• Incorrect

    March 22, 2012  |  Quotes

    Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.

    — George E. P. Box, Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces, 1987

    A favorite quote among statisticians.

  • Statisticians don’t program?

    October 18, 2011  |  Quotes

    We're statisticians. We don't program.

    — Anonymous statistician

    I was talking to a small group of statisticians a few months ago, and someone said that to me when I told them how I go about mucking around with data. It still annoys me just thinking about it. It wasn't that he didn't know how to program — because that's perfectly understandable — but he said it in a way as if programming and statistics were so separate that there was no possible way the two could go together.


    Let's set things straight before this silly idea spreads further. Programming and statistics belong together, and you don't have to be a coding genius for it to work.

  • An approximate answer

    September 9, 2010  |  Quotes

    Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.

    —John Tukey
  • Visualizing data: ask a question first

    April 29, 2010  |  Design, Quotes

    There is no way to think up an original and extraordinary design—it can only come as a result of pursuing a given task. In the same way running down a list of words is different from making a narrative.

    — Artemy Lebedev, Designer’s block, February 16, 2010

    This applies to visualization too. When you don't have a question to answer or a simple wonderment about something, you end up staring at a bunch of numbers with no clue what to do with them. Want to test this out? Go to data.gov and make something useful.

    [via @Coudal]

  • A Defense of the Unknown in Infographics

    March 18, 2010  |  Quotes

    We’re inventors - we’re creators. And that’s the most important thing about what we do. And I think we should welcome failure every once in a while.

    Hannah Fairfield - NYT Graphics Editor, Malofiej 18, March 2010

    Last year at Malofiej, one of the major awards ceremonies for infographics in journalism, The New York Times took home 'Best in Show' for their work on box office receipts from 1986 to 2008. I'm sure most of you saw it. It was non-traditional. It was an adaptation of Lee Byron's streamgraph, which he had previously applied to last.fm music listening habits - a smoothed stacked area chart at the core.
    Continue Reading

  • Twitter’s Creative Director on Why He Left Google

    April 25, 2009  |  Quotes

    I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to work at Google. I learned more than I thought I would. I'll miss the free food. I'll miss the occasional massage. I'll miss the authors, politicians, and celebrities that come to speak or perform. I'll miss early chances to play with cool toys before they're released to the public. Most of all, I'll miss working with the incredibly smart and talented people I got to know there. But I won't miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data.

    — Douglas Bowman, Goodbye, Google, March 2009

    I feel like I've been hearing a lot of this type of stuff recently. Just yesterday, while watching NBA playoff commentary, someone stated that future Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had something like a 1 in 4 chance of success in the NFL. Charles Barkeley replied that sometimes you gotta forget about stats and just go, or something to that effect. Oddly enough, I agree.

    [via TechCrunch]

    UPDATE: Kevin Fox, (formerly) senior user experience design lead at Google, responded to Bowman's post: "I don't think Google had to be a bad fit for you, but that you were put in to the wrong role." [Thanks, David]

  • Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian on Statistics and Data

    February 25, 2009  |  Quotes, Statistics

    I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I'm joking, but who would've guessed that computer engineers would've been the sexy job of the 1990s?

    Hal Varian, The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009

    Varian then goes on to say:

    The ability to take data - to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it's going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

    I think statisticians are part of it, but it's just a part. You also want to be able to visualize the data, communicate the data, and utilize it effectively. But I do think those skills - of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis - are going to be extremely important. Managers need to be able to access and understand the data themselves.

    Wait a minute. Is this a pitch for FlowingData? I think so :). Check out the full article for more (or listen to the podcast). It's an interesting read.

  • Flickr Operations Engineer Manager on Graphs and Data Obsession

    February 6, 2009  |  Quotes

    We're quite addicted to data pr0n here at Flickr. We've got graphs for pretty much everything, and add graphs all of the time.

    — John Allspaw, Operations Engineering Manager at Flickr

    [via O'Reilly Radar | Thanks, Jodi]

  • Steve Jobs on Design

    October 31, 2008  |  Design, Quotes

    Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like… People think it's this veneer -- that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

    — Steve Jobs, The New York Times, 2003

    I post this not because I like Apple products, but because it's true (and because I like Apple products). I'm no designer, but as a statistician, I have tremendous respect for those who are. Have a nice weekend all.

    [via swissmiss]

  • Martin Wattenberg On Visualizing Large Textual Data

    July 21, 2008  |  Data Art, Quotes

    Martin Wattenberg, one of the creators of Many Eyes, in reply to "Why is a numbers guy like you so interested in large textual data sets?"

    The entire literary canon may be smaller than what comes out of particle accelerators or models of the human brain, but the meaning coded into words can't be measured in bytes. It's deeply compressed. Twelve words from Voltaire can hold a lifetime of experience.

    Martin Wattenberg = smart guy.

  • Lisa Simpson on Happiness vs Intelligence

    June 20, 2008  |  Quotes

    lisa simpson graph

    As intelligence goes up, happiness goes down. See, I made a graph. I make lots of graphs.

    Lisa Simpson. The Simpsons. Episode 257. January 7, 2001.
  • H. G. Wells on Quantitative Thinking

    April 11, 2008  |  Quotes

    The time may not be very remote when it will be understood that for complete initiation as an efficient citizen of one of the new great complex world wide states that are now developing, it is as necessary to be able to compute, to think in averages and maxima and minima, as it is now to be able to read and write.

    H.G. Wells, Mankind in the Making, 1904

    [Thanks, Jan]

  • Leland Wilkinson on Bloatware

    November 5, 2007  |  Quotes

    I have not yet achieved that elusive zero-byte graphics program, but I do believe that bulk, in programming or in writing, can sometimes be an inverse measure of clarity and thought. Users dislike "bloatware" not only because it is a pig that wastes their computers' resources but also because they know it usually reflects design-by-committee and sloppy thinking.

    Leland Wilkinson. The Grammar of Graphics. 2005.
  • Lisa Jevbratt on the Sublime in Data Visualization

    October 17, 2007  |  Quotes

    We look up at the starry sky and we sense a fear of not comprehending and being engulfed, a fear of the unknown, and simultaneously we experience a longing for the inaccessible, impenetrable darkness.

    Lisa Jevbratt. The Prospect of the Sublime in Data Visualization. 2004.
  • Wise Words from John Tukey

    September 14, 2007  |  Quotes

    John Tukey

    The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.

    — John W. Tukey. Exploratory Data Analysis. 1977.

    Love it. Great words from the father of exploratory data analysis. Have an excellent weekend.

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