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The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions by Phil Simon

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CHAPTER 6

The Four-Level Visual Organization Framework

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.

—George E. P. Box

Introduced in the early 1960s, Bizarro World (aka Htrae) is a fictional planet in the DC Comics's universe. Comedian and Superman über-fan Jerry Seinfeld used Htrae as the inspiration for one of my favorite episodes of his eponymous TV show. In “The Bizarro Jerry,” Elaine befriends a group of people who are both eerily similar to—and remarkably different from—George, Elaine, and Kramer.* (There's even a portly character named Vargas, a much friendlier version of Seinfeld's diabolical mailman Newman.) I'll leave it at that. Explaining any episode of the series is never a short exercise.

Let me take you for a moment to another fantastic place: Data Bizarro World (DBW). On this mystical planet, data quality issues don't exist. Interpretation is universal, and all data sources, types, and velocities are equal. In short, all data is perfect. Because of this, all data visualizations are equally effective and understood by all. Everyone looks at the same charts, graphs, and tree maps and instantly knows exactly what's going on and, even better, why.

So what do you think? Would you like to live on DBW? Things certainly seem simpler there. Data isn't nearly as messy as it is on Earth. There are fewer arguments since everyone's on the same page. Maybe work is more pleasant, if a little boring.

Enjoy yourself while this trip lasts, because we're going back to ...

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