Mistaken Data

20 posts
Why you shouldn’t use ZIP Codes for spatial analysis

For Carto, Matt Forrest explains why you shouldn’t use ZIP codes for spatial analysis: The problem is that zip codes are not a good representation of real human behavior, and when used in data analysis, often mask real, underlying insights, and may ultimately lead to bad outcomes. To understand why this is, we first need to understand a little more about the zip code itself. In a nutshell, ZIP Codes...

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Millions of dollars in tax breaks — because of a mapping error

A small discrepancy in a couple of shapefiles led to a misclassification of land. Wealthy investors are taking advantage. For ProPublica, Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott: They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the...

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Big storm on the way. Oh wait, no, it’s a cloud of ladybugs

Apparently ladybugs migrate this time of year, and it’s enough to show up on the radar as a giant rain cloud. Yeah. The large echo showing up on SoCal radar this evening is not precipitation, but actually a cloud of lady bugs termed a "bloom" #CAwx pic.twitter.com/1C0rt0in6z — NWS San Diego (@NWSSanDiego) June 5, 2019 Tags: ladybugs, weather

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When geolocation makes everyone think you stole their phone

People show up unannounced at John and his mother Ann’s home in South Africa, looking for stolen property, but John and Ann didn’t steal anything. For Gizmodo, Kashmir Hill investigates another case of IP address and geolocation mistaken for exactness: John and Ann’s problems weren’t necessarily caused by one bad actor, but by the interaction of a bunch of careless decisions that cascaded through a series of databases. The NGA...

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Fake internet

Max Read for New York Magazine describes the fake-ness of internet through the metrics, the people, and the content: Can we still trust the metrics? After the Inversion, what’s the point? Even when we put our faith in their accuracy, there’s something not quite real about them: My favorite statistic this year was Facebook’s claim that 75 million people watched at least a minute of Facebook Watch videos every day...

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Spotting AI-generated faces

Computers can generate faces that look real. What a time to be alive. As it becomes easier to do so, you can bet that the software will be used at some point for less innocent reasons. You should probably know how to tell the difference between fake and real. Kyle McDonald provides a guide to the telltale signs of AI-generated faces. Tags: AI, faces, fake

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Lessons from posting a fake map about pies

Brian Brettschneider made a joke map randomly designating the favorite pies of certain areas. While intended as a joke and a parody of past “favorite” maps, some people took it too seriously — like Senator Ted Cruz. Brettschneider describes the lessons he learned: Maps hold a special standing among the public. We tend to place very high value in maps as holders of accurate information. If it’s in a map,...

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When data is not quite what it seems

FiveThirtyEight used a dataset on broadband as the basis for a couple of stories. The data appears to be flawed, which makes for a flawed analysis. From their post mortem: We should have been more careful in how we used the data to help guide where to report out our stories on inadequate internet, and we were reminded of an important lesson: that just because a data set comes from...

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When the interesting pattern ends up just being computer byproduct

Good lesson here. Christian Laesser was playing around with receipt data and initially thought he had a fun pattern at hand. It looked like the shopper always put things in his or her cart in the same order every time. It turns out though that the order just came from the computer ordering items by category. It had nothing to do with shopping order. Familiarize yourself with your data source...

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Misleading Medicaid funding with the baseline

The administration tweeted a chart that shows the Senate Republican health care bill increases Medicaid funding. The line moves up, so it must be true, right? Well, it depends on what you compare to. The original simply compares over time — against the past. Vox compared it against what spending would be under current law. Tags: baseline, Medicaid

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