I'm pretty sure there's a ton of untapped potential in data represented physically. Maybe not in the analytical insights sense but in that fuzzy unmeasured way of feeling data somehow. That might be my new point of interest for next year, and it'll probably involve beer and LEGOs. Pierre Dragicevic and Yvonne Jansen maintain a chronological list of physical visualization, dating back to 5500 BC up to present.
Results for beer
Yelp released an amusing tool that lets you see how the use of word in reviews has changed over the site's decade of existence.
From food trends to popular slang to short-lived beauty fads (Brazilian blowout anyone?), Yelp Trends searches through words used in Yelp reviews to show you what's hot and reveals the trend-setting cities that kicked it all off. Our massive wealth of data and the high quality reviews contributed by the Yelp community are what allow us to surface consumer trends and behavior based on ten years of experiences shared by locals around the world.
Just type in keywords, select your city, business category, and click the search button to see the changes. For the less used words, the data looks mostly like noise, but there are also some clear trends like in craft beer and chicken and waffles.
19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.
Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does. The maps above don't count towards the 19, so your world view hasn't changed yet. However, the binocular-like image represents your upcoming experience. You look around. Nothing. Look more. Nothing. Then maps catch your eye, and boom. Something. Your life transforms into something you never thought possible.
Time to blow your mind.
Back in 2008, the Floatingsheep group collected data about the number of bars across the United States, and they compared those counts against the number of grocery stores. Their map showed what they called the "beer belly of America", which is a much higher than average number of bars in the Wisconsin area.
I came back to the map recently, and three questions came to mind:
- The original map only showed a binary comparison. That is, areas were either colored as more bars or more grocery stores. What if we mapped the magnitude of the difference?
- The data from 2008 comes from the now defunct Google Maps Directory and only represented references to bars and grocery stores (which maybe made the previous bullet point not worth doing then). Would using the newer Google Places API provide more detail?
- What about other countries?
I started with the first two questions and went from there.
FloatingSheep pointed their Twitter geography towards beer (and wine).
From Sam Adams in New England to Yuengling in Pennsylvania to Grain Belt and Schlitz in the upper Midwest, these beers are quite clearly associated with particular places. Other beers, like Hudepohl and Goose Island are interesting in that they stretch out from their places of origin -- Cincinnati and Chicago, respectively -- to encompass a much broader region where there tend to be fewer regionally-specific competitors, at least historically. On the other hand, beers like Lone Star, Corona and Dos Equis tend to have significant overlap in their regional preferences, with all three having some level of dominance along the US-Mexico border region, but with major competition between these brands in both Arizona and Texas.
This of course excludes the increased appreciation for craft beer, as there isn't enough data for significant microbrewery results.
Visualization continues to mature and focus more on the data first than on novel designs and size. People improved on existing forms and got better at analysis. Readerships seemed to be more ready and eager to explore more data at a time. Fewer spam graphics landed in my inbox.
So all in all, 2013 was a pretty good year for data and visualization. Let's have a look back.
The holiday season came out of nowhere this year. Everyone put their lights up over the weekend while I'm stuck trying to figure out what day it is. If you're like me and need some quick gift ideas for your fellow data nerd, here are some fine ones that you can't go wrong with.
A group of researchers at Michigan State University, led by Phil Howard, explored the network of wine in the United States.
No other section of the supermarket offers as many choices as the wine aisle. A typical retailer is likely to have hundreds of unique wines on its shelves. Just three firms, however, account for more than half of the wine sales in the United States. What impact does this industry concentration have on consumer choices? To answer this question we conducted an inventory of wine offerings at 20 retailers in Michigan. We recorded more than 3,600 unique varieties of wine, and traced their relationships with more than 1,000 different firms.
Now that we're done giving thanks for all the intangibles like love, friends, family, and drunkenness, it's time to turn our attention to the physical objects we don't have yet. It's the most wonderful time of year! Here are gift ideas for your data geek friends and family. A few of these take a while to make, so be sure to order them now so that you get them in time for Christmas.
The flood. The avalanche. The tsunami. Drowning in data. For the past few years, a couple of times a week, there's an article about all the data we have access to and how we're struggling to stay afloat in the growing sea of data. Big data is getting too big they say.
The water metaphor is fine, but the fear of the data flow is irrational, so let's
runswim with the former.
In the 1980s, students and researchers at UCLA, led by marketing professor Alan Andreasen, found some interesting spending patterns when people approach major life events.
[W]hen some customers were going through a major life event, like graduating from college or getting a new job or moving to a new town, their shopping habits became flexible in ways that were both predictable and potential gold mines for retailers. The study found that when someone marries, he or she is more likely to start buying a new type of coffee. When a couple move into a new house, they're more apt to purchase a different kind of cereal. When they divorce, there’s an increased chance they'll start buying different brands of beer.
