Sunday, December 18, 2011

PNC 12 Days of Christmas Price Index

Since 1984, PNC Bank has been issuing their 12 Days of Christmas Price Index.  This index is comprised of the costs of all 12 gifts in the song from the 12 Days of Christmas.  I have heard of the index in the past, but didn't know that it was PNC who put it together or that they have been doing so since 1984.  They have a really fun website this year that involves interactive flash video.  You should definitely right click on this link and "open in new tab" and go check it out.  I'll wait for ya...

PNC 12 Days of Christmas Price Index

I would think this could be fun for children or (if you are like me) those who are a child at heart.

Fortunately, PNC makes their historical data  (.xls file) available for the general public.  So in an effort to spread some Christmas cheer via interactive data visualizations I put together a dashboard of sorts to explore the Christmas Price Index from 1984 till 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, & Statistics

So I fell in love with data and charts back as an undergrad when I took my Political Science methodology class (thank you Professor Folger).  It is then that I learned how they can be used to help explain what happens in the world around us.  However, I also learned how they can be manipulated in such a way to create a false explanation or mislead someone.  That is why the quote in the title has to be one of my favorite sayings of all time.  So much so, that my friends and co-workers roll their eyes every time I say it.

Most of the time the manipulations of data are subtle and those manipulating the data can justify how they are presenting their results.  However, sometimes the manipulation is so outlandish you wonder if it was done purposefully or out of incompetence.  For instance, for those of you who follow data visualization topics or media watchdog groups, you have probably already heard about the Fox News unemployment chart.  I first read about it at FlowingData who links to MediaMatters about this story.  You should definitely check out the comments section for the article at FlowingData for a lively discussion of politics, Fox News, and data.

Here is the Fox News chart for those who missed the story...

Can you spot what is wrong with this chart?