A few people have asked me this question just this past week. I usually point them to this thread in the forums. Any other suggestions?
The visual data twitter list by @webmuesli is quite a good start to see what’s going on currently:
http://twitter.com/webmuesli/visual-data or for those who don’t tweet, check out the newspaperized format: http://paper.li/webmuesli/visual-data
I highly recommend Stephen Few’s 3 day course. You can find it here: http://www.perceptualedge.com/courses.php
I don’t know of anyplace else you can get so much information around data visualization in such a short period of time.
His books are also great (http://www.perceptualedge.com/library.php) but don’t hold a candle to the courses that he teaches himself.
I would not say it’s a matter of schooling, though if I had to choose something it would be statistics, but it could be any quantitative discipline mixed with some facility with computers.
A better take on it is this post : http://dataspora.com/blog/sexy-data-geeks/
Knowledge of some scripting is essential if you are looking at big datasets, but more important is persistence.
The biggest hurdle is getting data into a form that you can work with. “Real” data sources are often flawed and it takes a lot of work to make sure that you are actually even working with the numbers that you think you are.
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I call myself a statistician, because, well, I’m a statistics graduate student. However, the most important things I’ve learned are less formal, but have proven extremely useful when working/playing with data.
Most of the major pizza chains are within a 5-mile radius of where I live, so I have my pick, …
For various occupations, the difference between the person who makes the most and the one who makes the least can be significant.
There are rules—usually for specific chart types meant to be read in a specific way—that you shouldn’t break. When they are, everyone loses. This is that small handful.