Hari Patience-Davies shares some of her favourite examples of data storytelling.

I’m a sucker for a good bit of data storytelling. I love seeing the stories behind the numbers, the insights that a good bit of data analysis can bring to light.

Here are two of my favourite recent data stories:

Scented candles and COVID-19

In November 2020 Kate Petrova shared a Twitter thread on the potential link between 1 star scented candles reviews on Amazon.com and undiagnosed cases of COVID-19.

One of the things I love about this thread is that I literally cannot make sense of the original data. I need to see it in chart form – the comparison between the top two charts and the bar graph at the bottom which show a clear increase in 1 star reviews for scented candles which isn’t present in reviews of unscented candles.

The comparison is even clearer in later tweets in the same thread.

This is the kind of data story that makes me wish I knew SQL – seeing how the scraped reviews data reveals the trends is like watching a great twist ending in a film.

The NYC taxi database reveals celebrity tipping habits

In 2013 a Freedom of Information act request released a database of every taxi ride taken in New York City. It was anonymised but it didn’t take long for the internet to un-anonymise it – and discover via paparazzi photos just which journey was taken by which celebrity. Gawker has a great write up of the whole process here, which should be required reading for anyone interested in data storytelling.

I love how data from one source – paparazzi photos – was mapped onto another, and in doing so turned a single taxi ride from meaningless data into a celebrity journey.

It’s a great reminder how we can add layers of meaning to data by looking for other sources of data for comparison or comprehension purposes. The article by Gawker highlights other ways the NYC taxi data was used such as a day in the life data visualisation. It’s fascinating to see how one set of data has so many potential interpretations.

There’s loads of great examples of data storytelling, but these are two of my favourites. I’m always happy to recommend them.


Featured image by Black Ice on Pexels.

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