The data visualization tools being used by millions of business users around the world are essentially dumb. What this means is that the graphs, charts, gauges, dashboards and so on being produced in high volumes, within all types of businesses, come with no inbuilt intelligence to indicate what a visualization is actually saying.
A simple example will clarify. Consider a chart with several points on it, all of which show a higher value than the previous one (apart from the first of course). Many people would identify this as a rising trend. But a random sequence of points will show such ‘rising trends’ quite regularly – and they mean absolutely nothing.
Dumb visualization technologies support the representation of any data a person may wish to analyse. Knowing when such visualizations mean something and when they do not is a tricky business. As far as I am aware all the data visualization tools available today are essentially dumb.
Some may complain that users of this technology should know enough about statistics to work out the significance of the patterns that show up in visualizations. But this really misses the point. We don’t expect users to be able to program in Java, or whatever language is used to build a visualization tool, and neither should we expect them to be statisticians.
A smart data visualization tool will advise the user on the quality of the features a visualization is showing, and not simply display them without any guidance. This is desperately needed, since it will absolutely be the case that businesses around the globe will be basing decisions on spurious patterns (trends, comparisons etc) found by visualizing data.
If anyone knows of a smart data visualization tool please let me know.