More prevalent versus more likely
Mid-week entertainment: dogma

Gauging the water level

Nyt_waterThis set of charts covered the back page of one of New York Times' sections this weekend.

Regular readers will share my enthusiasm for the top chart.  It makes a clear, cogent case to support the article's thesis concerning the rise of bottled water.  Various renditions of this type of chart have appeared here, for example.

Specifically, the smart use of color to cluster the line objects helps interpret the trends.  Blue sets out the two primary interests.  (It's a mystery to me why the gray lines were separated into darker and lighter hues.)

The twenty-year horizon used is another nice touch. I'd remove the gridlines although they aren't too distracting here.

Sadly, the second graphic does not meet the high standard of the first.  The biggest problem concerns the red rectangle, purportedly showing how much of the bottled water was imported.  The choice of differently-sized bottles as objects makes it impossible to gauge what proportion of the total was imported.  If the rectangle was placed over 1-litre bottles instead, it would look smaller.

Source: "A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet", New York Times, July 15, 2007.


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You must include this WSJ chart - the best fit line misses almost all the data.


It looks like the gray hues are grouping what the author is judging to be healthy and unhealthy. Soda, beer, and coffee one color, and juice, sports drinks, and milk another. I agree that it's confusing because I could think of arguments to change the beverages in each group.


Anyone who expects more than agitprop and fishwrap from the WSJ editorial page is confused. They deserve Murdoch, and vice-versa.

FD: not that it matters, but Norway's datum in that chart is wrong, due to an energy-excise tax.

Zuil Serip

I agree with Matthew that the WSJ chart is of historic dishonesty. In fact I left a post commenting on this very chart on Tufte's site a couple of days ago:

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