Food coma and self-sufficiency in dataviz
Jan 27, 2020
The Hustle wrote a strong analysis of the business of buffets. If you've read my analysis of Groupon's business model in Numbersense (link), you'll find some similarities. A key is to not think of every customer as an average customer; there are segments of customers who behave differently, and creating a proper mix of different types of customers is the management's challenge. I will make further comments on the statistics in a future post on the sister blog.
At Junk Charts, we'll focus on visualizing and communciating data. The article in The Hustle comes with the following dataviz:
This dataviz fails my self-sufficiency test. Recall: self-sufficiency is a basic requirement of visualizing data - that the graphical elements should be sufficient to convey the gist of the data. Otherwise, there is no point in augmenting the data with graphical elements.
The self-sufficiency test is to remove the dataset from the dataviz, and ask whether the graphic can stand on its own. So here:
The entire set of ingredient costs appears on the original graphic. When these numbers are removed, the reader gets the wrong message - that the cost is equally split between these five ingredients.
This chart reminds me of the pizza chart that everyone thought was a pie chart except its designer! I wrote about it here. Food coma is a thing.
The original chart may be regarded as an illustration rather than data visualization. If so, it's just a few steps from becoming a dataviz. Like this:
P.S. A preview of what I'll be talking about at the sister blog. The above diagram illustrates the average case - for the average buffet diner. Underneath these costs is an assumption about the relative amounts of each food that is eaten. But eaten by whom?
Also, if you have Numbersense (link), the chapter on measuring the inflation rate is relevant here. Any inflation metric must assume a basket of goods, but then the goods within the basket have to be weighted by the amount of expenditure. It's much harder to get the ratio of expenditures correct compared to getting price data.