The quotable Stephen Few




The nice thing about Stephen Few is that, as he is not beholden to any software companies, he can be blunt in his appraisals of the programs we know and love (and hate).  Here are a few gems:

"Just for fun, I decided to go all out and take advantage of the one other visual design option that Graphwise offers: the ability to put an image in the background of the graph, which they call a watermark. From the many pictures of animals, buildings, furniture, etc., I decided to dress up the arctic cool version of my graph by appropriately pairing it with a penguin.  I particularly like how I was able to make the penguin’s beak reach for the high value of 100,000. This might look cool (arctic cool, even) , but it is an example of dysfunctionality at its worst."  [In what respect is this venture wise?]

graphwise-figure-_9

"Try to decipher the patterns and values in the following chart. Come on, give it your best shot. Even if I offered a cash prize to anyone who managed to come close, it wouldn’t be worth your effort to try, because you’d be forced to use the prize money to pay a doctor to fix the damage done to your eyes." [Dysfunction at its finest]

step-chart

"...Here’s a radar chart that you could use to compare the performance of three products across eight years of time. Did you know that time is circular and that in the year 2007 we have returned to where we began in 1999? Despite this revelation, I’m finding it hard to relinquish my notion that time is linear and my desire to see this information in a simple line graph." [Dysfunction at its finest]

radar-chart

"A vendor that claims to be the best, which this one unabashedly claims (just like every other major BI vendor), should be ashamed of selling such moronic products. Don’t reward them for irresponsible work—products that assume their customers are halfwits—by wasting your money on them." [Fast track to nowhere]

"...Don’t insult the intelligence of the business intelligence community by gluing a carrot on the head of a goat and calling it a unicorn. That only works at carnivals for children and drunks." [Newsflash: BI discovers the obvious]

This is not a knock on him; I'm a little jealous.  I think his books are fantastic (and have the new one on preorder), thoroughly enjoyed his keynote at the QlikView partner conference last year, and have no doubt of his objectivity.  He's doing his job.  Mine is to communicate data effectively...even with some of the tools he is referencing in those quotes.  It is possible, even if it cannot be found in the vendors' sales material or default visualization settings.

TAGS: Business Intelligence, Visualization

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