“Good answers lead to more good questions” (standout)

In the Ethics of Data Viz, a gifted lecturer from U Miami presented an abbreviated version of his upcoming book about being truthful with graphics.

Alberto Cairo suggested these were the 5 features of great viz:
1. Truthful (be honest, don’t lie to yourself)
2. Functionality (be clear, and use appropriate tools)
3. Beautiful (bring attention to relevant info)
4. Insightful (reveal hidden truths)
5. Enlightening (don’t forget the primary goal is to contrubue to understanding)

“If I only use words, I am forcing you to imagine all those things in your mind,” he said. “What I am doing when I create the graphic… Is to take the effort out of your brain and put it on the paper.”

Cairo’s first pilar also brought him to the topic of ethics, asking whether a story is being told ethically as opposed to legally. He also pushed back against the “ethically dubious” Prop8 maps project and another angenda-driven cable company data project.

He called it “The modern jungle of spin dishonesty punditry and the resulting widespread mistrust.”

Ethics, he argued, depends on core goal of improving understanding of issues while trying to minimize the harm of the activity. But suggests that this shouldn’t just be a journalistic goal, should be a civic goal for everyone.

“Truth is not an absolute, truth is a continuum. We can be true and we can be truer,” he said.

Cairo supports the promise of mainstream visualization with new, free tools., but said the duty falls to us to teach good practices.

Before the conference

Prediction: Data viz and video will be the lesson of ONA14

When I go out to an ONA conference, I enjoy some of the speculative discussions and industry review but I judge my experience on the lessons I can take back and work with.

Last year, after I left the Online News Association’s conference in Atlanta, I realized that maps were a primary lesson from the conference. My notes from those three days are full of tutorials and tips about mapping.

This year, the schedule shows significantly fewer lessons about mapping — but there are a dominant number of sessions about data visualizations. Some of those lessons are taking place on the midway, which seems to involve more scheduled events than last year. Many others take place in the ballrooms-turned-classrooms.

Ironically, big data was the subject of last year’s keynote by Nate Silver (of FiveThirtyEight fame).

While I know that we’re probably behind the cutting-edge on our ability to use and present data, I must wonder if it is as valuable to the business as it is interesting to the reporter.

Video-related sessions are also frequent, which is great because video has become a clear focus in our digital news strategies. I’m certain that these are valuable to the consumer and the business, and I wish there were more sessions on the topic.

By my quick (and totally unofficial) count, the schedule includes at least 20 scheduled events related to working with data – either about gathering or presenting with various tools. I also count at least eight scheduled events related to video.

As soon as the conference begins on Sept. 25, I’ll start posting notes here — and I hope to get a few of my Scripps co-workers to post their notes too!

~Phil Tenser