humor

S. Few Renounces Dual-Axis Graphs; Juice Ups Ante

After deep introspection, Stephen Few has determined that graphs with dual-scaled axes are fundamentally flawed. Rather than risk the potential for confusion, he believes that there are superior graphing approaches for situations where related data series have different units or magnitudes. His measured and thorough analysis concludes:

“It is inappropriate to use more than one quantitative scale on a single axis, because, to some degree, this encourages people to compare magnitudes of values between them, but this is meaningless.”

I commend Stephen for the courage to start down this path, but he hasn’t gone far enough. Here at Juice, we must often take controversial positions. You may remember that we were among the first to criticize Microsoft’s “databars”, the first to take on the powerful Dashboard Gauge lobby, and the first to challenge the applicability of Tom Davenport’s “Competing on Analytics” sales machine.

While it is true that the second axis can be deceptive, let’s not let the first axis off without asking some tough questions. It is the confusion—nay, the collusion—of the two that causes trouble—who is to say which is the bad seed? We must ask ourselves, do not axes belong in the “Axis of Evil”?

The problem is broader than Stephen suggests: axes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to graphic bling that potentially distract or confuse readers:

Take data labels, for example. They encourage users to consider specific values rather than focusing on relative sizes or placement of graph lines or bars.

Legends draw the reader’s eye away from the central storyline of a graphic.

Gridlines… please don’t waste my time with these flat faux-series. One wouldn’t put pinstripping on a Ferrari.

Place your graph in proper context and titles become redundant.

Minimalism is in. Extraneous graph decoration is out. Look no further than Tufte’s sparkline: no excessive graph decoration there.

sparkline

The world cries out for a new charting aesthetic. One that champions elegance and casts down gaudiness. Let us evoke the pure visual essence of the data. Let us find a pure form to evoke the emotion and hidden meaning of the data. Now is the time for Naked graphs—stripped to the essentials (TM).

Our argument is simple: the visualization of information is the message. The data is but an intermediary form of that visualization. Therefore, any residue from the raw data should be scrubbed from your final graph. Only when you achieve this unadulterated state will the meaning of the graphic burn its way into your consciousness.

Here’s an example of an analysis that casts light on both the relationship of the Fed to hedge funds while simultaneously answering your question about what happened with last month’s sales in the Newark division.

naked analysis

Truly here we see the words of Mark 9:43 made real:

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.

Gaze in awe, viewers, and find wisdom on this very foolish day.

The Colbert Bump is Real, Colbert’s Nation Not What He Thinks it is

Stephen Colbert has mentioned that he’s having trouble getting guests during the writer’s stike. We find this puzzling, given the supposed benefits of the Colbert Bump. Does being on the Colbert Show really provide a bump—a critical leap that vaults a writer, or a politician to superstardom?

We know that Colbert isn’t a big fan of “facts,” and only needs his gut to tell him the Colbert Bump is real. At Juice, we let the data decide what’s real or not, so our apologies to Stephen for not taking his word for it. Intrigued, Juice Analytics set out to find out the truth. We gathered data about Amazon sales rank for 20 authors that appeared on his show in recent months. How did those ranks change in the days immediately before and after the authors’ appearance on the show?

Amazon Sales Rank of Colbert Guests

Hmmm, there might be something there but those sales ranks don’t tell us much. Fortunately for Stephen, some “eggheads” have worked out roughly how Amazon sales rank corresponds to actual book sales. We calculated the sales, and normalized the data so that the week prior to appearing on the Colbert Report was equal to 1.0. Here’s a picture.

Projected Sales of Colbert Guests

That looks like a bump, Conan. In fact, being on the Colbert Report increases sales by 10 times on average. That bump doesn’t last forever, but, let’s face it, what does?

We also wanted to know, what kinds of books are Colbert’s audience going crazy for? After all, Colbert is well known as a rock-solid conservative. He’s tight with the Bush Administration. Even though he debates a few liberal (“pinko”) authors now and then, most of his guests are writers of pop-intellectual studies of the Gladwellian persuasion.

Here are the authors and how we categorized them:

Pinkos: Jessica Valenti, Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, Wesley K. Clark, A Time to Lead: For Duty, Honor and Country, Robert Shrum, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner

‘Publicans: Tom DeLay, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American’s Fight

Pop Essayists: Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel B. Smith, Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination, Michael Gershon, The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine, John J. Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Frank J. Sulloway, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives, Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Richard Preston, The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring, Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Bjorn Lomberg, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, Michael Wallis, The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate

Popular: Stephen Colbert, I Am America (And So Can You!), John Grisham, Playing For Pizza: A Novel, Tina Brown, The Diana Chronicles

How much of a bump did each of these groups receive?

Colbert Bump by Category of Guests

It’s a shock! Liberals and high-minded eggheads do better than popular or conservative books. I’m not sure if Colbert knows this, but his audience isn’t who he thinks they are.

