Data and Statistics

If you stacked a bunch of things end to end, it would reach the moon and back twice. If you lined up all the candy made in that factory each day, it would be the weight of 13 farming vehicles.

But what does that mean to me? Do I have a better sense of “10 million candies” when it’s presented in units of “football fields”?

The first question should really be: do we think people struggle with the idea of “our factory makes 10 million candies every day?”

Because they’re probably not struggling with that idea… which means you don’t have to come up with a (meaningless) way to try to clarify it.

If your clarification makes it muddier, you’re doing it wrong.

I definitely have a better sense of numbers of things produced or sold than lengths of football fields, weights of rhinos, or distances to astronomical bodies (and back). In fact, I understand numbers and units of time really well.

The second question will be: what do your customers or users understand? What will they need clarified?

It’s then your responsibility to explain it to them on their level in a way that makes it completely easy, clear, and intuitive.

Real ones I found posted on the web.

The height of a stack of 100,000,000 (one hundred million) one dollar bills measures 35,851 feet or 6.79 miles. This would reach from the earth’s surface to the approximate altitude at which commercial jetliners fly.

I understand 6.79 (or 7) miles pretty well. Comparing it to how high a plane flies over the earth’s sea level doesn’t make that clearer.

The area covered by 100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion) one dollar bills measures 400 square miles. This would cover an area equal to one-third the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Yeah from the same web page. I don’t have a great sense of the size of Rhode Island or a third of Rhode Island.

A mole of 2-liter bottles stacked end to end would encircle the sun how many times?

Why. Just why. Does this count the distance of our bottles getting to and from the sun? Or they just magically arrived at the sun and now are circling it? And won’t they melt?

Stacked end-to-end these pages would stretch nearly 9,230 miles long, about the same distance between Boulder, CO & the continent of Africa!

That was a tweet and it didn’t say which pages. But I definitely can’t envision the distance between Boulder and Africa. Where in Africa?

400 Football Fields Could Fit Inside Samsung’s New Semiconductor Complex.

Um, American football? Australian Rules Football is played on cricket pitches, which vary in size.

Consider what has meaning to your audience.

Make sure whatever you say has meaning to your audience. Wacky facts can be confusing or distracting. If you have a figure that needs clarification, can you put it in terms that make sense to me every day? Time in units I deal with daily? Distances I deal with daily?

If people are likely to understand the information and data you have, then don’t translate it. Nobody needs to see a number of months represented as seconds. That’s not cool. It’s meaningless.

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How many times has a post like this ended up in your news feed?


And then let’s say you share it. If you’re like me or my Facebook friends, by default, your shares and posts are set to “Friends Only.” That means this teacher will never see that you shared it.

What if you share one that was someone else’s share? The teacher might not see that if she’s just looking at how many shares her original post received. What if you pressed like on your friend’s share of it? The teacher won’t see that either.

Those students are not going to get the right info or data about how far this post really went.

Here’s How To Do This Right

Step 1: Write your message. Make sure you mention elementary age school kids, sexting, security, or safety. Could be middle school or high school. I saw one where the teacher had written that her school kids thought it was OK to post pictures of themselves in their bras and underwear.

Step 2: Come up with a probably-unique hashtag like #apr2015internetsafety. Ask people who share it to tag the picture with that hash tag. Side note: in case some freako uses that hashtag for NSFW stuff, teachers, make sure you are checking these things before showing them in class to students.

Step 3. Ask people who share it to make sure that their Facebook share is a PUBLIC post. The kids can only see public posts. They can’t see posts I made just to my Facebook friends. Shares have to be public.

Step 4: If the goal is really to see WHERE this post ends up geographically, ask people when sharing to post their location (generally) like city and state.

Step 5: If you want to teach kids how many people could see a post, have the people who share it also say how many Facebook friends and followers they have.

That means someone sharing it might create a public post that says, “San Francisco, CA. 300 friends, 60 followers. #apr2015internetsafety” The teacher can see how many likes and shares that got, and follow everything like a neural network.

Now you’re cooking with gas. Everything else just seems is a sharing black hole since the original teacher will have no real way to track it all down later. But if she can go to Facebook and look for her hashtag, then she can now collect some good/better data.

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Using imagery to show people something that may be important… that’s a good idea!

Cheesing out and making very few images and then showing people the same image when the data falls into a range? Not as helpful.

How much battery do I have left in each of these images?

