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I need some cute and amusing examples of real life bad graphs, charts… - Sally's Journal
January 22nd, 2008
02:49 pm

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I need some cute and amusing examples of real life bad graphs, charts or tables that are misleading (whether deliberately to sell something or just because people are stupid) or just plain wrong. Or even just stupid sentances in news articles like "53% of people die". I am helping give a talk at work about statistics and how to communicate it clearly without misleading people. My google foo is really weak - I just can't seem to hit useful keywords (I'm sure the internet must delight in making pages of things like this). If you find something that does work, please let me know how you found it, so in future I can do it myself instead of bothering you!

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From:r_e_mercia
Date:January 22nd, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
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Ben wrote an article for a schools publication which was published a couple of months back - send him an email and I'm pretty sure he'd be able to send you the article, which has a few such examples in.
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From:rjw76
Date:January 22nd, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
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The back of a Head and SHoulders bottle is rather useful for this sort of thing :)
From:ptc24
Date:January 22nd, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
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http://junkcharts.typepad.com/ may be your one-stop shop for junk chart joy, depending on exactly how bad you wanted the examples to be.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
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If you can get your hands on a copy of Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, it has some beautiful examples.
From:Dave Holland [org.uk]
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Yes, Tufte is great for examples of bad (and good!) presentation.
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From:aiwendel
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
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http://www.mste.uiuc.edu/courses/ci330ms/youtsey/intro.html
has some fake graphs some of which demonstrate how you can make your result appear different/more significant depending on your scale and start point etc.

And a point about pie charts - missing off one of the options makes the others appear more important etc....

not real graphs though...
From:tamsinj
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
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what a horrid url.. i have a copy, but i'm unlikely to be within a lending distance any time soon :(
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From:3c66b
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
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You know about the little book 'How to lie with statistics' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Lie_with_Statistics)?
From:randomchris
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
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And the Guardian's bad science column, which comments on a few recent issues, using said book: http://www.badscience.net/?p=605#more-605
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From:angoel
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
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I'd instinctively google "misleading statistics powerpoint". Which returns some useful looking links, the first of which (mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11235/Misleading%20Statistics.ppt) seems like it would be the right thing based on the 'view as html' cache, but doesn't actually exist.

But I should be doing work...
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From:thethirdvoice
Date:January 23rd, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
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I just downloaded it - it worked ok
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From:lisekit
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
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From:pozorvlak
Date:January 22nd, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Bad Science is full of this stuff.

My favourite "spurious graph", though, is fictional: it's this one, from the marvellous Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.
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From:aldabra
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
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I have junkcharts on my fl, but I don't actually read anything it says.
From:neonchameleon
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
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As others have posted the two places I'd look for really bad charts (Badscience and junkcharts - although a third would be the rise and fall of the FTSE graphs that are continually presented with no baseline), I'm going to give one example of a really good chart as a counterpoint - that of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

For a bit of grandstanding, I'd buy a copy of the Daily Wail the day before you give the talk and grab half a dozen case studies from there.
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From:lavendersparkle
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
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For humourously bad use of statistics I'd suggest almost all of econometrics ever. My personal favourite is the proof that countries converge to similar GDP per capita by picking a group of countries which are all rich now and showing that their GDP per capita converged over the last 150 years.
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From:half_of_monty
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
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Ah. Oh. I see a lot of econometrics in my future. Is it all tosh?
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From:the_elyan
Date:January 22nd, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
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The only thing which immediately occurs having a look at is strange_maps, which has a certain amount of statistical info. Even if you don't find what you're looking for, it's very entertaining.
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From:azron
Date:January 22nd, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
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oh for heaven's sake, I handed in my coursework on good/bad graphs 3 hours ago - couldn't you have posted this a few days ago? :P

unfortunately all my bad graphs/tables were not on the interwebs, so I'm not much use, but I'm still going to grumble about your poor timing!
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From:atreic
Date:January 22nd, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
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Well, you could always email it to me if you have it in electronic form ;-) atreic at livejournal d0t c0m reaches me.
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