Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chartjunk or Communication?

EagerEyes recently posted about a study investigation the memorability of graphics and data. That brings to mind my earlier thoughts about communication. You may have the best data in the world but if it's not communicated well, then you've missed the target. I suppose which path you take depends on your audience.

When you're presenting to an audience of a similar backround or perhaps more knowledgeable about that data than yourself, minimize chartjunk and seek to present the data in as unbiased a manner as possible.

When you're the expert and are seeking to communicate the results of your interpretation, resist the "curse of knowledge" and incorporate some of the suggestions from Made to Stick to increase the memorability of the results and analysis. A perfect data presentation following Tufte's guidance may not be the optimal solution.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Expanding your Skills

I haven't posted much this year. My excuse is that I've been spending time learning PHP and Python programming. In the case of PHP It seems I don't have an immediate need for that knowledge but since it is commonly used to control many websites it seemed prudent to at least get a basic knowledge of that language.

A knowledge of Python has been more useful. I expect that Python aficionados will give many reasons to use that language, but I've found it useful for processing text files generated by our lab equipment to create summaries so they can be processed by our software to input data in a LIMS.

Don't be stagnant in your skills but continue to explore new areas. Some may not be immediately useful (like PHP in my case) and others will be. However, without exploring something new, you'll never be open to the possibilities that the new skill may present. Don't get stuck being happy with the status quo because you don't know what else is possible because your skills remain focused in a narrow area.