ScreenHunter_17 Dec. 05 11.10

ScreenHunter_18 Dec. 05 11.29

ScreenHunter_19 Dec. 05 12.06

That went from 93%, which should look “nearly full” to 62%, which should look about half full. But the same image was used for this whole range. At a glance, I may think my battery life is seriously compromised when it’s still ninety-something percent.

Bad, bad data vis.

PS: White text on light green = hard to read, especially at a glance… and especially for color blind people.

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I recently ran an experiment. I had a blog post here. I posted it to my Facebook page. And I wanted to try “boosting” it so more people would see that Facebook post (and hopefully click it to see the blog post). Seems simple, right?

For a flat fee, Facebook will offer to push your post to a range of people. I chose to spend $60 on the 2900-6000 range. That makes you assume what??? Oooo I might get 6000 people. Right there, Facebook should do a better job setting expectations. I’ve run lots of Facebook ads that promised lots of “reach,” and they always come in at the low end.

I also chose to push the boosted post to friends of people who already like my Facebook page. This was mostly an experiment for me, so I didn’t get too crazy with targeting. I created my ad and Facebook created 2 versions of it for the sake of reporting/tracking. One was what was shown to the people who already like my page (weird, I thought I was just showing the boost to their friends and not them) and one was show to their friends.

Let’s start with one main metric you need to know. Click to enlarge.

ScreenHunter_127 Sep. 01 17.38

Post engagements. 58 of them according to Facebook. At $1.03 each, I spent the $60 I chose to spend at the beginning of the Boost process. OK what are post engagements?

Click to enlarge, and then let’s discuss what’s here because it gets really slimey really fast.

ScreenHunter_126 Sep. 01 17.32

Here’s another slice of it, click to enlarge:

ScreenHunter_128 Sep. 01 17.40

And yet another slice from the post itself:

ScreenHunter_129 Sep. 01 17.45

And from many clicks deep, there’s this:

ScreenHunter_131 Sep. 01 17.54

There are a lot of confusing and possibly misleading things here:

  • My post got 0 shares according to this. How did it get 1 comment on a share if it got zero shares?
  • Yes, the post got 2 comments. One was from a friend of a friend. The second was me responding to her. I saw another screen that made it look like those 2 comments were part of my 58 post engagements. So did I pay $1.03 for my own comment because that’s a post engagement?
  • I have 58 “post engagemgents” but 11 “likes, comments, and shares.” Well then what are the other 47? Not sure. Can’t be clicks to my website because Facebook claims there’s 48 of those, and I’m looking for something that represents 47. If Facebook is being precise, I’ll be precise too.
  • I have 51 clicks. 48 supposedly to my website’s blog page. 3 on “other.” Do we not know what “other” represents? The info icon says that an “other” click is on the page title or “see more.” Ummm, OK.
  • Wait, do I have 51 clicks, 48 clicks, or 47 clicks? I’m so lost.
  • That number of clicks doesn’t match what Google Analytics reports from those days from Facebook as a source. Goog shows fewer than that by about 25%.
  • I have how many of what??? One place says reach was 2906 people. But then it also says 3180 people reached and 3174 of those were paid. So which is it?

What did I really end up with?

Tangibly, I ended up with 1 new like to my Facebook page and 1 comment on the post. I probably got about 30 people going to my blog post to read it (based on Google Analytics and not Facebook’s claim of clicks).

Facebook counted my own comment on the post as a “post engagement,” and it looked like they do math like this:

Total spent divided by totally wanky number of post engagements = your cost per engagement. Well then please don’t count MY replies in that!

Why don’t the stats match up with each other? What is reach REALLY? What the hell is a post engagement?

As usual, I’m unhappy with having spent money running some sort of ad on Facebook. It always seems so unrewarding and like money was just sucked from me for no good reason. The stats don’t match up. Reporting is weird. It’s all very uninspiring.

But of course, Facebook wants me to boost that post again for more reach!

ScreenHunter_132 Sep. 01 17.56

For $15, I can reach 3500 – 9200 people. Well, are those unique people? Or are those in addition to the nearly 3200 you say I already reached? Could you take $15 from me, reach 300, and say we’re done? I can’t tell. This is just completely unclear (and I’m not going to do it for the experiment).

The ranges are also kinda weird. For $50, I can reach 4600 – 12000 or for $60 for 4800 – 13000. So I could spend $50 or $60 and end up with 4800. That seems a little weird.

I also noticed I’m not paying specifically for post engagements.

I spent $60. I got somewhere between 2909 and 3184 “reach” based on which of Facebook’s numbers you believe. I got 58 post engagements, and I was told that means they were $1.03 each. But I didn’t get to bid on post engagements. I didn’t get to say HEY I’ll pay a dollar each for a post engagement, and run this ad until I’ve spent $60.

