When will we decide to provide lots of value?

by Enrico on October 14, 2010

in Thoughts

Visualization and data analysis are definitely in the hype today. New blogs, companies, products, software, artists, come to light every day and yes, this is a great moment to be in the field.

But despite all this success and abundance of material I have a problem: how do we expect people to become data visualization specialists?

We people in the field, especially those of us who are in the education or blogging business, cannot avoid this question and I contend that the question of how people can learn to design and interpret visualizations is pivotal for the future of our field.

Some people have complained in the past about the abundance of “bad” examples on the web, like if this was the main problem of our field. I agree that the success of visualization blogs specialized on news might (maybe) induce people get the wrong impression that visualization is all about pretty pictures. But wait a minute … cannot exposing lots of people to lots of visualizations be a way to induce people thinking more visually and get cought in the loop? Isn’t that a good thing? This increased exposure has the potential to increase visual literacy, even if bad examples are everywhere, or at least awareness. Again, isn’t that a good thing? So, I am not sure this is the real problem. Or at least not the main one.

A more subtle and substantial issue is whether people have easy access and exposure to quality content, once they decide they are interested. Where are these resources? Where are the blogs that help people learn? Where are the tutorials and ebooks? And what about the seminars?

The web has the potential to be an enormous resource for people who want to become visualization experts or just aficionados but we have nothing to offer! Or do we?

Let me iterate over this point with examples. In other areas there is a whole wealth of material on the web and novices can, most of the time, distinguish crap from quality source. But if the resources are so scarce what should people distinguish from? There’s nothing to compare and whatever comes is accepted as it is. A flood of crap mixed with gems.

I’ve been recently struck by how many good examples of (free) ebooks or video material exist on the web. And the level of succes they can achieve is umbelievable!

Few examples … I could have added hundreds, really. And what’s their common element: LOTS OF VALUE. Where are the equivalents in visualization and data analysis? When will we decide to provide lots of value?Again.

When will we decide to provide lots of value?

C’mon folks we can do better than this. Let’s start giving away our knowledge for free and with passion. By the way, on a side note, this is the best investment you can do in your personal and professional life (want to know why? send me a note).

  • Joe Mako

    The most valuable blog in my list is Stephen Few’s at http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/

    And if you want ebooks, check out the PDFs at http://www.perceptualedge.com/library.php#Articles

    I believe that if someone new to visualization read through those articles and posts, they would be well equipped.

    • Enrico

      Yes, that’s right. But first, this is just one single source, I’d love to have many, with different perspectives, styles and approaches. Second, this material, while it is certainly wonderful (I am a big fan of Stephen Few too) and helpful, it is not particularly organized. Do we really expect people to learn out of this mess and scarcity? That’s the main point of my post actually.

      Anyway, thanks for your references Joe … you reminded me of several of these whitepapers I would like to read or re-read.

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