January 5th 2010

Chart Wars

TargetPoint's VP and Director of Research, Alex Lundry, was recently a featured speaker at DC Ignite, an evening of short presentations in which participants are limited to 5 minutes and precisely 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. 

The title of his talk is Chart Wars: The Political Power of Data Visualization, and you can view it below:

Comments on this entry

Noah Iliinsky about 6 years ago
Great talk! Alex is spot on. Very good stuff.

Viewers may also enjoy my related ignite talk on visualizing complexity at:

Cheers, Noah
Steave about 6 years ago

Can you be so kind and write in comment the title of the books, cause on visual language for example I got totally different results.

Your presentation was uber cool!

Alex Lundry about 6 years ago

Steave - happy to do so.  The four books I recommended are:

1) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte.

2) Show Me The Numbers, by Stephen Few.

3) Visual Language For Designers, by Connie Malamed.

4) Brain Rules, by John Medina.


Martin about 6 years ago
Sorry, but my english sucks :P, and I didn't heard the website you name about colours and sacales; can somebody answer this?
Eric Ast about 6 years ago

Alex - Great synopsis.  To go along with your H.G. Wells adaptation, the same can be said for Mark Twains "Lies, Damn Lies and <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> Statistics Visualization".  Given the power of the medium, how easy it is to manipulate, and how little background most people have in data analysis and interpretation, can you think of what can be, or is being done to remove a bit of the mystique and make the practice a bit more fair?

- Eric

Alex Lundry about 6 years ago

Martin - the website is


Eric - it's funny you mention that Twain quote, because I had initially thought about calling the presentation "Lies, Damned Lies, and Charts" but ultimately decided against it.  I feel as though that Twain quote has been taken by many to mean simply that statistics are lies and I think that's unfair.  Certainly both statistics and charts can be used to lie and manipulate (and indeed that was part of the point of my presentation) but even more often they can be used to illuminate and reveal.  Like any tool it can be used for both good and bad alike.

To directly answer your question though, I think that a major first step to limit charts that lie and manipulate is opening up access to raw data. If all sides and ideologies can get to the data they can conduct their own analysis and create their own charts to tell their side of the story.

- Alex

Eric Ast about 6 years ago

Alex - Thanks for the response, and sorry for the horrendous formatting in the last comment. 

I didn't mean to overstate the negative, and agree that there's often an unfair perception of statistics and analysis, with not enough credit given to the positive powers they hold.  The classic example that comes to mind is John Snow's graphical represenation of the 1854 London Cholera outbreak, which showed the relationship between the disease and the water supply, and saved numerous lives -

Eric Ast

Eric Ast about 6 years ago

And also, good take on how to level the playing field.  I think more access to raw data would help out, but it's tough to shake people's first impression if they see a powerful, but perhaps skewed vision first.  Maybe instilling a healthy skepticism is a good way to keep people open to future arguments over a graphic and the underlying data.


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