Here are all the authors and their normalized sales around the time of their appearance on the Colbert Report.

Valenti
Clark
Shrum
DeLay
Gilbert
Smith
Gershon
Mearsheimer
Friedman
Sulloway
Diamond
Taleb
Preston
Gladwell
Lomberg
Keen
Wallis
Colbert
Grisham
Brown

This post was a collaborative effort of the entire Juice team. Pete Skomoroch concocted the idea, wrote copy, and found the study linking Amazon Sales Rank to actual sales. Zach data mined. David May whipped up elegant, instant visualizations. Sal Uryasev munged data.

Analytics Roundup: Expensive cup of Joe-l

On the Fahrenheit scale, do 0 and 100 have any special meaning
The story of a mixed up metric.

At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee - New York Times
Monstrous $20k coffee brewing system for fanatics, err, I mean, purists.

Five whys - Joel on Software
Incredible blog on system uptime, SLAs, rdiculousness of "Six 9’s", black swans, and how superbly FogCreek Software handles customer service issues.

Browser History Timeline
Chronicle of the lives of six popular Web browsers.

A Juicy Night Before Christmas

(You might need to refer to this sniglets posting to fully appreciate this poem)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the building,

Not a report was running, not even one the spreadhead was wielding.

The CEO and his team had all gone home, the operations crew quiet.

Marketing and sales were at their parties, out blowing their diet.

I was finishing some email, almost through the pile,

When I saw one about the year-end report—the taste in my mouth just turned to bile.

Every year it was the same, the million dollar BI system full of chart junk.

When I give it to her, my manager will state with a gulp: “I think we’re sunk".

Then out on the floor there arose such a ruckus,

I sprang from my cube to to see was the fuss was.

Away to the card swipe I flew like a blur,

It was an office creeper, I was quite sure.

The exit sign lights giving the desks an evil glow,

Made me think the end was near, the security number, I did not know.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

Not an intruder, but my friends from Juice, so dear.

With a my stack of prints in hand, it made me jump back!

Sure enough, I saw it was Chris and Zach.

With them came their team of ‘sperts,

As he called them by name, I knew then I should cancel my alerts.

“Now David, now Cat, now Jon and Jennie."

As I looked, I saw more, I didn’t realize there were that many.

They were here to help, to make things easy,

“Stop killing trees" said Zach, “that’s just too cheezy!"

Chart-based encryption makes your numbers stink,

Your boss won’t like it, she’ll want a drink."

“Crossing The Last Mile is hard, I know" said Chris,

“That’s why we’re here. We’ve got the cure, take a look at this."

What I saw! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

It made me want to shout—to celebrate with cries.

It was so simple and easy to understand.

A more fun solution can’t be found in the land.

No more analycide, flufferpoint, or dancing boloneys.

I could actually understand it. O’ The simplicity, the ease.

What they showed me was honest, true and clear

Had you looked in my eye, you would have seen a tear.

“Our mission here is done", said Zach, “we’ve finished our work."

“If you hurry home now, you won’t look too much like a jerk."

“In the future don’t fret, don’t wait until boloney gives you the sicks,"

“Think of Tufte, of Few, and of Haler; then call Juice Analytics."

They sprang to the Juice Mobile, “turbines to speed, generators to power,"

And away they all flew in the late holiday hour.

But I heard them exclaim, as they ran down the aisle,

“Merry Christmas to all, and finish The Last Mile!"

Juice wishes you and your loved ones a happy and wonderful Holiday Season!

From left to right, Zach, David, Cat, Ken, Chris, and Jon. Not shown, Jennie.

Analytics Roundup: Google goodies v. MS Paint

YouTube—MS Paint by freeloveforum
Ah—MS Paint. The endless limitations. This spoof video pokes fun at the design team who made this application.

YouTube—Amazing Footage of MS Paint
Completely amazing step by step footage of the creation of a great image with (you won’t believe it) MS Paint - no kidding. This just goes to show that so many times it’s not the tool that enables or limits, but the skills of the user.

ColorSchemer | Instant color schemes for your Mac with ColorSchemer Studio OSX
Mac tool to properly select colors that look good together. Adds a new tool to base the scheme on a photo as well.

Amazon.com: Visualizing Data: Books: Ben Fry
Ben Fry is good.

google ridefinder
Shows paths of shuttles in New York City. It’s easy to pick up the outline of Manhattan.

daily FedEx plane network
Animation showing FedEx flight patterns over a 2 day period. It’s easy to visually pick out patterns from this (i.e. there’s no doubt where Memphis is).

Google new chart API
URL to plot charts and return the result as an image right in the browser.

Analytics Roundup: Extreme visualization

Mapping Philly
This geomapping project is digitizing and mapping historical images of Philadelphia, including meta data..

ICCARUS: Three Dimensional Data Visualization
3D is fun, but would you really be able to extract insights from this tool?

Convert your portrait to a character from "The Simpson’s"
Ever wonder what you would like like if you got one of those sweet cameo appearances on "The Simpson’s?" Now’s your chance to find out. Go to this site and follow the directions to upload your photo—and poof, you’re in Springfield.

A Boon or a Pest? Google Apps Haiku Contest

We were recently asked to answer some questions about our usage of Google Apps. We’re writing up some business-prosey answers, but poetry is another way of capturing the experience. Here are the questions and our answers in loose haiku.

1) Where are you located?

In Herndon, VA
Beside the flowing traffic
Grove Street, 555

2) What does your business do?

What are these numbers?
Sea of corporate data
Juice is your life raft

3) How many people do you employ?

The cat leaps, clawing
The coiled bird escapes
Seven feathers fall

4) Who are your main competitors?

Thundering feet pound
Yet by the rippling puddle
The mammal sips uncaring

5) Why did you decide to use Google Apps, and why did you choose Google over other commercial or opensource alternatives?

Spring air warms the tree
Talking Heads song can’t fight
O2 for free

6) What products did it replace and why?

Old friends whither
In spring, new shoots grow
Excellence in change

7) Are you using the Standard (free) version or Premier (paid) version and why?

The raven’s keen eye
Gathers all he needs
He has no wallet

8) Which applications do you use (Gmail, Talk, Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets, Page Creator….All?) . Which ones give you the most benefit?

Star, thread, search
Dinner for seven at seven
Featureful sunrise

9) How many people are using Google Apps and how?

Does the happy frog count
Beside the spring bullrushes
How many croaks he hears?

10) What benefits have you derived from using the Google Apps? (quantifiable benefits if available)

Deep frozen roots
Towering tree, branches drooping 
A nut in the snow

11) What features of the product do you appreciate most and why?

Was it you or me?
Making rash changes
Revision history

12) What’s been the overall impact of using the Google Apps?

Hive mind emerges
Cicadia-like, a boon?
or a pest?

13) Any advice you’d give others in implementing and using Google Apps?

Internet down?
Keep a chair warm
At local Starbucks

14) Are you using any other Google applications such as Maps? AdWords? AdSense? Please elaborate.

Reroute my route? Cool!
Every trip now includes
A stop at IKEA

15) What improvements would you like to see in Google Apps that would benefit your business?

A shopping list
is useful, but PivotTables
sparkle in sunshine

Care to share your experience with Google Apps? We’ll highlight the best haiku in a later post.

Centralized Confusion

Today’s post is brought to you by Andrew White of Gartner from an article intheir 2007 CRM conference brochure:

What’s the single biggest benefit of practicing MDM?

There are multiple drivers that help enterprises decide to embark on an MDM [1] program. Implementing a CDI-focused [2] MDM program will help implementations of CRM [3] achieve a higher return by enabling better cross-marketing and selling.

Implementing PIM [4] within MDM will help supply chains fulfill orders more timely [sic] and introduce new products more quickly. Embedding MDM in an SOA [5] environment contributes to business (process) agility through support of more rapidly developed composite applications; and others help cut costs by supporting better procurement practices.

Way to cut though to the heart of the issue, guys. Let’s see if we can decode what they’re saying:

Knowing more about your customers will help you find more products that existing customers want. It will help develop those products too. And let’s not forget your web apps. They’ll be easier to develop and easier for other companies to integrate with if you have your data well organized.

It’s nice to be able to decode this, but semantically, there’s nothing there. This response amounts to "Trust us, it’s great!"

[1] Master Data Management is another salvo in the eternal battle between centralization and decentralization in organizations. The wheel turns; today it’s MDM, in 5 years it will be called Centralized Metadata Integration.

[2] Customer Data Integration means centralizing how you track customer-related information

[3] Customer Relationship Management systems track interactions with your customers

[4] Product Information Management is CDI for products--see how easy this is getting?

[5] Service Oriented Architecture is a way of building computer services as little pieces rather than big integrated applications

Analytics Roundup: Chicken presentation and so much more

Programming Collective Intelligence
Pulling information from community contributed data.

Videos that can change your organization
Top ten business videos on YouTube.

The Encyclopedia of Business Cliches

UC Berkeley CS160 User Interfaces Fall 06
Course readings and student notes.

Language Log: Chicken: the PowerPoint Presentation
The presentation you dare not give.

Prometheus Meets the Enterprise Management System
I laughed, I cried, I laughed again.

Diagrams: Tools and Tutorials

Data Visualization: Modern Approaches
A grab bag of ideas.

fontblog : Introducing Ambiguity
A typographic symbol to indicate ambiguity, compare to the typographic mark lol which indicates stupidity.

Whimsley: The Netflix Prize: 300 Days Later

Process Trends Website
Good excel charting and visualization tips.

BusinessWeek: Who Participates And What People Are Doing Online
A simple and fairly effective use of square pies.