UPDATE: After talking to Mr. Hammond, I realized the main use case I was envisioning isn’t what he’s focusing on. He is focusing on a final product that is a complete news article, like about a baseball game or an earnings announcement.
ORIGINAL POST: I hope this post doesn’t come across as sacrilegious to data visualization aficionados. Data is useless without analysis. Charts make it easier to analyze information, but don’t suggest what to do with it. Kris Hammond, the CTO of Narrative Science told the Strata Summit about why his company can solve this problem. He has created software that analyzes data and automatically presents a narrative – complete sentences – that helps explain what to do with this information. If this makes BI and other data more accessible, then it will have value.
For example, someone would write software that would process data and instead of creating a pie chart indicating that 75% of people are eating lunch, it would generate a sentence that reads, “since 75% of people are eating lunch, you should consider eating lunch too.”
To me, this seems to be another type of “report”, just like a BI report, but more useful to a decision maker. However, I expect that if you read the conclusion, then you’ll want to actually dig into the actual charts and data.
From my experience, I’ve also noticed that you can’t even get someone’s attention without having a good infographic. Pictures/charts will still be the best way to get someone’s attention, and many people are visual learners. However, considering the difficulty of creating easy to understand graphics that bring in multiple variables, I do think this is a good approach for some use cases.
Overall, this doesn’t actually get rid of the need for analysts. In fact, it can actually generate the demand for more of them. The systemrequires someone to write-up the different angles or conclusions that are presented to a viewer based on certain data. I can imagine the need for significant peer review of the phrase dictionary that would be used by the software. In this regard, the conclusions will have to be reviewed just like the input for recommendations are checked by subject area experts.