Analytics Tips: Choosing Reporting Tools for Data Visualization

If you’re in business and you have a little data – ok, a lot of data for many businesses –  you may be feeling some fear.  It may seemingly be fear from imagining the preparation that is needed with big data.
But more than likely it’s not.
It’s visualizing the data – or more precisely, how to best visualize it to take action.
Data accuracy is important to build trust not only in analytic solutions but in the people who use the reports from those solutions.  This means marketers must select report interfaces that control the range, look, and feel of the presented information with respect to organizational needs.
In short, what graphic formats should appear with the data on hand?
Let’s look at a few basic options, with a general eye for war they are good for and what drawbacks can occur.
Data Visualization Quality
Take note of what makes the best way to display data visually.
Overall, to use data visualization successfully, managers should consider three aspects in selecting a data visualization platform:
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • What visually works best for the data
The last point sounds subjective, but selecting the right visual graph is really about assessing trends and deviations. What data would you like to see as a trend, and what would provide a useful alert as a deviation?   A trend reflects what behavior is developing consistently, while a deviation notes a striking change in a trend.  The right graph will help highlight both easily detectable trends and deviations
Spreadsheets Are Better Than Before But Still Have Limitations

Spreadsheets have their value, but they usually offer value for relative small batches of data.  As more columns and rows of data are added, the ability to Increasingly difficult to process relationship among the data becomes difficult.  Spreadsheets present visuals which only allow for isolating figures.  People can’t visually register but one or two numbers at a time.  This is why many plugins use spreadsheets to highlight a change in value.

Keep in mind, however, that dynamic changes may be harder to spot. Use a bar chart or trend chart to help highlight spikes. But using these in a sheet means data updates have to be timely to make the deviations and trends helpful to business decisions.
Templates can provide a starting point…but in some cases just a starting point
Template solutions can provide a standard starting point for viewing how data should be best displayed.  There are a few excellent tools that can visualize data within dashboard options. The most popular tools are usually the self-service BI tools such as Spotfire and Tableau.
There is one drawback with template dashboard solutions: the visualization and concepts are delivered to the user by the solution provider, rather than being custom for certain instances.  A template-based data visualization tool assumes a preconceived notion of what data should look like, or what relationships should exist.
Intelligence from data is not always obvious. This means assumptions from a template-based data visualization tool may not reveal intelligence relevant to a business objective.
What Open Source Data Visualization Provides
Where spreadsheets provides a singular representation of data and basic graphs, data visualization based on open source programming can represent active interrelationships that are constantly updated according to real time data input. This arrangement provides faster reporting and faster responses to the reporting results.
Open source programming solutions are increasingly being repented through Javascript frameworks, such as D3 (, a Javascript library designed for data visualization needs.
Business managers should keep in mind, however, that custom build visualization can sometimes involve a development team which can not only build the dashboard but can highlight the organization’s capability of responding to reporting.  The good news is that because Javascript is being increasingly used, businesses can leverage its web development team.  And in some cases, programming language may not be extensive used, if at all.  Overall managers must first access an organization’s development capability to build an open source visualization that enhances how an organization functions.

#R Programming vs #Python – Infographic via DataCamp

Ready to be a data scientist but nor sure where to start? This useful image describes how R programming and Python are used within data science, from their unique development history to salary commanded in the data science field.   You can compare the pros and cons for each programming language, and learn to select the right one for your development needs.

Infographic courtesy of DataCamp

R Programming Python Data Science

Video: The Responsive City – Stephen Goldsmith @Goldsmithongov at @ChicagoCityData

Stephen Goldsmith of Harvard Kennedy School speaks on the value of data within government agencies

This post features a video of an informal presentation from Stephen Goldsmith. The talk was given in Chicago at the Microsoft Technology Center as part of the meetup group  Chicago City Data User Group.  Goldsmith showed innovation and thought leadership during his roles as Deputy Mayor of New York City and two-term Mayor of Indianapolis. His efforts changed how many cities view technology as a driver of physical and civic improvement. He is now the Daniel Paul Professor of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The talk centers on the civic usage of data.  A brief 30 minute discussion, Goldsmith noted about the challenging need to use data to improve the discretion of government agency managers.  Goldsmith believed that the data should not be used to embolden bureaucratic processes, but to instead align those processes to serve citizens better and to better deploy precious resources.  Check out his comments and insights in the video below.


