Don’t Forget the Little Data

We’ve seen the topic of Big Data become sizzling hot. But there’s still a place for little data.

Little Data #1: The Very Short Animated Infographic

Here’s the inimitable Hans Rosling showing all of us how much explanation you can pack into 6 seconds (even without audio).

NOTE: This comes from Twitter’s service Vine, where iPhone users can post captured video. Each video is exactly six seconds; it always loops; it can include audio; and it can be captured with stop motion.

Visit this video on the Vine site to see it full size, with the option of turning on audio (his voice). Hey, can I grow up to be an edutainer like Hans?

Little Data #2: Always Check your Arithmetic or “Every Cell Counts”

Spell checkers have taught us that overreliance on automation can make fools of us. It applies to number crunching too…

These guys started with big data — statistics about every national economy. BBC news tells us what happened later:

This week, economists have been astonished to find that a famous academic paper often used to make the case for austerity cuts contains major errors. Another surprise is that the mistakes, by two eminent Harvard professors, were spotted by a student doing his homework.

…After some correspondence, [the paper's authors] provided [the student] with the actual working spreadsheet… [The student] spotted a basic error in the spreadsheet.

The problem? A formula cell added up only 15 of the 20 cells that it should have.

Drawing conclusions from big data is a FAIL when the little data isn’t processed correctly!

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