When ask metafilter just wont do
February 27, 2009 6:34 PM   Subscribe

You used to be able to ask Edward Tufte questions on his website. He disabled the new questions part a few years ago so only a topic or two a month comes out now. But the old topics form years long conversations running to tens of thousands of words, generally polite and insightful. Here are some excellent threads: recommendations for graphing software, Book design: advice and examples, Medical information exchange: The patient, doctor, computer triangle, Evidence and assumptions in tree diagrams, Airport maps, Lists, Advice for effective analytical reasoning, a celebration of Megan Jaegerman's news graphics, Design of causal diagrams, the merits of ISO paper sizes.
posted by shothotbot (9 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
I've had the 'advice for effective analytical reasoning' thread bookmarked for a while, and read through it every so often. Amongst other things, it offers several takes on the 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' aphorism so memorably distorted by Donald Rumsfeld.

I think there's another thread in there somewhere where they pick apart the 'correlation does not imply causation' aphorism, but I can't seem to find it.
posted by Ritchie at 8:35 PM on February 27, 2009

I like Tufte as much as the next interaction designer, but his analysis of the iPhone threw me. This photo almost looks like a parody of taking his thinking so seriously you fall off a usability cliff.

But I don't think this misstep is indicative of his ideas overall. This is a great resource, thanks for posting.
posted by jragon at 10:13 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I never heard of this guy, and enjoy the discussion. This is the sort of thing where reading the discussion as an outsider conveys concepts that are highly enriching.

The point about the iphone is extremely valid criticism. My reaction to the two screens is that preference is controlled by purpose. Certainly the left side is more appropriate for the quick use described. However, it is not at all unreasonable to suppose someone would want to work on their analysis while away from their desktop, and without pulling out the laptop. In other words, the two versions are not suited to the same purpose.
posted by Goofyy at 11:14 PM on February 27, 2009

English Gothic.
posted by Mblue at 11:14 PM on February 27, 2009

Goofyy, if you have never read his work and enjoy it I urge you to check out Visual Display of Quantitative Information. A wonderful book which has been a huge influence on designers.

Plus thanks to ET I now surf the web in elegant and refreshing Gil Sans.
posted by shothotbot at 6:42 AM on February 28, 2009

But I don't think this misstep is indicative of his ideas overall.

Edward Tufte has an Art for turning statistics into works of minimal and powerfully communicative Beauty. Very rarely, he missteps and elects for Beauty over Communicating Correctly. Tufte's redesign of Tukey's box-and-whisker plots tends to impart an incorrrect bias in the data, in most viewers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:48 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I love Tufte. And. But. Except.

I find his first three book titles overly similar and they run together in my mind. I can never tell them apart. As a champion of clarity in communicating information, I wish he had worked harder when titling his works. Look at the first three:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanation

Especially since all three have the same appearance: title text, abstract graphic, white background.

Quick: what's the difference? Which one do you read first? Should you just wait for the compilation of all three, which I'll suggest should be titled:

Envisioning The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Explanation for Dummies!

However, I think he hit it out of the park on the latest one, BEAUTIFUL EVIDENCE. Evocative words, beautiful full bleed photo. I cannot wait to view this. I can't afford it right now, so my plan is to get invited to a party, graciously accept, find the book on a coffee table, and then spend an hour boorishly ignoring my hosts and reading it.
posted by sol at 6:55 AM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think Visual Display is far superior to Envisioning Information or Visual Explanation. Beautiful Evidence is a treasure but he leaked the pages out in the forum when he was working on it so I knew what was coming.

Sol you are welcome to borrow my copy. If only there was some sort of public place where we could borrow books from. A bookatorium or something like that.
posted by shothotbot at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Tufte's books are things of beauty and should be owned by anyone who has to present data in graphical form.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:10 PM on February 28, 2009

« Older Donovan   |   Type Writin' Beats Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments