Recreating the NY Times Cancer Graph

This New York Times cancer graph is a beautiful piece of work.

NY Times cancer graphic

I wanted to see if we could reproduce it with everyday tools.

Excel reproduction of the NY Times cancer graphic

Click here to watch a screencast showing how it was done. Warning the screencast is a little long—14 minutes—and a little unpolished. One cut, no retakes, banzai analytics!

Derek raised an interesting question about how to find the fonts used by the New York Times. While I don’t think you can find a high quality free version of these fonts (Helvetica Neue, Univers?), Microsoft has made some very good new fonts for Vista and these are also available to Microsoft Office users through a compatibility pack. Here’s a link or google for "microsoft office compatibility pack". I recommend using these fonts.

Here’s a version of the graph with these new fonts and more emphasis on getting the typography right.

Excel reproduction of the NY Times cancer graphic with better fonts

Business Intelligence isn’t a technical problem, it’s a social problem

Yesterday I presented to an B-eye-network audience our perspective on why business intelligence is broken and what can be done to fix it. The full PDF-version (4mb) of the presentation can be downloaded.

A sampling of the fun:

"Chart-based encryption -- data goes in, no information comes out"

Chart-based encryption

On the excessive emphasis on reporting over analysis...


"Technologists are looking to build an atomic-baloney slicer"..."Nobody ever got fired for adding more requirements"


"Data analysis isn’t just for the data analysts anymore"

Typing is to...

"Have you ever working with a reporting tool that outputted to PDF?"

Hopefully we stirred the pot a little with this presentation. A recording of the B-eye-network event should be available soon.

A Juice Web Event: Empowering the Analyst

Our friends at Tableau invited us to lead off a webinar about the broken bits of Business Intelligence and what is needed to fix it. With the provocative title "The Score: IT-centric BI — 5, Information Worker — 0", we intend to hit blog-themes such as the plight of the noble but beaten-down analyst, the misplaced emphasis on bulky technology solutions, and the false deification of the Executive Dashboard.We’d love to have you stop by on March 22 at 2:00 ET. Go here to register.

The session abstract is below:

Empowering the "Everyday Data" Analyst

Like it or not, we’ve all become "everyday data" analysts during the last decade. We became document specialists and spreadsheet experts ten years before that. We have standard tools for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations right on our desktops. These applications are familiar and easy to use — even if we only use them infrequently. Why don’t we have the same for working with data?

Everyone agrees that we have plenty of data—it streams through our departments and across our desktops everyday. But despite the big, IT-centric BI solutions that exist in our organizations, it’s the tools and skills for investigating and making sense of "everyday data" that we’re missing. The people who have the most to gain from data analysis are often the least capable of doing so. Where’s the BI equivalent of Word or Visio?

Join Zach Gemignani, co-founder of Juice Analytics for this free web seminar. Based on his years of experience with analytics client engagements, you will hear him present the real-world struggle of "everyday data" analysts. You will learn:

  • How the IT-centric view of BI should change
  • How do we empower our "everyday data" analysts in our organizations
  • What shifts in approach and technology are necessary for effectively working with data

Solving the Pie

Last week I challenged the you to reproduce this alternative to pie charts in Excel. I promised a screencast to show how it’s done.

Square Pie

Eighteen people answered the call with nearly three dozen different solutions. Click here to watch the screencast showing how to accomplish the two most popular solutions; filling cells with conditional formatting and pushing the column chart to extremes.

If you want to look at the source,Clint Ivy produced an excellent version of the cell filling approach.


Dermot Balson submitted an terrific version of the column chart approach.


Thank you to everyone who submitted a solution.

Restructuring data in Excel

It’s always good to see how other people do things. In this screencast, you can look over my shoulder as I work on a common data problem in Excel. In this case, I have a pile of addresses that are stacked vertically. I need to extract the address, city, state, and zip from each of these addresses into a contiguous block.

One the data is transformed, I geocode it and map it, tres easy with our Excel Geocoding Tool.

Unlike most previous screencasts, this is on a separate page as I needed more elbow room to show the transformation process.

Note: Audio quality is bad, that is to say, my keystrokes sound like random gunfire. We’ve never experienced this before, but will get it fixed in the future.

Better Excel Charts Explained

Here’s a screencast showing the Excel Chart Cleaner tool being used.

Excel Chart Cleaner

Unlike previous screencasts, this one is not inline with the blog, but is on a separate page as I needed more elbow room to show the charting process.

The screencast is less than 5 minutes in length, so there is no real discussion of Excel charting problems. You can find those here or here. The video is safe for work.

Extreme Excel Charts

This is a video created entirely using Excel bubble charts. It illustrates flows over the course of the year between two starting states and four ending states.

Click picture to view video

I want to stimulate discussion on creative charting methods using common tools, Excel or otherwise. If you have an example of a creative use of charting, let me know and we can all get a little better at illustrating information.

Excel Keyboarding Game

You can get a lot faster with Excel if you learn to use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse. Here’s a fun Excel-based game that we use at JuiceCo to teach one basic keyboarding skill. I guarantee this will make you better and faster with Excel.

Click picture to view video. The audio seems to be infested by aliens and drops out midway through. Many apologies.

Excel Keyboarding Game.xls

If you’re viewing this in a feedreader, click though to see a screencast of the game.

Illustrating Imprecision with Excel

A few days ago Zach made a nice point about Zillow. It’s oh-so-easy to produce numbers that are precise but are not accurate. Here’s a quick screencast to show you one fun way to draw the distinction in Excel using number formatting.

Click picture to view video.

Note: In the screencast, I say precision when I mean to say accuracy no fewer than *four* times. Sorry.