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Point: Data Visualization Calls for Specialization

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jmarkdavis
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jmarkdavis   4/17/2013 12:38:31 PM
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Yes, Beth, exactly. Thank you. In the vast majority of cases, there's a tool somewhere that will satisfy. Ten to twenty years ago, it might have made sense to assign a company resource to data visualization. Today, enough very smart people have made data visualization their full time job, and produced commercial quality products for visualization, that experts and specialists are no longer necessary. As for artful presentation, big companies have communications or art departments when that sort of thing is truly necessary. 

jmarkdavis
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Re: balance
jmarkdavis   4/17/2013 12:29:46 PM
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I like the idea of an example, Noreen, but "good" depends on the need. Some that I find visually appealing, just because they look cool and are fun to click through, are treemap, tag cloud, and fish-eye. My question -- consider it rhetorical -- is just what sort of data can't be explored using the wealth of visualization methods we have on hand today?

BethSchultz
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Re: balance
BethSchultz   4/17/2013 12:17:22 PM
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@jmarkdavis, so, in a nutshell, it's all about finding the right tool?

Noreen Seebacher
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Re: balance
Noreen Seebacher   4/17/2013 11:12:42 AM
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jmarkdavis, Can you share an example of what you consider a good visualization?

jmarkdavis
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Re: balance
jmarkdavis   4/17/2013 11:09:33 AM
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I understand what you're suggesting, but think about the practicality of it. Simplification is precisely the point. If the analytics and big data tools available in a given enterprise aren't getting the job done, what is the most efficient and effective remedy? I can tell you from years of first hand experience that seeking or creating an expert capable of inventing and then building something entirely new is a losing proposition, unless of course that enterprise happens to be in the business of building and selling such tools. The smart money will conduct a product search, find a product with suitable exploration features, acquire that product, train appropriate roles, and quickly reap the benefits.

BethSchultz
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Re: balance
BethSchultz   4/17/2013 10:01:06 AM
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@jmarkdavis, thanks for jumping into this conversation. I don't disagree with your points but I do wonder if they're oversimplified when put into a big-data context -- especially if you're talking about using visual analytics as a way to better explore that data (so less of a means of presenting results). 

jmarkdavis
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Re: balance
jmarkdavis   4/16/2013 3:34:41 PM
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I appreciate the passionate argument, but it only holds in a small corner of the problem space. Data visualization is a surprisingly old subject, and it's been given a thorough treatment by a long list of distinguished researchers. The good news is that, although advanced research continues, the day to day needs of the average jane/joe are covered. When it comes time to present data, we have ridiculously powerful tools now that are literally under our noses, and they will handle the majority of our needs right out of the box. For the record, I count 74 different chart types in Excel. Seriously, Excel!

Occasionally -- I would even say rarely -- we may find it necessary to create more complex or specialized representations; the good news here is that self-education in this Internet age is all too simple. Go read a book by an expert like Tufte. If that's not enough, you can take courses from some of the masters without even leaving your office, for pete's sake. 

Let's skip over the bit about artists and left brain vs right brain (complete myth, by the way: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-myths/201206/why-the-left-brain-right-brain-myth-will-probably-never-die). At bottom, it is obviously true that people have different strengths and interests. However, most of our daily work presenting facts and figures will not require exceptional ability. Sometimes, again rarely, a breakthrough visualization method means the difference between communication and confusion, c.f. Feynman Diagrams. Most of the time, almost all of the time, that's just not the case. 

Here's the secret to effective data presentation, and it's been rediscovered so often it's not even funny. Keep it as simple as possible. And to be honest, it doesn't take an expert to do that.

Hospice_Houngbo
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Re: balance
Hospice_Houngbo   3/25/2013 2:30:02 PM
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"Visualization is another area where bias, judgement, and skill come into play."

Visualization does deliver some value to the data and the business, even though it might be deceptive sometimes. But as goes the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words".

BethSchultz
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Re: balance
BethSchultz   3/21/2013 8:48:43 AM
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Glad I could help.

Louis Watson
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Re: balance
Louis Watson   3/20/2013 11:43:12 PM
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@Hyoun   Well said and you poise questions that I had not considered for certain. This bias does happen with all analysis so if data visualization can migitigate this to a certain degree, then I can see the value in it's use.  And I like your final point best, most companies do not consider this, so if you can tailor data effectively in this case in terms of visualization, I agree it does seperate you from the pack.

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