Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now You See It: the Book

If you are of a data analytics bent or know someone who is and are looking for a book to put on the Christmas list, consider Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis by Stephen Few. This is a beautiful book that would not look out of place on a coffee table, yet at the same time, is full of practical information about how to do analytics with charts, graphs and other visual tools.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section covers visual perception and general visualization techniques for looking at data. Then the second section goes into more detail with chapters on specific techniques for different types of analysis including time-series analysis, ranking analysis, deviation analysis and multivariate analysis amongst others. Each chapter in this section ends with a summary of the techniques and best practices for that type of analysis. Finally the book ends with a shorter section that looks at promising new trends in visualization.

There are copious examples of graphs and charts drawn by different software tools. While some of these graphs come from high end tools like Tableau and Spotfire, others are drawn by Microsoft Excel. In fact there are several specific procedures for using features of Excel to do sophisticated analytics. That is not to say that the book suggests that you can do everything with a spreadsheet. The first part shows you what to look for in visual analytics software and it essential reading before going out and choosing which tool to use.

So, if you are looking for a quality and practical gift for an analytician, choose "Now You See It".

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