These findings turned out to be the backbone of work by statistician Andrew Pole, who was hired by Target to analyze their data and increase sales. Somewhere along the way, the marketing department at Target asked Pole if there was a way to predict that a customer was expecting a child. Birth records are freely available, so it's easy to send baby-related coupons and advertisements to new mothers, but Target wanted first dibs, before that baby came out.
As you might expect, Pole found 25 products that were strong indicators and soon he had an estimate of pregnancies with a pregnancy prediction score.
Pole applied his program to every regular female shopper in Target's national database and soon had a list of tens of thousands of women who were most likely pregnant. If they could entice those women or their husbands to visit Target and buy baby-related products, the company’s cue-routine-reward calculators could kick in and start pushing them to buy groceries, bathing suits, toys and clothing, as well. When Pole shared his list with the marketers, he said, they were ecstatic. Soon, Pole was getting invited to meetings above his paygrade. Eventually his paygrade went up.
Creepy or just good marketing? I say the latter.
I know most of you have checked out mentally for Labor Day weekend, so here's some fodder to help you through the rest of the work day, as you dream of steak, burgers, and cold beer.
- Price of weed
- Flowchart: Should you argue on the Internet?
- Bikes of San Francisco
- The Sexperience 1000 shows a (statistical) view of what goes on in the bedroom
- Who owns the beer
- Rethinking the food nutrition label
- Statistics PhD wins lottery four times
- Mobile patent lawsuits
- US post offices spreading over time, 1700 to 1900
- People moving
Thanks for a great month and have a nice long weekend.
Not many people understand the importance of data privacy. They don't get out how little bits of information sent from your phone every now and then can show a lot about your day-to-day life.
As the German government tries to come to a consensus about its data retention rules, Green party politician Malte Spitz retrieved six months of phone data from Deutsche Telekom (by suing them), to show what you can get from a little bit of private mobile data. He handed the data to Zeit Online, and they in turn mapped and animated practically every one of Spitz' moves over half a year and combined it with publicly available information from sources such as his appointment website, blog, and Twitter feed for more context.
OkCupid continues their analysis on the mysteries of the dating world, this time on the best questions to ask on a first date, or rather, the best questions to ask when you actually want to find out something else. Will your date have sex on the first date? Ask your date if he or she likes the taste of beer, because:
Among all our casual topics, whether someone likes the taste of beer is the single best predictor of if he or she has sex on the first date.
Well, okay, not entirely correct. The question is if they would consider sex, not if they'd actually do it. I've considered buying just about every Apple product, but all I have is the one Macbook. Still interesting though.
I'm still waiting for LinkedIn to start doing this sort of analysis. I mean it's more or less the same thing, except you're trying to find a company to work for rather than a partner to, uh, have beer with. Who's with me?
Big information graphics have been around for a long time. They've come in the form of maps, visualization, art, signs, etc. That was all on paper though. In the past couple of years, humongous, gigantic, and often really long infographics have found their way onto the computer screen, through blogs and news sites. Some are great. Some really suck. The volume is booming for both.
Let's take a look at when this all got started, where the trend is headed, and how much we should really read into these things.
When it comes to visualization, especially on the Web, you have to be open-minded, and you should be willing to try new things. There’s no advancing otherwise. However, before you dive into the advanced stuff - like just about everything in your life - you have to learn the fundamentals before you know when you can break the rules.
You have to know what flavors work together and against each other before you cook a feast fit for a king. You have to learn grammar and spelling before you can write a book that others will actually enjoy.
So when you’re learning to visualize data, do yourself a favor and learn the basic rules first. Then you can spend the rest of your days breaking them.
FloatingSheep, a fun geography blog, looks at the beer belly of America. One maps shows total number of bars, but the interesting map is the one above. Red dots represent locations where there are more bars than grocery stores, based on results from the Google Maps API. The Midwest takes their drinking seriously.
Of course there are plenty of possible explanations for the distribution. Maybe people get all their food from superstores like Walmart in the red dot areas, so there are fewer gigantic stores than there are small local bars.
Then again, the FloatingSheep guys did their homework and found, according to Census, that the number of drinking places in those red dots are really skewed compare to the average. So it's also possible that area of the country just likes to drink a lot.
Anyone who lives in the area care to confirm? I expect your comment to be filled with typos and make very little sense. And maybe smell like garbage.
Here are some links and stuff to chew on as you wait for the Super Bowl, in between the beer, pizza, and wings.
Pink Floyd Timeline, 1960-2000 - A highly stylized timeline of music from Pink Floyd over the years.
An Interview With Nicholas Felton, Creator of the Feltron Annual Report - It manages to make a bigger splash every month. Felton gets into some of the details of compiling the report [thanks, Mike].
Wondering what statistics is for? This is what.
Data are a whole lot of meaningful patterns. We can generate data indefinitely, we can exchange data forever... we can store data, retrieve data and file them away. All this is great fun and maybe useful, maybe lucrative, but we have to ask why. The purpose is regulation and that means translating data into information. Information is what changes us. My purpose is to effect change - to impart information.
Platform for Change by Stafford Beer