The important parts of data analysis

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

There’s plenty of software to muck around with data, but to gain the skills to really get something out of it, that takes time and experience. Mikio Braun, a post doc in machine learning, explains.

For a number of reasons, I don’t think that you cannot “toolify” data analysis that easily. I wished it would be, but from my hard-won experience with my own work and teaching people this stuff, I’d say it takes a lot of experience to be done properly and you need to know what you’re doing. Otherwise you will do stuff which breaks horribly once put into action on real data.

And I don’t write this because I don’t like the projects which exists, but because I think it is important to understand that you can’t just give a few coders new tools and they will produce something which works. And depending on how you want to use data analysis in your company, this might break or make your company.

Braun breaks it down into four bullet points worth a read, but the tl;dr version is that analysis isn’t simple, and no tool is going to do everything for you. It’s simple with simple data, but you can almost always go deeper with more data, and it takes experience to ask the right questions. So try not to be too content with that software output.

Favorites

Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data

Due to budget cuts, there is no plan for an updated atlas. So I recreated the original 1870 Atlas using today’s publicly available data.

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.

Life expectancy changes

The data goes back to 1960 and up to the most current estimates for 2009. Each line represents a country.

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.