Visually becomes a Social Network

Visual.ly recently announced the transition to a social network for data visualizations. Visual.ly aims to be the site for infographic designers. The site now has better profiles, an activity timeline, and more metrics about each infographic plus the ability to follow users. The new features are in preparation for a marketplace to be launched later this year.


Small Note: Most of the infographics I post come from Visual.ly.

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Resistance to Making Decisions based upon Data

It is no surprise that I enjoy talking about data science and using data to make better decisions. Unfortunately, everyone is not as excited about data as I am. I occasionally face some resistance. One of the most common arguments goes something like this:

Why would I put in the extra work to find data that will tell me what I already know?

Because you might not really know what you think you know.

People are very comfortable making decisions based off gut feelings, assumptions, and personal biases. They obviously think the decisions are the correct ones. Many times the gut feeling is correct. However, the problem is those times when the gut feeling is not the right decision. In those cases, I would prefer to have some good data behind my choice. Here are a couple scenarios:

A Website Scenario

We should choose the white background because it produces 75% more signups than the blue background.

or

We should choose white because I got a good feeling people will like it better.

A Healthcare Scenario

You should try these pills because numerous tests have shown good results for people your age and weight.

or

I got a hunch these pills will make you better.

Both of these decisions are made everyday. Surely the doctor cannot knowingly prescribe a harmful drug, but many times the prescription is just for the standard drug matching the symptoms. Are all patients standard? Personally, I would feel more confident about the first decision in each scenario. But hey, I like data.

Why are people so skeptical to use data for better decision making? I do not know. Maybe some people are afraid the data might not match their assumptions. Maybe they just don’t want to put in the extra effort. I probably need some better data to properly answer this question.

Have you faced similar resistance? How do you convince people to use data for decision making?

Coursera Launches Data Analysis Classes

In case you missed the announcement yesterday, Coursera added 12 new universities and over 100 new courses. The exciting part for people learning data science is a new category of courses: Statistics, Data Analysis, and Scientific Computing. None of the courses have started yet. Most are scheduled for this fall or early 2013. The courses look very good.

Are you excited about these new courses?

Big Data Delivery

I felt the article, The 7 steps in Big Data delivery, was worth sharing. Here was my favorite quote from the article:

Most staff members charged with researching and acquiring Big Data solutions focus on the Collect and Store steps at the expense of the others.

Big Data and Data Science are more than just collecting and storing data. Read the article to find more about the 7 sevens steps outlined.

  1. Collect
  2. Process
  3. Manage
  4. Measure
  5. Consume
  6. Store
  7. Data Governance

School Of Data

School of Data is new site aimed at teaching people how to collect, process, analyze, and visualize data. The goal is to produce data courses and award certifications. Most of the content will be focused around the online handbook, Data Wrangling Handbook. The handbook is open source and hosted at github. Currently the course materials are still under development, so others are welcome to get involved. I believe the plan is to start offering courses this fall (2012).

It will be exciting to see how this site develops. Do you plan to get involved? Would you be interested in the courses?

Update: fixed a bad link

The Beauty of Data Visualization – Ted Talk

In this 2010 Ted Talk, David McCandless provides a great example of transforming data into a story. Here are some of the data topics covered.

  • Billion dollar-o-gram What is money spent on?
  • Global media panic (SARS, Swine flu, asteroids, killer wasps, …), pay attention to the gap
  • What country has the most soldiers (per population)?
  • Nutritional Supplement data
  • And More…

This video is worth the 18 minutes. Enjoy!