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Data Visualization Is Not a Panacea

It galls me when people oversell data visualization. Data visualization combines technologies (visual representations of quantitative data) with specific skills (techniques for creating and interacting with those visual representations) to make sense of and communicate quantitative data. It does not replace the other technologies and skillsets that are also needed to derive value from quantitative data; it complements them. It...

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Inaccessible

In our efforts to make knowledge accessible to everyone, if we’re not careful, good intentions can cause us to blunder into useless attempts that benefit no one. I was painfully reminded of this recently when I received a request from a university for an electronic version of my book Show Me the Numbers to accommodate the needs of a student who is blind. By providing a student who is blind with an electronic version of my book, these...

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The Inflated Role of Storytelling

People increasingly claim that the best and perhaps only way to convince someone of something involves telling them a story. In his new book Ruined By Design—a book that I largely agree with and fully appreciate—designer Mike Monteiro says that “If you’re not persuading people, you’re not telling a good enough story.” Furthermore, “…while you should absolutely include the data in your approach, recognize that when you...

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Minimally Viable Data Visualization

I received an email a few days ago from the founder and CEO of a new analytics software company that led to an interesting revelation. In his email, this fellow thanked me for sharing my insights regarding data visualization and shared that he has acquired several of my books, which are “nearing the top” of his queue. He went on to provide a link to his website where I could see his attempts to incorporate visual analytics into his...

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Randomness Is Often Not Random

In statistics, what we often identify as randomness in data is not actually random. Bear in mind, I am not talking about randomly generated numbers or random samples. Instead, I am referring to events about which data has been recorded. We learn of these events when we examine the data. We refer to an event as random when it is not associated with a discernible pattern or cause. Random events, however, almost always have causes. We...