Monthly Archives: May 2010

You had me at Wordle

In my constant pursuit to find new visualization tools I stumbled upon Wordle. While my favorite visualization tools provide a broad range of visualization types, they often require you to upload your dataset which is subsequently accessible by anyone. In contrast, Wordle allows you to paste text, URL’s or a user name in the creation screen and leaves the decision to share your word cloud completely up to you. Wordle also offers a number of fonts, colors and design options so that you can artfully craft the perfect word cloud.

As a numbers person, I struggled with tangible ways to use word clouds. After an hour of testing different options, I came up with a few interesting ways you might use Wordle . As a bonus, I even found a way to incorporate numbers.

1. Bio. If you’re like me and dislike writing your own biography, why not put a new age spin on your personal resume by publishing a Word Cloud Bio. I loaded my resume into Wordle with the following result:


My Professional Word Cloud Bio

2. Demystifying your blog. Find out what you spend the majority of your blog talking about. – does it match your life passion? You might also gauge new blogs you are considering adding to your blog role by typing the URL into Wordle. I was surprised to see how similar my resume and blog are – thankfully my passion and professional life seem aligned (see below).
The Insight Effect Word Cloud

The Insight Effect Word Cloud

3. Inspiration. Have you book marked a favorite blog, website, speech, movie, music album, or book that motivates and inspires you? Why not load the details into Wordle and create a screen saver or desktop theme that energizes you.

Favorite Quotes

4. Lotto Picks. If you want a new way to pick lotto numbers – try loading the recent winning numbers. I pulled all the winning numbers (up to today) for the Canada Lotto Max, which just started in September 2009. I excluded the Max millions because who wants one million when there’s a jackpot of 50 million!
(Side note: Probability wise, all numbers have an equal chance of being pulled in a lotto draw). Good Luck & if you win using the information feel free to send me royalties!

Lotto Max Frequency

Lotto Max Winning Numbers

Lucky #17

Leave me a comment with your ideas and experience with Wordle!


Dear Data Guru,

Like most companies, you probably have a thirst for information when it comes to your customers. You simply want to know everything about them; psychographics, demographics, satisfaction, purchasing habits and the list goes on. Often times this thirst results in a significant (translation = expensive) infrastructure investment to manage your data and to drive an exceptional customer experience through highly integrated systems. Once you’ve integrated your sales, accounting, manufacturing, customer service, marketing and quality data how do you translate this into value for your customer and drive a Return on Insight?

Many companies have made managing their data a number one priority, but with the vast amount of data available they are struggling to understand it. Translating data into insight is arguably an arduous task. While many software programs including Microsoft Excel 2007 are capable of running an algorithm or confidence interval there is a fine line between what is statistically significant and patterns that have meaning. Extrapolating insight from data is a science that was designed for the Data Guru.

Data Guru’s have an aptitude to see information through a polarized filter, meaning that they can block out elements that create noise to identify patterns and trends that matter. They’ve moved well beyond one-message-fits-all-customers to a calculated equation, which customizes each interaction with the customer to optimize relevancy and value. The data guru goes beyond new age database marketing to interpreting outliers in sales patterns, methodically reducing operational expenses and forecasting sales well into the future. Fundamental to their data analysis is a strategic view-point on why things are happening and picking out the golden nuggets that matter. Here are a few guiding principles:

1. Data doesn’t lie, but people often do. What you trust is up to you.

2. Insightful findings are in your data, but biased opinion may mask it. Subjectively searching for a specific validation may cause you to miss objective insights and more importantly the whole picture. The insight effect occurs when an unbiased analysis provides significance and meaning to a company regardless of whether it was the expected outcome.

3. Many patterns are statistically significant, but not all patterns are significant from a business perspective. In some cases, an outlier in your sales data says more than the upward trend – you need to see beyond the data to present the figures that truly matter.

4. There are many ways to visualize information, but not all visualizations are proportional. Be weary of graphs that are not made to scale. Simple example: if you show a cumulative graph of your sales year-over-year the result will be an upward trend; unfortunately, this does not mean your sales have increased year-over-year. Flowing data picked up on the following misrepresentation by BP.

Oil Spill Cumulative Graph

BP Cumulative Graph on Oil Spill

In contrast here is a Proportional Visualization of the top Social Media Subscriber Base
built in Many EyesSocial Media Subscriber Visualization

5. Statitistics have value, but not all statistics can be taken at face value. What works for one company or brand may not work for yours. When all else fails refer to principal #1 and trust the numbers.

With shrinking marketing budgets and slowing sales due to economic conditions, companies are struggling to stretch their marketing investments. A great way to focus your marketing efforts is to invest in areas your customers value. If you haven’t spoken to a Data Guru, I encourage you to start the conversation.

How doing what you believe correlates with growth

Why do you do what you do?

This is the question a new Ted talk asks you to answer
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Simon reminds us that people buy because of ‘why you do something’, not ‘what you do’. When you inspire people with your products, your cause, your brand they become ambassadors and they will carry your message on to the public. A Harvard Business Review on loyalty, published in 2001, analyzes a similar point. The number one driver for growth is your customers willingness to evangelize your products, cause or brand. So how do we find these types of people?

I think you need to start with a great group of marketers that believe in what you do. It’s hard to create inspiring ideas if the people you are relying on lack the drive and passion to tell an emotional story. You need to find people that cut through the marketing clutter to create a message worth repeating. At that point, make sure you’ve got insight and know who your customer is and how to reach them. It usually helps to have great analytics people on your team. Finally, look for ways to create emotional connectedness with your customers. If you haven’t tried a hand-written post card to your loyal evangelists, what are you waiting for?

Thanks Simon for a few great quotes to inspire us all:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”
“We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.”

Recipe for Happiness

Have you ever wondered if work-life balance is possible?

After spending 60 hours a week working in the Corporate world I thought I knew the answer.  I believed that if you love what you do, there is no point counting the hours you spend doing it.  Call it naivety that opportunity cost was never factored into my equation.   In my case opportunity cost was all the things I gave up; time with friends & family, hobbies like photography & writing and most importantly pursuing my life’s passion.  Since leaving the security of a weekly paycheck I’ve found myself making time for new interests, getting back in touch with old friends and having time to think of creative ways to leave an imprint on the world.  I can’t give you the recipe for happiness, it’s internal to each of us.  I can tell you that I’m perfecting my own equation and so far it looks like this:

Each Day =

  • a splash of fitness
  • exciting work that pays well
  • a dash of creative thinking
  • a great meal with a new recipe
  • a heart full of love for the people around me
  • an open mind
  • a sprinkle of written thought
  • something new

I’m free and I’m open to see opportunity as it presents itself.