Developer Spotlight: Asynchronous Javascript and Promises via Chicago Javascript and @innoarchitech

The Chicago Javascript Meetup group – otherwise called js.chi() – hosted a meetup on asynchronous Javascript (Editor’s note: this is a bit of a latergram – the presentation was on August 26th, 2014). Users of Google Analytics certainly have heard the term async – asynchronous code was introduced in 2009. But what does “async” mean in general? Here’s a brief run down:

JavaScript is a single-threaded language. The phrase “single-threaded” means that invoking a long-running process blocks all execution until that process completes. Think of this as a moving up and down a ladder – you can’t really skip a rung to go down or up. Imagine that, and you have an idea of how JavaScript works. It also draws imagery of what challenges can occur: single UI elements are unresponsive, animations pause, and no other code in the app can run.

The solution to this problem is to avoid synchronous execution where possible. One way of deploying asynchronous JavaScript is to have a JavaScript function execute at a later time.  Event handlers are an example; Event handlers are invoked after another call has raised an event. Callback functions are another kind of asynchronous processing, because they call back into the code that initiated the process.

Getting back to the presentation, Alex Castrounis (@innoarchitech), a JavaScript enthusiast who runs a JavaScript resource site, Innoarchitech, asked the audience if they thought JavaScript is asynchronous? They answer was no, it is not. He goes on to note how async and promises play hand in hand in improving JavaScript functionality.

Alex then goes through the JavaScript engines that help set up the definition of promises. Promises are the result of an asynchronous results, allowing for executing multiple async calls without blocking event loops. Alex explains in detail how they are used, when to use them, and their benefits.  You can check out the slides from Alex’s presentation at (click on the image below).

Asynchronous_ Javascript

Alex mentions some details about JavaScript engines and how they relate to promises. Engines such as Spidermonkey, chromenode.js, and V8 play into the message queue and event loop because of their components – interpreter, heap (where objects and variable reside) , and call stack. Message queues and event loops are part of the promise functionality flow.

You can see past talks and other member information posted on the Chicago Javascript group – called ” js.chi()” – on their Meetup page.  The Chicago Javascript group was formed in 2008 and has been a staple of gathering the developer community around the Javascript language.

Additional information for slides and code from Alex are below:


3 Fast Ways to Brainstorm Meaningful Blog Content

digital marketing analyst
Reviewing analytics data  can help plan the next ideas for your blog

Creating content that attracts visitors to your site or blog is never easy. The value for content certainly exists. Marketing Profs noted that 79% of B2B firms that deploy content marketing create articles. But creating and implementing content when you’re on the hook to get it done is hard.

But as interest in content marketing has developed over the past few years, a few new tools and new platforms have sprung up to improve idea creation. A few steps can make brainstorming less formidable and reveal the topics that your customers care about.

  • Monitor platforms such as Quora, Reddit, or LinkedIn for key questions that are emerging in your industry. Take a look at the answers that pique your interest. If there are some that you do not agree, build a post around what your answer might be. YouTube is also a good resource for how-to videos and short teachable programs.
  • Scan hashtags and industry-related search terms on the social media platform of choice. Hashtags appeared regularly on Twitter at first, but now Iinstagram Google Plus, and Facebook permit hashtag usage. This means you should research the hashtag usage on the platform you intend to use. See what issues are bubbling to the top and write about those. Some great hashtag tools are located here . Find the key topics and folks are talking about and consider weighing in with your two cents on those topics–and don’t forget to feature their tweets prominently in your post.
  • Develop a list of 10-20 key blogs in your industry, put them in a blog reader and sift through them once a week. Find out what topics are being discussed and see if any intrigue enough for a blogpost of your own. If you reference the articles in your blog post, make sure you link back to the original post.

The aforementioned tips can provide a manageable list of sources for highly regarded topics. Give these a try to reenergize your content, enhance your measurement results for your blog, and connect with your customers further.

Do you have older content? Check out this older Zimana post on “evergreen” posts – posts topics that can be revitalized periodically to keep a blogsite fresh