
- Dates: November 9-14
- Location: TBA, Paris, France
- Notable Speakers: TBA
- Cost: TBA
Like Eyeo, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Visualization Conference has not yet released details, but this premier academic conference is too notable to leave off this list. IEEE Vis contains three main components – Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST), Information Visualization, and Scientific Visualization and is currently accepting paper submissions. 2013 speakers included Jarke J. van Wijk, Professor of visualization at Eindhoven University of Technology and Erez Lieberman Aiden, a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.
- Dates: April 24-25
- Location: TBA, Boston, Massachusetts
- Notable Speakers: Mike Bostock, Graphics Editor at The New York Times
- Cost: $399
The second annual Open Web Data Visualization Conference tackles data visualization as it applies to the world of the open web. Mike Bostock of the New York Times is penciled in as the Keynote speaker, and a call for speakers is currently open. Early bird tickets are currently available at a discounted price of $399, but act quickly, as they expire January 6.
Source: Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the Visual.ly marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at about.me/salm.jon and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R.
From yourfirstvisit.net blog by Dave Shute.
2014 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
Mr. Shute has provided his projections for Walt Disney World 2014 weekly crowds. Dates in it are the beginning of the week, and the forecast covers the following 9 days.
Crowd levels are ranked by week from 1-11 in the following way:
1: Lowest of the year
Dates are the beginning of the week.
The “low crowd” weeks–those colored green, and rated 1-4–represent the only crowd levels a family visiting for the first time, and unsure if it will ever return, should consider.
The “moderate crowd” weeks–those in black and rated 5-7–have crowd levels I would not recommend to first time visitors. However, I’d go during such weeks myself with no hesitation, and think these levels are OK for returning visitors who don’t need to see everything and already know how to work Walt Disney World.
The “high crowd” weeks–those in red, rated 8-11–should be avoided by everyone. They aren’t, which is why they are so high.