Making data come alive – Real World Data Objects

I’m currently working on my first 3D, touchable, pass-aroundable, real world data object. (I’m calling these things RWDOs as I haven’t seen anyone else naming this yet but there’s probably another word out there).


The idea of creating a real object made from data came to me whilst out on a run and, like all good ideas, it’s been done before. It was easy enough to find some examples through a quick Google search but I haven’t yet seen anyone writing these up as ‘a thing’ or who has tested their ability to engage users/organisations who would otherwise be uninterested in data.

Here is an artwork by Andrej Boleslavský which shows visits to a web page over the course of a year.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 13.56.16.png

And here’s one from Volker Schweisfurth who is looking at doing very similar things with his data. You can read more about his work here.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 13.58.40.png

Why am I doing it?

Well I’m into data. But more specifically I’m interested in finding ways to make people as engaged in data as a storytelling medium as I am.

At the moment the data we consume mostly comes in spreadsheets, charts, written articles and graphics. Whilst this serves the function of informing those people who are already data literate, I think that we have a long way to go to reach those who aren’t.

People who aren’t data literate are isolated from a good deal of facts, making it harder for them to make informed decisions.

I don’t think this is about how intelligent/high achieving someone is. The CEO of a company is as much in danger of skipping over great data insights and leading her company to disaster as is the voter who would no longer be hoodwinked by the unscrupulous tabloid.

Alternative representations of data will, I believe, help in some part to bridge the gap between those who can interpret data and those who can’t.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 13.44.25.png

What am I doing?

Well I’m hoping to make something out of the tweets that Donald Trump has sent out and compare those to an interesting other source (such as Obama’s over the same time period.

I’m going to show the results on this blog and hopefully, it’ll all be done within the next couple of months.


The rise of Analytics in organisations

Next week, I’ll be attending the Chief Analytics Officer conference in London

As organisations and businesses slowly wake up to the increased importance of their data in their future survival, it’s inevitable that the role of the person who takes on the strategic responsibility for that data will rise in importance too.

The conference organisers say “it is predicted that within 5 years the Chief Analytics Officer will be one of the most strategic roles within any organisation.”

Analytics roles have grown steadily over the past two years as a proportion of the overall UK IT jobs market, from 3.96% to 5.08% with salaries increasing by around 7% overall but with certain roles managing to jump 30 – 60% (source – IT Jobs Watch search).

With over 150 executives from all over Europe attending, it’s going to be a good place to get the pulse of the challenges facing organisations today. The key themes for the conference are:

  • THE DATA DRIVEN C-SUITE – The Role. Evaluating data analytics investment, prominence and acceptance in the boardroom.
  • CULTURE and LEADERSHIP – The Human Element. Defining, fostering and embedding a culture of data analytics and insight based decision making. Democratising analytics to foster insight and co-operation throughout the organisation.
  • THE INTELLIGENT ENTERPRISE – The Defining Factor. Driving innovation, agility and business value. Monetising data to deliver strategic worth to the business.

I’ll be blogging from each session attended, the keynotes and panel discussions and updating live from the event.




Eat all the pies: A digital growth strategy

Below, I divide growth strategies (strategies to grow an organisations online presence) into four types.

1. Bigger slice  


Satisfying existing visitors.

You have 100 visitors to your online offerings. One of these visitors is a customer, doing the thing(s) that give value to the business (assuming that your business isn’t just to get visitors).

It’s reasonable when thinking about how to grow, to start with what you have and try to get two customers. It feels reasonable anyway. Just as reasonable as Kodak making better/cheaper film to compete with the digital camera revolution.

Pro – You now have two customers for really little investment.

Con – You’ve reached your ceiling and are stagnating

2. Bigger pie  


Creating new customers.

Now we’re talking. What’s everyone else doing now? How can we get a piece of that (through takeovers, partnerships, entering new markets)? You take your 100 visitors (and one customer) and try to increase that by, say 100. So now you have 200 visitors and two customers. Cool.

It’s surprising how many organisations don’t get to this stage. Often the barrier is that they’re doing too well. Or feel that they’re unique in some way, shielded from the digital disruption that’s happening to them.

To those that do, content strategy and platform innovation come are the tools. Let’s shift our content focus, capture these personas, give them what they want.

Pro – You have two customers (for a little more investment)

Cons – You have reached your ceiling and are stagnating

3. Future pie 


Shaping what customers will want in the future.

So you have your 100 visitors (and one customer) and you completely ignore them. You disregard everything they’re doing on your site/your competitor’s sites and rip up the rule book of how to go about meeting their needs.

In five years time, you have 1,000,000 visitors and they’re all customers because, well, they are now in some way.

Or maybe not. Because Your CEO looked at the innovation in year two and didn’t like it or, did like it but didn’t think her customers would. Well, of course, they wouldn’t. The customers don’t exist yet. Still, the project got binned and the lead walked from the organisation in frustration and founded a start-up and took all your customers in ten years.

Pro – You have 1,000,000 customers

Con – You don’t. Because the project got canceled and you lost all your customers in the meantime.

4. All the pies 


The only way to grow/exist in the long term is to look at being a bit of all three of the above. Serve your existing visitors better whilst looking for new ones with an eye (and the boldness) to look at the future.

This requires the most effort and the biggest culture change within an organisation. The majority within are probably using the ostrich pie strategy – sticking their head in the sand and saying their customers won’t want to change. And there’s plenty of evidence every day to confirm that bias. They haven’t changed yet. But then eventually the they become smaller and smaller. And it’s too late. And you’re dead.









7 Most Googled athletes of the 2012 Olympics

English: Mo Farah at the 2010 European Athleti...

