A friend of mine sent me the following chart with a request for explanation:
Note to chart makers: if your charts require explanation, you’re doing it wrong.
In case you’re curious, the problem here is generally one of consistency. First, the bars themselves aren’t even all representing comparable entities- the last bar is presumably a “total” category but isn’t explicitly labeled as such, and the other bars can’t decide whether they want to represent one or multiple companies at a time. (I can, however, see that the Best Buy and Barnes & Noble/Borders numbers are just carried over to the last bar from their individual bars, which, if nothing else, makes me wonder why they needed to be in separate bars in the first place.) If the rightmost bar is in fact a total category, I would like to know where Amazon’s existing sales are in that bar, since they seem to have disappeared into thin air rather than being carried over from the Amazon bar. To be fair, I can’t really tell whether the Amazon bar should be carried over or not, since I don’t know precisely what “Media” and “EGM” are supposed to represent. Do these fall under the “Books & Consumer Electronics” category or not? Inquiring minds want to know. On that note, why is the Amazon bar broken up by…whatever this designation is rather than by company like the other bars? And what are the percentages supposed to be- are they growth rates? (If so, over what period? And why doesn’t Amazon get to grow?) Percent of a mythical total? (If this is the case, I would particularly like to know how the 667% figure was arrived at.)
Mind you, none of this even mentions my personal pet peeve of asterisks and footnotes that don’t go anywhere. In this case, I am going to be left forever wondering what details (1) and (2) are supposed to provide. Maybe they would have been the key to understanding this mess and now I will never reach enlightenment.
In any case, the bottom line is this: friends don’t let friends make bad charts. If you know someone you you think may have a problem, let me know and we can stage an intervention or something.
P.S. If you really want to read the article after all of this, you can find it here.
P.P.S. I figured it was a good time to remind you of this: