If we want to assess how well children are doing, and identify solutions to challenges in child well-being, we need a better understanding of the physical, social, economic and cultural environments in which children live and grow.
Efforts to track child well being in New Hampshire have been challenged by the lack of a single, accessible repository of data that would allow policymakers and citizens to understand how New Hampshire children are doing.
My client, Spark NH, contracted with me to collate and analyze indicators of child and family well-being in New Hampshire, and create an online platform for anyone to explore the data. With the fabulous graphic design and web building skills of Holly Valero at Hollyworks, I created this system: Visualizing Child Well-Being in New Hampshire
We see this tool as providing a one-stop shop to practitioners, policymakers and all those interested in a better understanding of the contexts that both promote the healthy development of New Hampshire’s next generation.
This is not an online data warehouse, but an interactive platform built with a cutting edge data visualization product called Tableau. Tableau not only allows us to tell the story of child well-being in New Hampshire in a visually interesting way, but also provides users with interactive tools that allows them to explore the data more fully. The charts and graphs can be sorted, downloaded as images or PDF files, and shared via e-mail or on the web with a single click. The raw data can also be downloaded directly either as a text file or as a Tableau workbook for others who also use Tableau.
I have been doing away with pie charts in client materials for some time. This morning, I stumbled on the most excellent explanation of why, from Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic in her most terrific new book, “Storytelling with Data.” She’s written quite a bit on this, and even given a talk called Death to Pie Charts. A woman after my own heart, for sure!
The main reason I find the pie chart an ineffective communication tool is that it takes too much cognitive work for people to assign a quantity to an area. I do understand that pie charts CAN be useful in giving a quick sense of “percent of a whole,” so I’m not calling for their total eradication.
But many of my clients use them like this:
YIKES! Right? And doesn’t the red 28% look bigger than the blue 28%? As Cole explains in her book, things closer tend to look bigger. AND, using 3D can make things even worse for a pie chart’s interpretability. 3D charts throw in even more angles and dimensions for our eyes to sort through.
And don’t go running out for donuts to solve this problem. Cole shows why the donut chart is similarly troubled. In short, Why ask your readers to interpret angles and areas when a simple horizontal bar chart would suffice?
Do purchase her book, but before it arrives, check out this blog post she wrote on Alternatives to Pie Charts. It’s incredibly helpful, and I think you’ll be convinced!
Any chance I can twist arms for some commentary and conversation? I’m really curious as to others’ perspectives on this:
The Obama reelect campaign has initiated what they’re calling a Truth Team network. As described on the website “The Truth Team is a network of supporters of President Obama who are committed to responding to unfounded attacks and defending the President’s record. When you’re faced with someone who misrepresents the truth, you can find all the facts you need right here—along with ways to share the message with whoever needs to hear it.”
Elsewhere on this blog I’ve written that fighting misinformation with fact-based rebuttals is not effective, but I know this might be a different case – perhaps the Obama camp is trying to motivate the base with these reminders of the President’s record. But if they want to give that base talking points to use, are these the kind of talking point supporters need?
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since seeing a Truth Team release, this video blog from Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager. Check out the video, and please share your insights!