This years Olympics have really captured the imagination of the UK public.  Millions of us went online before, after or even during events to find out more about those on our screens.

So the question is, who were we searching for and what did we want to know?  The most popular personalities in order of searches to wikipedia are listed below, with the top 5 searches involving their name, listed beneath them.

1.  Jessica Ennis

  • jessica ennis boyfriend
  • jessica ennis hot
  • jessica ennis bikini
  • jessica ennis parents
  • jessica ennis sexy

2.  Usain Bolt

  • usain bolt 2012 olympics
  • usain bolt girlfriend
  • how old is usain bolt
  • how tall is usain bolt
  • usain bolt facts

3.  Bradley Wiggins

  • bradley wiggins twitter
  • bradley wiggins wife
  • bradley wiggins piers morgan
  • bradley wiggins diet
  • bradley wiggins olympics

4.  Mo Farah

  • mo farah foundation
  • mo farah olympics 2012
  • mo farah wife
  • mo farah the cube
  • mo farah medal ceremony

5.  Joanna Rowsell

  • joanna rowsell alopecia
  • joanna rowsell bald
  • joanna rowsell hair
  • joanna rowsell olympics
  • joanna rowsell cyclist illness

6.  Victoria Pendleton

  • victoria pendleton hot
  • victoria pendleton fhm
  • victoria pendleton pictures
  • victoria pendleton boyfriend
  • victoria pendleton disqualified

7.  Ian Thorpe

  • ian thorpe gay
  • is ian thorpe gay
  • ian thorpe girlfriend
  • ian thorpe boyfriend
  • ian thorpe 2012 olympics

Data from Hitwise, looking at searches made by the UK public over 4 weeks, ending 12th Aug 2012

Are infographics becoming infoGRAPHICS?

‘A picture paints a thousand words’ so the saying goes and that, in a nutshell, is the power and magic of the infographic.  However with the recent rise in the popularity of them, are we starting to lose the plot?  Is style winning over substance?

Part of the definition of an infographic is that “graphics present complex information quickly and clearly” – Wiki.  They’ve been used for centuries to convey complex data in order to achieve noble ambitions, for example the Florence Nightingale ‘infographic’ below that greatly increased peoples chances of surviving hospital admissions.

And yet lately I’ve noticed more and more infographics (let’s call them infoGRAPHICS) that, when you take away the froth, you’re left with not a great deal of coffee.  Even worse, in some cases they’re being used simply as a means of corporate or government propaganda, bending the truth to unimaginable proportions  “Ooooh don’t the little unemployed people in this graph look so cute and, er small”

The examples below are tongue in cheek but represent a real problem.

The culprits

How much can you trust a bearded man?

To be fair, the author does note that this is based on no scientific evidence whatsoever and in its defence it’s funny but it’s a reflection on the people at that they actually have this on their homepage.

The ‘Conversation prism’

I’ve seen this one a few times.  Rolled out at presentations by people in thick black rimmed glasses and stripey shirts.  No one in the audience understands it.  The person in the stripey shirt doesn’t even understand it but everyone thinks ‘Oooh pretty colours and lots of social networks that I have the vague feeling I should know about but don’t’.  Guy in stripey shirt likes the impact it has on an audience, the presumption is that he must know what this wheel means and therefore he should be listened to.  It’s the ultimate emporer’s new clothes.

For all the added useful insight it brings to an audience, the ‘conversation prism’ (which isn’t even a prism by the way) may as well just look like this:

Social networks people are actually on          Who uses them?                                                          Advertise on?

facebook                                                                  Your mum, weirdo’s                                                  No way

twitter                                                                       People you’re actually interested in, pornbots  No way

linkedin                                                                    Your boss, recruitment consultants                    No way


Now I’m not saying I’m a good designer, or even a designer but whenever I have to design, I try to make sure it’s necessary and that the picture shows a true view of the data that needs to be conveyed (so for example the London underground map doesn’t need to be ‘to scale’ because that’s not what it’s conveying, the important information is the stops, orientation and interchanges which it conveys truthfully).  I may not get this right all of the time but it’s what I work towards and I suspect many people, companies and organisations don’t.

At the moment we’re in a honeymoon period where the validity of these infographics isn’t really being checked out by the end user however this honeymoon period will end and when it does it’s likely that just a few infoGRAPHICS will tarnish much of the good work going into this area.

I suppose, ironically, the best way to sum up this post is with an infographic of its own.  The utterly brilliant spoof from

You may also want to read another post on this blog about the most popular questions asked on search engines.

How Google famous are you?

When using a search engine for the first time, the third search people do is for their own name (just after ‘hello’ and ‘porn’)*.

Image source: Originally appeared in print edition of The Independent newspaper 24th May 2007

So what are the other top 5 ways to measure your true Google fame?

1.  How many letters do you need to type into Google before it suggests your name?

So if your name is, say, Duncan Bloor.  How many letters would I need to type into Google before it suggests my name?

(The answer is pretty much all of them – I’m not famous at all)

2.  Search for your name in Google images – how many of the images are of you?

I do better on this one, almost half are of me and 25% are from articles I wrote or involved me in some way.  You can also try to search Google news, products and blogs.

3.  See how many people are linking to your blog by typing

(works better on Yahoo)

4.  When you type in just your first name, how far down do you have to scroll to find a web page about you?

Tip – ask for 100 results per page from Google and use CTRL F to find your surname.  I gave up looking for me after 100 results – Duncan Yo Yo is the most famous Duncan apparently.

5.  Finally, use Google’s keyword tool to see how many people search for your name every month.

*Not based on any research whatsoever, just a hypothesis but if anyone wants to do some research, please let me know the results.