Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rock Music, Oil Production, and Graphical Correlation

You know how dangerous it is to plot two indicators on the same graph and claim correlation. The viewer will, all too often, read something more into the graph than the data will allow. Sometimes, to tell a compelling story, you really, really want to do it anyway. This graph should help discourage that impulse:

The graph is from the Overthinking It blog, which has a fascinating discussion about the production of the greatest rock songs of all time and how much crude we pump out of the ground. And if you like that article (which I suspect you might), check out a flow-up post (with plenty of graphs!) on the shifting trends in production of great movies.

So what's the lesson we learn from these graphs? Indicators tell stories. But misuse of indicators can tell the wrong kinds of stories. It's easy, with today's software, to put together correlations in graphs -- global average temperature v. number of pirates comes to mind -- but just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

1 comment:

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