Archive for January, 2009

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”

January 29, 2009

One of our members emailed me asking how many people are contributors to the Data360 site.  The answer is less than six.  This member’s interest was, as he said, “understanding how diverse the information sources might be.” 

As I said in my response to him, “My view is that “veracity” in the world of data is hard to achieve communally.  Information from the source is always best.  Each degree of separation from the source means a greater likelihood of distortion, and this is true to a greater degree in the world of data than in the world of words.  We are looking for volunteers to help us keep our data current, but our screen is very tight because veracity is so important to us.”

Check out Wikipedia’s post on the famous Mark Twain quote here.

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New features – same direction – 2009

January 28, 2009

Several new features added to our site, including:

  • images – we can now load and display images
  • data plots – supercharged tables
  • news reviews – we are culling the news on a regular basis, looking the most interesting data-driven news
  • surveying – we now have a surveying tool that is part of the site

We have new features in development, including dynamic graphing.

Our mission is to become like a wikipedia for data.  Having worked for a large consulting company, I’ve seen the high-caliber reports (VERY DATA DRIVEN) that are available to paying customers.  But why should you have to pay such a steep price to get perspective on important issues?  The things that are happening in our world are not necessarily what the newspapers tell us is happening.  Often, certain topics get headlines when they are not significant.  For example, while I am appalled by every murder I read about, each one, from a statistical perspective, is not a significant event.  But the news magazines would have us believe that each one of these events is worthy of great attention. 

I believe that data-driven reports about important social and economic can be created and that these reports can become the basis for understanding the state of our world.  When you want to understand the budget of the State of California, where do you go?  When you want to understand global warming, where do you go?  When you want to understand crime in your city and how it compares to the rest of the US, where do you go?  When you want to understand the housing market in your city, where do you go?  In each case, you go to a thousand places and you spend a lot of time trying to figure things out. 

My point is that what is needed is a tool and an organization whose objective is to create a series of reports that can quickly educate people in a data-driven manner about the state of the world on subjects that are of importance to them.