The tail wagged the dog. I got X amount of reach. I got Y amount of post engagements (whatever those are). And then the math was done later as some sort of “cost per.”

It would be interesting if like regular Facebook ads you could pay per click or engagement and bid on that amount. Otherwise, this is the old pay per impressions model (reach are impressions) later manipulated to look like pay per action. Which also ends up feeling like I paid for over 3100 people to see my ad and ignore it, assuming we believe that Facebook showed it to them.

I hope someday someone at Facebook decides that consistency and honest are important in all of their ad products.

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I warned you before about these penny bidding auction sites. But I have an interesting angle for you today.

From DealDash’s terms of service:

By registering and using DealDash you understand that you are likely to spend more money than you may receive in merchandise value. Most customers using the site gain less in merchandise value measured in monetary value compared to the amount of money spent bidding to win auctions. Do not buy bids or spend money on the site if you cannot afford to lose the money.

Absorb that a moment. You are likely to spend more money than you get in merchandise value. Most customers spend more than they should to (try to) get stuff. People who lose auctions here don’t get back what they paid for bidding. Yes, here bids cost money whether you win the item or not.

It goes on…

DealDash is convinced that the entertainment value of participating in its auctions is valued and that paying a premium price for this entertainment value compared to shopping at the lowest priced retailer is fair.

Let me translate that for you. DealDash believes you will have so much fun gambling on possibly winning the item that you won’t mind playing a higher price. Like your time at a slot machine, you’re paying for entertainment whether or not you win.

I wonder if people who walk away from a slot machine having lost money notice they feel entertained.

In summary, if you want to shop at the “lowest priced retailer,” it’s not DealDash, where they are selling you entertainment more than they’re selling you goods, certainly not discounted goods.

Remember that if an iPad sells for $13.66 on DealDash, that means there were 1366 penny-incremented bids that DealDash collected 60 cents each on. DealDash collected nearly $820 for that item. If 1 out of every 5 bids were yours, then you spent about $164. Winning an iPad for $164 sounds good. Being one if four theoretical people that spent $164 and got no iPad probably sucked.

Don’t fall for the commercials telling you how fair and honest this is. The more anybody tells you something is fair and honest, the more you should assume it’s not.

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You’ve been told by someone that you should eat lots of whole grains. Everybody got on the whole grains bus and now a bunch of crappy foods are made with whole grains. You now think you must be doing something nutritionally good.

Unwhole grains are unholy.

Unwhole grains are another way of saying processed grains… grains that have had the key nutritional bits removed. Take your standard white flour, which can be used for seemingly-everything from breading your chicken wings to baking your cupcakes to being the key ingredient in your breads and pastas. Here’s how the nutrition on something like that looks:

  • 1 cup (158 grams) of white flour
  • 578 calories. 1 cup of white flour has about 1/4 of the calories suggested that you eat in an entire DAY.
  • Low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Great.
  • 126 grams of carbs. Less than 4 grams of “dietary fibre.” So 2.5% of it is healthy fiber.
  • Not much protein or vitamins. You’re not eating chicken wings and cupcakes for the vitamins.

This is what you’re eating all day in your bagels, macaronis, and on sandwiches. A giant pile of high-calorie carbs with pretty much no nutritional value. It’s sadly the foundation of an American diet, even for vegetarian and vegans (who aren’t reading labels).

Now let’s talk about whole grains. Whole grains are unrefined and still have the healthier parts of the grains included. And that implies that we’re talking about non-GMO grains. Anything Monsanto has touched, well Lord knows what’s in that.

Let’s consider quinoa.

  • 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa
  • 222 calories. Less than half what the same amount of white flour had.
  • Low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Great.
  • 39 grams of carbs. 5 grams of dietary fibre.
  • Not much vitamins but it has 8g of protein and 15% of your daily value of iron.
  • Plus it’s gluten free for anybody looking to avoid gluten.

You’ve heard you should eat brown rice with your Chinese food instead of white rice. Well, eating brown rice will give you a bit more fiber but also a bit more calories.

Well if the whole point is to have fibre, what should I be eating?

The foods with the highest amounts of fibre include bran (yeah, just bran), cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, raspberries, celery, squash, and kidney beans.

Notice that other than bran, NONE of the foods in the top 10 are grains.

The health promises of whole grains are mostly a lie unless you are eating the right things.

