Browsing articles tagged with " Award"

Worst Bar Chart* of 2014–We May Already Have a Winner

Jan 29, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Visualization, Fun, Snark, WTF  //  7 Comments


Update: It appears that this chart and other data visualizations have been removed from the website and report.  I’m hoping that means that the authors will be refactoring them with improved graphics.  Meanwhile, I’m going to leave my post below as is.  There are good lessons and tips to be shared. 

I know.  I hear you. It’s still January and we might just have a winner, one that will be impossible to beat during the next 12 months. Incredible. As you may recall, in late 2011 I awarded Stupidest Bar Chart to a doozy from Klout.  That bar chart was confusing, but not in the way this one is.  First, put down your beverage of choice.  Then take a look at this:




Yeah.  That…chart.  It’s kind of like a horizontal stacked bar chart.  I don’t understand anything about it, though.   This chart comes from an infographic at  on Analysis Trends for 2014.

Maybe zooming in might help?




Nope, doesn’t make it any clearer. In fact, it’s just as crazy, but bigger.  Call it Big Crazy DataTM.

Here are the issues and questions I have about it:

  1. What do the colours mean? If this were a stacked bar chart, the grey and blue areas would indicate different data.  It appears that only some sections have data. But I’m not sure.
  2. What is the scale?  Normally a bar chart would have an axis that indicates some measure and all the bars would be graphed against that axis.  This has no axis.
  3. Why do some bars have signed numbers and one have a range?  Why are some numbers unsigned? Even some delta numbers are unsigned.
  4. What do the relative sizes of the sections mean?  In one bar we see a blue section labeled 285, but it’s larger than a section labeled 425-475
  5. Where numbers appear, do they describe the section they are on or the section next to the number? I’m not sure
  6. What does the relative position of the blue section mean? I’m not sure.
  7. Why are some of the labels in light grey and some in dark grey? I’m not sure
  8. What are the units of measurement for these numbers? Are some percentages? Units of 1000s? 100,000s? Are they of people? Positions? Something else? I’m not sure.
  9. Do the endnotes there explain the numbers? No, they are just citations for reference materials used to create the report.

Maybe the chart has an explanation inside the full document, Analytics Trends 2014: (And why some may not materialize)… No, same chart, no text that directly explains any of the numbers. To add some irony to this, the report itself is about Analytics and even covers trends in visualizations.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words, Unfortunately.


The report has something to say about data visualizations used in data analytics:

There’s no question that visualization has become a critical capability for organizations of virtually every shape and size. Easy-to-use software makes complex data accessible and understandable for almost any business user. From discovery and visual exploration to pattern and relationship identification, today’s visualization tools easily affirm the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in this case, numbers.

This is especially true with big data, where visualization may even be a necessary capability for driving insights. That’s why visually oriented tools are rising in prominence for many big data applications. Users get to understand, explore, share, and apply data efficiently and collaboratively—often without the need for analytics professionals. And that’s where the risk comes in. In their eagerness to dive into data, users may choose polished graphics over thorough data preparation and normalization and rigorous analysis—glossing over important insights and analysis opportunities and potentially producing erroneous results. [emphasis mine]

Keep reading the report from that section.  The irony burns.

What’s Going on with this Bar Chart?

I’d bet that the Analytics professionals at Deloitte know much better than this.  The webpage and report for Analytics trends is beautiful to look at.  I’m guessing that a graphics designer has taken these numbers and created a beautiful, yet meaningless graphic with numbers. And just as the report predicts, people who don’t understand how to best use visualizations can gloss over important insights and analysis opportunities and potentially produce erroneous results.  This report has some great points. And it’s pretty.  Very, very pretty.  But the distraction of bad visualizations makes difficult for me to actually see the points the authors are trying to make.

My guess is also that this data, as a set, had no business being put together in one chart.  I’m not sure, but they don’t seem to have the same measures or even be the same type of data.  So putting them in one chart won’t help.  This was a page in a report needing a graphic, so someone made one.


Jamie Calder ( @jamiecalder) helped me “see” the story this chart is trying to tell: think of it as a math equation.  That might get you there.  But it’s still not an appropriate use of a bar chart.  And Josh Fennessy ( @joshuafennessy)  has pointed out that this isn’t supposed to be a bar chart at all. It’s supposed to be a waterfall chart.  But it’s dressed up as a bar chart, so I’m going to still leave as a contender for Worst Bar Chart of 2014.  Let’s just call it a self-nominated chart.  Martin Ribunal has found what is most likely the original chart from which this chart was most likely copied inspired by and has listed that in comments below.

What Have We Learned About Data Visualizations?

  1. The best data analysis can be invalidated with bad data visualizations.
  2. If you develop content, insist that you say in the final published work.  I know this is difficult in large corporate entities, but it’s important to ensuring that your goals are met.
  3. The more accessible we make self-serve BI and data visualization tools available, the more responsibility we have to educate, train, and mentor those using these tools.
  4. Show your visualizations to other people.  Ask them what they see. Ask them if they are confused, what conclusions they might have and what questions they still have.
  5. Choose the right chart type to fit your data.  Then use that chart correctly.
  6. If you needs a graphic image, don’t mimic a recognized chart type. 
  7. If you add a chart to a document, you should actual reference it in the text in the way that helps the reader understand it.
  8. If your chart has numbers, you have to say what those are number of, including some sort of unit of measure.  And your graphics should correctly portray their relative size.
  9. If a chart leaves viewers saying “I’m not sure” more than once, it’s not working.
  10. Loving your data means loving how it is presented, too.

What Would You Ask?

What other questions do you have about this…graphic.? How would you improve it?

I can’t bring myself to call it a bar chart any more.  But it’s still dressed as a bar chart, so it fits the nomination category.  If you find a bar chart or any other data visualization to nominate, let me know.  I wouldn’t want something worse than this one to go unrecognized.

Nominate your Data Steward for a Stewie Award

Sep 10, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Governance, Data Stewardship, Fun, Need Your Help  //  No Comments

Do you work with a fabulous Data Steward?  You should nominate him or her for a Dataflux Stewie Award as part of International Data Steward Day, 11 October 2012.  I’ll be part of a team of elite ninja judges evaluating data stewards for their awesomeness at caring and nurturing good data practices.  Fellow judges Jill Dyché, David Loshin, Jim Harris, Phil Simon, Joyce Norris-Montanari and last year’s winner, Barbara Deemer will be looking to see how well you Love Your Data.  Also, you need to visit that page just to see their yearbook photos, too.

Data Stewards Class of 2012!

It’s that time of year again, when we honor the best and brightest – the experts who not only manage your company’s data, but keep your business running behind the scenes. In other words, your data steward.

From now until September 24, we’re taking nominations for the 2nd Annual Data Steward of the Year Award, also known as the Stewie. It’s an honor reserved for folks who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done – the true honor students of the data management world.

A special sneak peek of the winner will be revealed at IDEAS 2012 in Las Vegas on October 10. After that, we’ll publicly announce this year’s Stewie Award winner on Data Stewards Day: October 11, 2012. That means the clock is ticking and you have limited time to submit your nomination. Ready?

Nominate a Data Steward Now!

With each nomination you’ll get some rocking buttons – you may have seen me sporting some on my backpack recently.  They have some snark, so they are perfect for experienced data professionals.


Canada’s Smartest and Greenest IT Awards – 17 Nov – Toronto

Nov 14, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Speaking  //  No Comments


I had the honour of judging the Canada’s Smarted and Canada’s Greenest IT awards along with James Alexander, CEO of the Quest for Canada’s Smartest IT (@JamesFAlexander)  and Shirley Blayney, General Business Solutions Manager at IBM.  There were some fabulous nominations. I was happy to see how Canadian organizations are providing advanced business solutions while taking care of the planet.

What are the awards?

The Quest for Canada’s Smartest IT is a competition that recognizes Canadian companies using technology to help their business, the environment and their communities. 2011 marks the second year of our wildly successful competition.

There are three categories of awards which you are eligible to apply for:

  1. Smartest IT rewards companies using IT in innovative ways to help their business and/or their community.
  2. Greenest IT recognizes companies using technology to help the environment, enhance sustainability, or demonstrate social responsibility.
  3. Wow Story is a wild card award that honours the best “story” that we hear over the course of the nominations process. We encourage you to tell us your story today – what is business-as-usual to you, to your peers may well be an eye-opening way of using IT.

Watch video

The awards ceremony will be held Thursday, 17 November in Toronto.  I will be presenting the Canada’s Smartest IT Award.

You can register now and participate in celebrating Smart IT/Green IT at no charge.  There is a door charge if you can’t register in advance.

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