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(Wall Street Journal)   110% of statisticians would like to see better use of statistics in 2013   (blogs.wsj.com) divider line 4
    More: Unlikely, Bialik  
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1763 clicks; posted to Main » on 31 Dec 2012 at 9:34 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-12-31 02:06:48 PM
1 votes:

plcow: Kelly Jackson, who teaches at Camden County College in Blackwood, N.J., would like to see better practices in charting, where the Y-axis should always start at 0 when possible. "One of the problems my students have is interpreting data and graphs that don't use '0′ as the starting point," Jackson said. "Imagine a graph that starts vertically at 500 and shows bars of height 550 and 600."

This is one of mine. The news always zooms in the Y-axis, thus showing wild volatility that is normal in nature, but that smooths out when you zoom out and show the whole chart. You might not always have to show zero, but at least show the entire range of the data as far back as needed to tell the whole story.


On the contrary, for some things the (relatively small looking) difference IS what's important.  In those cases, showing a graph that starts from 0 would be worse than useless.

There ARE times when it would be better to focus on the entire range starting from zero, but it's oversimplifying at best (and downright dumb at worst) to say every graph should start at 0.

To be fair, that isn't quite what you were saying, I realize.  I'm responding more to what Kelly Jackson said than what was posted.
2012-12-31 11:02:43 AM
1 votes:
It could be 110% if they asked 11 people and one of them died before the study was published.
2012-12-31 10:42:17 AM
1 votes:

DerAppie: plcow: This is one of mine. The news always zooms in the Y-axis, thus showing wild volatility that is normal in nature, but that smooths out when you zoom out and show the whole chart. You might not always have to show zero, but at least show the entire range of the data as far back as needed to tell the whole story.

Showing zero is something that should always be done. I have seen far to many graphs which, at a glance, look like they show very interesting data. But then you look at the axis and you'll see that the y-axis goes from 500 to 550 with point one being 505 and point 2 being 545. Since people suck at remembering where they got information form there will be people who remember that the graph showed a very large difference, the second bar was 9x the size, but the other people who will keep correcting them will note that the difference was less than 10%.

Example: you want people to stop eating crayons because it is bad for your health. Which of these graphs would you show them?


My pet peeve is not labeling axes. What is y? "Crayon-related fatalities per million children"? If so, your graph shows the benefit of crayon-eating, and therefore we should make it mandatory in all schools for children to eat their crayons.
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-12-31 09:02:46 AM
1 votes:
My pet peeve is when ads or articles cite murder rates or death rates by saying 'That's one murder every 10 minutes,' or, 'Someone is dying from starvation every five seconds,

The rate I prefer is years per death, e.g. if NYC has 10 million people and 10,000 murders per year the figure is 1,000 years. The figure for death from all causes is about 80 years, so murder in our hypothetical NYC is a significant cause of death but not the probable cause of death.

It's amazing, even in our complex modern world, how many assertions fail simple 'back of the envelope' reasonable estimates with elementary computations

I see this all the time in transportation planning. One study purported to show that speed cameras had been beneficial, when by the authors' own figures the cost of time wasted by slowing down exceeded all the alleged benefits.
 
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