Variance

110 posts
Selecting the right analysis plan is the first step to good dataviz

It's a new term, and my friend Ray Vella shared some student projects from his NYU class on infographics. There's always something to learn from these projects. The starting point is a chart published in the Economist a few years ago. This is a challenging chart to read. To save you the time, the following key points are pertinent: a) income inequality is measured by the disparity between regional averagesb)...

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Superb tile map offering multiple avenues for exploration

Here's a beauty by WSJ Graphics: The article is here. This data graphic illustrates the power of the visual medium. The underlying dataset is complex: power production by type of source by state by month by year. That's more than 90,000 numbers. They all reside on this graphic. Readers amazingly make sense of all these numbers without much effort. It starts with the summary chart on top. The designer made...

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What do I think about spirals?

A twitter user asked how I feel about this latest effort (from NASA) to illustrate global warming. To see the entire video, go to their website. This video hides the lede so be patient or jump ahead to 0:56 and watch till the end. Let's first describe what we are seeing. The dataset consists of monthly average global temperature "anomalies" from 1880 to 2021 - an "anomaly" is the deviation...

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Dots, lines, and 2D histograms

Daniel Z. tweeted about my post from last week. In particular, he took a deeper look at the chart of energy demand that put all hourly data onto the same plot, originally published at the StackOverflow blog: I noted that this is not a great chart particularly since what catches our eyes are not the key features of the underlying data. Daniel made a clearly better chart: This is a...

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The what of visualization, beyond the how

A long-time reader sent me the following chart from a Nature article, pointing out that it is rather worthless. The simple bar chart plots the number of downloads, organized by country, from the website called Sci-Hub, which I've just learned is where one can download scientific articles for free - working around the exorbitant paywalls of scientific journals. The bar chart is a good example of a Type D chart...

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The envelope of one’s data

This post is the second post in response to a blog post at StackOverflow (link) in which the author discusses the "harm" of "aggregating away the signal" in your dataset. The first post appears on my book blog earlier this week (link). One stop in their exploratory data analysis journey was the following chart: This chart plots all the raw data, all 8,760 values of electricity consumption in California in...

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How does the U.K. vote in the U.N.?

Through my twitter feed, I found my way to this chart, made by jamie_bio. This is produced using R code even though it looks like a slide. The underlying dataset concerns votes at the United Nations on various topics. Someone has already classified these topics. Jamie looked at voting blocs, specifically, countries whose votes agree most often or least often with the U.K. If you look at his Github, this...

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To explain or to eliminate, that is the question

Today, I take a look at another project from Ray Vella's class at NYU. (The above image is a honeypot for "smart" algorithms that don't know how to handle image dimensions which don't fit their shadow "requirement". Human beings should proceed to the full image below.) As explained in this post, the students visualized data about regional average incomes in a selection of countries. It turns out that remarkable differences...

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Displaying convoluted indices

I reviewed another batch of projects from Ray Vella's class at NYU. The following piece by Carlos Lasso made an impression on me. There are no pyrotechnics but he made one decision that added a lot of clarity to the graphic. The underlying dataset gauges the income disparity of regions within nine countries. The richest and the poorest regions are selected for each country. Two time points are shown. Altogether, there...

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The gift of small edits and subtraction

While making the chart on fertility rates (link), I came across a problem that pops up quite often, and is  ignored by most software programs. Here is an earlier version of the chart I later discarded: Compare this to the version I published in the blog post: Aside from adding the chart title, there is one major change. I removed the empty plots from the grid. This is a visualization...

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