Sarah Hodges

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Data

In Data Visualization on March 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm


I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Edward Tufte‘s workshops here in Boston. To my shock and awe, the master of data visualization commanded a crowd of the size you’d expect for Charlie Sheen’s new traveling road show. I had no idea there were so many data geeks in my ‘hood!

Tufte is The Man

Can I tell you a secret? Tufte is the man; he doesn’t disappoint. Along with whipping out one of Galileo’s original observation books (baller!), he kicked off the morning with one of the most stunning sites I have ever seen- Steven Malinowski’s Music Animation Machine. Suddenly, the hills were alive with the sound of data.

You must watch this video. It’s required viewing.

Totally bananas to see the visual depiction of a beautiful piece of music, and through the simplicity of an intuitive map of colorful chords, be able to anticipate each subsequent note.

The Verdict: Go Get Your Tufte On

I’m not a big fan of throwing down $ for conferences and seminars, but this was totally worth it. Just the experience of setting aside time to contemplate Tufte’s impressive books was worth it. I’ve had The Visual Display of Quantitative Data sitting on my coffee table for months, and have barely cracked it open. Aside from giving me a few moments to indulge in his work, Tufte’s guidance truly changed the way I approach data visualization. Sign up. Do it.


  1. No matter how beautiful your interface is, it would better if there was less of it.
  2. On sparklines: It’s better to be approximately right rather than exactly wrong.
  3. As a presenter, provide intellectual leadership.
  4. Use all information necessary to convey your message and don’t predetermined the means by which you convey it.
  5. Illustrate causality; annotate causal relationships and be consistent in describing connections.
  6. Don’t dumb down data with distracting visuals.
  7. Refine information into core data points and causal relationships; establish credibility through mastering detail and incorporating independent data.
  8. Celebrate that people have been kind enough to look at your material; you don’t have to be present in that transaction. Your audience can read selectively what’s relevant to their own interests.
  9. Let people use their own cognitive style instead of Microsoft’s (i.e. PowerPoint) to evaluate the material.
  10. Never put data in alphabetical order. Order by performance.
  11. Talent imitates, but genius steals. (interpretation of T.S. Eliot’s quote)

Facebook Insights: Badass Ninja Knives for Page Data

In Analytics, Campaign Anaytics, Web Analytics on March 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that your company has a Facebook page.

I mean, your mom has a Facebook page. Your dog has a Facebook page. Everybody has a Facebook page. You’re churning out content like a champ and working your Facebook page like a pageant queen to engage your users…but how do you know your hard work is paying off?

When was the last time you showed your Facebook analytics a li’l love?

You’ve seen the AsSeenOnTV infomercials for those knives that are so kickass they can cut right through aluminum? Facebook Insights is the equivalent of those badass knives for your Facebook Page data. Do you have two minutes and the ability to toss a meta tag up on your site? Boom! Instant insight.

It’s time to start measuring your Facebook page like a ninja!

Christopher O’Donnell, from Performable, heard your cry and whipped up a video to walk you through the basics of Facebook Analytics. Check it out!

Often people ask “How can I measure my Facebook Page?” or “How do I install analytics on my Facebook Page?” What many people don’t know is that Facebook has built its own analytics product that comes baked-in for free. And while there are compelling use cases around measuring user behavior across channels, from mobile app to website, to Facebook and beyond (something that Performable‘s Lifecycle Analytics excels at), Facebook’s Insights analytics product will help you take a deep look at adoption and engagement across all the facets of your Facebook Page.

In order to get valuable insights from this new product, it’s important to understand the key performance indicators and paths of optimizations for Facebook publishers. I’ve made a little video that tours through the Facebook Insights tool itself, and discusses how to interpret the data and drive performance improvement for your social community.

The video is about 8 minutes long … does it help if I call it a “micro-webinar?” Enjoy, and please leave your feedback in the comments!

Campaign Tagging: Part 2 – Strategy

In Analytics, Campaign Anaytics, Web Analytics on March 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm


You rolled up your sleeves and started tagging your campaigns…now what?

I’m sure you jumped right into the basics of campaign tagging video I posted last week, and now you’re tracking your marketing efforts like an animal. But all your good intentions can quickly snowball into a world of pain, if you don’t employ a consistent strategy across your organization.

Combat the chaos.

Campaigns, and sources and mediums, oh, my! You’re a sophisticated marketer with a robust portfolio of campaigns, but all those values can start to get confusing without an organized approach to tracking.

I heart Google docs!

Whether you’re an Excel geek or a Google Docs. evangelist, throw your utm parameters into columns and start tracking the values you’re using. Not only does this instantly create a simple guide that others in your organization can follow when tagging new campaigns, but it also gives you a clear reference point when your data starts to roll in.

Check out your report card and make a plan for next semester.

Revisit, refine and revise your approach to optimize for insight!

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