Data Visualization - Is it Important?

I recently came across this tweet from the founder of Posterous (sorry I’m a tumblr fan).

Cutting features is hard

— Sachin Agarwal (@a4agarwal)

January 6, 2012

We are in the midst of brining one of our key products out of beta to it’s ready-for-prime-time v1.0 and like any technology project we need to do it profitably, we wish we had more engineers, and we wish we had more time to include or perfect every feature we have dreamt of in the planning process.  That said we need to make cuts.  One recurring debate is whether or not charts and graphs and creative ways to visualize data is a bell/whistle or is it a core component that could propel the product into being a wild success.

Like many other companies that deal with online media we get millions or even hundreds of millions of events and logs to parse through each day and run in massive data warehouses and are rolled up into useable statistics each hour.  There are the standard stats that we need to watch on a regular basis as well as report out to our clients but when we dig into a campaign or try to figure out how to increase performance we are always downloading out to excel or writing a Hive/SQL query to get a deeper look or a different dimension of the data and then graphing it for a nice friendly viewable representation.

And it never fails that the data representation that wins the business, gets the next round of funding, or wins over an executive’s good graces to allow a budget/project/initiative to move forward is inevitably a very simple graphical representation of possibly billions of data points.

So if this is so important, how can it be looked over?  And a better question is why?


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