If you are eating crappy processed oatmeal with sugar, preservatives, and it promises some “whole grains,” what have you really eaten? Did you really get any of the nutrition your body needs? What nutritional elements are you getting daily from your pasta, bagel, sandwich bread, cookies, pizza, cereal, etc…? I suggest you are getting nearly zero nutrition and mostly empty calories from these things.

And have you ever noticed how quickly you’re hungry again? You could eat a whole bowl of Cheerios and be ready to eat some more in an hour. This is one of many reasons why “all you can eat pasta” is such a bad idea. No nutrition, endless calories.

You’re eating whole grains to reduce your risk factors for heart disease, cancers, and other health issues. Is the rest of your diet aimed at that goal?

I would bet that staying away from starches, especially refined flours and grains, would give you just as many health benefits if not more than eating “whole grains” or products made with whole grains. What if you got your fibre mostly from broccoli instead of the small amount of truly whole wheat you’re getting each day.

Keep reading labels because wheat and whole wheat aren’t the same thing. Whole grains and “made with whole grains” aren’t the same thing. Don’t believe the lies and don’t tell yourself lies about nutrition. We can all do better for ourselves and the children. 🙂

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There’s a lot of buzz about Disney’s new MagicBands at Disney World in Florida. In the old days, when you stayed and played, you got a card with a swipe strip. This was your hotel room key, room charge card, park tickets, and how you got your FastPasses (that let you dodge long line rides by coming back later).

MagicBands replace the cards. You wear a wrist band with an RFID chip and tiny battery. This wrist band gets waved all over the place to open your hotel room door, charge things to your room, get into parks, and get FastPasses. You can also associate pictures Disney staff and rides take of you with your PhotoPass account.

Since they’re using RFID, some people are getting nervous. They’re concerned that Disney will track their movements around the park. And think of the children! They might track children, and isn’t that a breach of privacy!!!

I don’t see it that way.

Thing 1, Disney World is a public place. What is my expectation of privacy in a public place? Not much when in theory, a marketing person could follow me ALL DAY and write down everything I do, eat, buy, ride, etc…

Thing 2, I’m sure before MagicBands tracked people, there were plenty of other ways to track people. The old card system knew where I was, what I was buying, where I stayed, and what FastPasses I got. Cameras can watch me everywhere. Experts track people’s movement through parks and shops. Disney even has/had a manual system that helps them know how long a ride wait is. They’d give someone entering the line something they had to give to the staffer who seats you on the ride. They then know how long that wait was.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think Disney weren’t the masters of tracking, understanding, and catering to human behaviour, even before RFID got involved.

Thing 3, I don’t remember a giant outcry when Disney World sold “Pal Mickey.” He was a stuffed plush Mickey that told you stories, asked trivia questions, and tried to keep you occupied when waiting on lines. But he also reminded you when parades were, and he told you when certain characters were near you. This means he had RFID or something in him that knew where you were.

Thing 4, let’s say Disney is using some long range tracking around the parks to see who’s moving around where and how. Let’s say your child is lost in EPCOT, which is a 300 acre park. And they don’t make announcements over speakers for lost children like it’s Walmart. Would you be happy that MagicBands saw your kid at The Land pavilion 7 minutes ago, helping you find your lost child more quickly?

Does that mean I’m for this? Well, it’s a vacation experience with a company known for forward-thinking technology. And you can opt out. They’ll give you the old card if you don’t want the wrist band. And I also believe Disney will keep the data for themselves and their use to improve the parks, guest experiences, and get people to spend more and stay longer.

I also think the data Disney collects is nearly useless to anybody else. What can Procter and Gamble do knowing how long the average woman is in a Disney bathroom? What can Coca Cola do knowing what the average guest spends on souvenirs? What can Siemens do knowing the average guest eats chicken fingers for lunch and then rides the carousel?

So I don’t feel particularly afraid of the data or how it will be used. It seems like a very specific application to me. I guess I can’t really find the problem here. This info won’t come up when you Google me. Nobody is going to call my house or mail me flyers. Pictures of children won’t be on the internet (more than Moms and Dads post them now).

So I’m not sure what the problem REALLY is. MagicBands are a more efficient way for Disney to do what they were already doing in a public place.

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Because I bet everybody out there gets ads and emails that make NO sense for who we are and what surrounds us.

I have no children. Don’t send me Back To School specials.

I have no parents. Don’t send me Mothers or Fathers Day stuff.

My dog died in 2010. Don’t send me doggie health insurance stuff.

I don’t believe in diamond engagement rings. I hope nobody buys me one. Don’t push me ads for engagement rings because you know I’m in a serious long term relationship.

