It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

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Hacking and password security

My recent article on why password security matters to all of us, and especially those of us who run accounts for organizations and businesses, originally posted on the Resource Media Blog.   Another day, another data breach. We have been inured to the news of corporations being hacked and our data being spilled out into the black market: Target, Home Depot, Anthem, Primera, American Express, Chase, Twitter… These represent large scale, sophisticated hacks, in most cases, targeting personal and financial information. But they are by no means the only security breaches that take place and affect millions of people. Individually we may be concerned about our bank account our email account being hacked. But as is often pointed out, we humans tend to worry about the wrong risks (stranger abduction rather than accidents as a threat to child safety, for example).  But every day many of us do something that puts us and our organizations in jeopardy. We use weak passwords and we share them in plain text over email. For the average individual, the chances of this vulnerability being exploited may be rather low and the impact can range from a relatively minor inconvenience to a major headache. But for individuals that manage organizational media, the damage can be major. Take, for example, the recent hacking of Big Think’s Facebook page. While the details are not yet clear, it is very likely, from what I understand, that a hacker gained access to one of the page admin’s accounts. The hacker then made his or herself an admin and deleted the legitimate admins. Though Big Think was able to...

I love pie, I hate pie charts

Reading through Tableau’s recent white paper, Which Chart Or Graph Is Right For You, I was heartened to see this explanation of pie carts: Pie charts should be used to show relative proportions – or percentages – of information. That’s it. Despite this narrow recommendation for when to use pies, they are made with abandon. As a result, they are the most commonly mis-used chart type. If you are trying to compare data, leave it to bars or stacked bars. Don’t ask your viewer to translate pie wedges into relevant data or compare one pie to another. Key points from your data will be missed and the viewer has to work too hard. AMEN! If you have to create charts or graphs, or interpret data for work or fun, you should review this white...

Time and money will be wasted

This weekend 80 to 100 coders will join others at the Seattle Hack The Commute Hackathon. The one thing I can guarantee that will happen is time and money will be wasted. Some might say I am being negative, but I firmly believe there is no software that can solve the commute and traffic problems that Seattle is experiencing. How much money? Well, 100 coders who command an average rate of $100 will blow through $160,000 in (free) labor across 2 8 hour days. Let’s be clear, the problem is not construction, the problem is too many people want to drive private and often single occupancy vehicles to and from work in the central business district.  The problem is also that there are not sufficient fast and convenient public transit options.  Software cannot solve these two problems.  We need to fund more transit options and create serious disincentives for people to drive SOVs into the CBD every day. Here is my free advice: make parking cost a minimum of $25/day in the CBD. That will modify behavior. Pass a transit package that will increase frequency and reliability of mass transit. Build more mass transit with dedicate, grade separated right-of-way. We don’t need more hackathons with largely homogeneous groups of coders and tech people trying to solve problems with software that actually require policy...

The Circular Timeline, My Data Visualization Nemesis

In a few recent presentations/trainings that I’ve given through my work at Resource Media on the topic of data visualization, I’ve pointed to one particular circular timeline visualization that drives me crazy. It’s the “sleep habits of geniuses” visualization that came out in the summer of 2014, and made the rounds on blogs and news sites.  I hate this visualization for the following reasons: It looks pretty but is not user friendly There is no significance to the color The viewer cannot easily determine the total number of hours of sleep for any one of the “geniuses” The area (and length) of each arc does not relate to the total number of hours, giving the visual impression that the people on the inner most part of the graphic have less sleep than the those on the outside of the graphic, even if they have the same amount of sleep. The visual analogy is of a clock face, but rather than showing only 12 hours, it shows 24 The white/black background is split 12 to 12 rather than 6 to 6 which would be more aligned with day/night. When I raised these critiques at the Seattle Tech4Good Meetup, one of my co-presenters, Ben Jones from Tableau pointed me at this Tableau Viz, which turns the data into more of a bar chart and adds some significance to the colors. I went a little less artsy and more utilitarian with my version of the genius data visualization. I was happy to find a specialist in data visualization and design, Alberto Cairo, voice some of the same concerns about another circular...