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Avoiding Data Pitfalls


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Table of Contents

Preface ix Chapter 1 The Seven Types of Data Pitfalls 1 Seven Types of Data Pitfalls 3 Pitfall 1: Epistemic Errors: How We Think About Data 3 Pitfall 2: Technical Traps: How We Process Data 4 Pitfall 3: Mathematical Miscues: How We Calculate Data 4 Pitfall 4: Statistical Slipups: How We Compare Data 5 Pitfall 5: Analytical Aberrations: How We Analyze Data 5 Pitfall 6: Graphical Gaffes: How We Visualize Data 6 Pitfall 7: Design Dangers: How We Dress up Data 6 Avoiding the Seven Pitfalls 7 "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up" 8 Chapter 2 Pitfall 1: Epistemic Errors 11 How We Think About Data 11 Pitfall 1A: The Data-Reality Gap 12 Pitfall 1B: All Too Human Data 24 Pitfall 1C: Inconsistent Ratings 32 Pitfall 1D: The Black Swan Pitfall 39 Pitfall 1E: Falsifiability and the God Pitfall 43 Avoiding the Swan Pitfall and the God Pitfall 44 Chapter 3 Pitfall 2: Technical Trespasses 47 How We Process Data 47 Pitfall 2A: The Dirty Data Pitfall 48 Pitfall 2B: Bad Blends and Joins 67 Chapter 4 Pitfall 3: Mathematical Miscues 74 How We Calculate Data 74 Pitfall 3A: Aggravating Aggregations 75 Pitfall 3B: Missing Values 83 Pitfall 3C: Tripping on Totals 88 Pitfall 3D: Preposterous Percents 93 Pitfall 3E: Unmatching Units 102 Chapter 5 Pitfall 4: Statistical Slipups 107 How We Compare Data 107 Pitfall 4A: Descriptive Debacles 109 Pitfall 4B: Inferential Infernos 131 Pitfall 4C: Slippery Sampling 136 Pitfall 4D: Insensitivity to Sample Size 142 Chapter 6 Pitfall 5: Analytical Aberrations 148 How We Analyze Data 148 Pitfall 5A: The Intuition/Analysis False Dichotomy 149 Pitfall 5B: Exuberant Extrapolations 157 Pitfall 5C: Ill-Advised Interpolations 163 Pitfall 5D: Funky Forecasts 166 Pitfall 5E: Moronic Measures 168 Chapter 7 Pitfall 6: Graphical Gaffes 173 How We Visualize Data 173 Pitfall 6A: Challenging Charts 175 Pitfall 6B: Data Dogmatism 202 Pitfall 6C: The Optimize/Satisfice False Dichotomy 207 Chapter 8 Pitfall 7: Design Dangers 212 How We Dress up Data 212 Pitfall 7A: Confusing Colors 214 Pitfall 7B: Omitted Opportunities 222 Pitfall 7C: Usability Uh-Ohs 227 Chapter 9 Conclusion 237 Avoiding Data Pitfalls Checklist 241 The Pitfall of the Unheard Voice 243 Index 247

About the Author

BEN JONES is the Founder and CEO of Data Literacy, LLC, a company that's on a mission to help people speak the language of data. He's the author of Communicating Data with Tableau and 17 Key Traits of Data Literacy, and he also teaches data visualization at the University of Washington's Continuum College. With over 20 years of experience working as a mechanical engineer, a continuous improvement project leader and mentor, and a business intelligence marketer, Ben has learned a great deal about what to do and what not to do when working with data.

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