I don’t buy girly shoes or pocketbooks. Don’t push me ads for those.

I don’t own a home. Don’t push me ads for refinancing or avoiding foreclosure.

I’d think that some online database about me might know things from what I DON’T search or buy. Like hey, this is a 41 yr old woman who has never searched for anything with the word “engagement” or “wedding” in it. Never shopped for children’s clothing or toys. Has never searched for anything including “pregnancy” or “prenatal.” Stopped sending Mothers Day flowers some years ago. Has never shopped online for Fathers Day. Has never searched for anything including “purse,” “handbag,” “pocketbook,” “heels,” “pumps,” “stilettos,” or “Blahnik.”

I almost wish there were a national marketing database. I’d love to not get ads that have nothing to do with my life. And advertisers would probably love to focus on people likely to buy from them.


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I’m a major Disney geek… mostly Walt Disney World in Florida more than Disneyland or the movies. I feel like I grew up in WDW, and going there is like going home PLUS mountains of fun and great food.

Right now, when you visit Disney, you get a key card. This opens your hotel door. If you bought park tickets, it’s your park ticket. If you are approved for room charges, you can use it to eat, buy souvenirs, etc… all over the whole of WDW (parks, hotels, shopping). Want a FastPass for a ride? Your key card does that too.

Disney is finally and slowly releasing a new technology they started announcing last year. Magic Bands. Does everything the key card does but in a wrist band. The wrist band has RFID, so some people are concerned about what data Disney will have and how they will use it. I’m not concerned because Disney won’t have my social security number, bank account number, or anything really personal. It’s not like Disney will use what they learn about my behaviour to lobby the government to take away my rights.

Magic Bands will also combine Disney’s PhotoPass. This is a bar coded pass you get when Disney photographers take pics of you. You can use this card to see your pics as various kiosks or online. Disney then wants to sell you those pics individually or as a package burned onto a CD. I’ve bought the CD at least 3 times. Now, I won’t have to carry my key card AND my PhotoPass since the Magic Band will cover both.

But they will know every move I make around their property.

Disney will know how long I waited for Soarin, and they will do that without handing me that red card (the way they do now). This means wait times are literally crowd-sourced and will be more accurate. They will know how often I go to the bathroom and which ones.

They’ll figure out I’m wild about retro EPCOT souvenirs. They’ll know I have to eat one Mickey ice cream bar per trip. And one meal in the Morocco restaurant per trip. They’ll know I never wait for or watch a parade.

They will know more about their customers than possibly any other company on the planet.

And then I hope they use this to improve the experience for me and everybody else.

If Disney can then tie this say to my cell phone via texting or an app, they can tell me where to get the best retro EPCOT stuff. They’ll know which are my fave rides, so maybe they can tell me when the waits are shortest. They’ll know I don’t have kids and can travel any time I can get the time off. Maybe they can make me a special offer to come when they know they’ll be slower than more peak times.

They’ll see me ordering gluten free things, and maybe can suggest other places to eat with good choices that match my diet.

I’m saying maybe things can be personalised. Yes, there’s a time on your vacation to just have fun and go with the flow. In my dream world, you opt in or out to their personalised suggestions. But for someone like me who is at Disney even for a day or two every year or two, I might want them to help me efficiently cover my fave things.

Disney are also the masters of making you want stuff.

A boring grey Magic Band will be given to you for free when you check in. But you can buy upgraded bands… character designs… personal etching on the back of the band. I think many families will buy the upgraded ones. You’re on vacation! Kids will want the pirate and princess ones!

Disney has played with RFID before.

I’ve seen two examples of Disney playing with RFID before, and I liked both.

One was Pal Mickey. Anybody remember him? He was a stuffed animal plush Mickey. You could buy different outfits for him. But no matter what he wore, he was your park guide. He reminded you when parades were happening. He told you when you were close to a character photo/autograph opportunity. He asked you trivia questions while you waited on line. OK that last one wasn’t RFID but the other two were. I thought it was darn clever.

The other was in the new Beauty and the Beast restaurant in the new Fantasyland in WDW Florida. You got this wacky looking plastic thing they said was a rose. You attach your order to it via a computerised ordering system, and then you sit the rose on the table you pick. They know where you’re sitting, and deliver food to you. Clearly that’s RFID too.

The Magic Bands can now do these things too, especially if Disney ties them to your phone for info and updates. I think that’ll happen at some point (or even a readout on the band, who knows). But they could know where I’m sitting in the dining room by having each table read the bands sitting at it.

I’m excited about this. I hope to try this out maybe even later this year.

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