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Naomi B. Robbins

Excellent post. What jars me is to see an icon of a male or female represent percents rather than a number of males or females.


Thank you. I've disliked this chart for a while, and you've found me a few new reasons to do so. Your redo is much better, but I have a question about the horizontal scale. It looks like Pinterest is more heavily female than Digg is male, but you wouldn't know that without doing some mental arithmetic. Do you see this as an issue?

Greg Pfeil

Yeah, I would be inclined to make the horizontal axis something like the percentage of males, that way it’s balanced on both sides.

Otherwise, I like the final layout.


On the horizontal axis on your redo, one might argue for a log scale in this case. I like the semantics - it means that the distance between 1 and 2 is the same as 1/2 and 1, which is "correct" in the sense that 1/2 is as different from 1 as 1 is from 2 if the numbers are ratios.

However, log axes are usually avoided because they're nonintuitive to most readers. But there's some evidence people aren't so bad at exponentials after all:

Greg's idea of using % men is pretty good too - if I were faced with choosing between % male and log of male/female ratio (and not concerned about scaring readers with a "log scale") then I thin I'd base my decision on whether I thought it was more important how many women there were for every man on the site (ratio) vs. how close one was to exclusively male or female visitors (percent).

The difference between these is clear if you consider two comparisons, one between two sites, one of which is 50/50 and the other is 49/51, and the other comparison between two sites, one of which is 98/2 and the other 99/1. If you used % male, there would be little difference apparent in either case, but if you use log of ratio then the difference would be much greater in the second case.

Final thought - log of ratio beats either ratio or %male in that it doesn't emphasize either gender.


the fine print on the left is as good an indicator that something is wrong is the fine print on the right :)


Back when I first saw this I actually created a graph along the same idea as the original (blue for male / pink for female), but instead of normalizing by percent I made each bar encode the total number of users. Reddit was all abuzz about how many males there were on the site, but when you see the data all together you can barely even see the Reddit bar compared to the bigger sites. If I remember correctly, Facebook was bigger than the next 3-5 *combined*.

I never ended up getting it 100% completed, but it was a whole lot more "beautiful" (and certainly a whole lot more "information") than the original.

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Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
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