Pointless Nonsense

Posted in charts and things by Bill on April 9, 2011

Pacer mentioned having trouble keeping track of which episodes he had and had not seen, so I mentioned a couple places to keep count. on-my.tv is the one I’ve used for years, I now use the TV Show Favs android app, and I’d also heard about MyEpisodes (which doesn’t look that interesting) and followmy.tv, which I immediately signed up for. Why would I need another thing to track my viewing? Well I don’t, but it has a “Time Wasted” feature, that tracks the total amount of time you spend watching TV. And, since I’m a loser and several years back I started keeping an incomplete list of every show I’ve ever watched, I was able to plug in at least almost every show I’ve ever gone out of my way to try to catch episodes of. Grand total of wasted time: 1 year, 10 months, 25 days, 5 hours, and 10 minutes. With time for sleep and bathroom breaks, it’d take about 3 years of nonstop TV watching to get through it all. I do not recommend this.

For the data nerd in me, I idiotically took the time to total up the numbers in various categories (I’m also very tired, and it’s keeping my mind occupied so I don’t fall asleep at work). Pictured is by genre (comedy, drama, etc), click the image for a larger version, or click here for a breakdown by subjects (cops, doctors, etc). I split L&O and L&O:LA equally between cops and lawyers, and Veronica Mars equally between PI and School. If any were harder to define to me than that, they went in “Other” (along with things like SNL and The Daily Show which are #1 and #2 (with L&O third) on my list of shows that wasted the most time) One that may need some explanation I called “wandering helpful,” because I couldn’t think of a better brief explanation for it. Knight Rider, MacGyver, The Incredible Hulk, Supernatural, Quantum Leap: these are shows about people who wander from town to town (or time to time) where almost every episode involves the main character(s) meeting someone new who needs help. There are hardly any reused sets or secondary regular characters. I used to complain about how there weren’t any of these any more (there were tons in the 80s), but definitely Supernatural and probably Leverage count for this (Leverage has a home base in Boston but they definitely fit the idea of traveling and meeting random strangers who need help). What I learned from the second data set is that I apparently don’t really like doctor shows (House and Scrubs are 11 of my 18 days on them), and there should be more spy shows (but not ones that suck like Nikita does).

If I ever lose my mind, I might try to break it down by year, but that would be tricky (I can’t just take the 1m 13d figure for SNL and plug it into a spreadsheet, I’d have to split it up over 30-something years). I suspect it would show a steady upward trend, drop off in the mid-90s (I didn’t have a TV in my dorm for most of 1996-1999), then skyrocket in the 2000s thanks to my obsession with Alias turning me back on to quality television, Hulu and Netflix and DVRs expanding the TV I’m able to watch from a given night, and the proliferation of original programming on cable networks offering more choices.

Other charts and things that are not about me slowly entertaining myself to death:

  • This guy did an infographic about infographics, which is kinda neat.
  • This infographic on for-profit colleges may enrage you.
  • And this one about coffee and tea enraged me too, but for another reason. Look at this section, don’t the two bar graphs make it look like black tea has about as much caffeine as coffee? I know the axes are labeled, but it seems like a really poor representation of the data. And the pie chart in the middle? People overuse the pie chart because it looks pretty, but it’s quite useless for many applications. This one breaks both rules for pie charts (which I just made up, but I’m sure someone in design has voiced these ideas before):

    1. The whole pie must represent something. Pie charts work for a lot of polling data, because the entire pie is all the responders, and the pieces are what they said. Pie charts work for budgets because the whole pie is your entire budget, and the pieces are the individual areas you spend money on. What does the whole pie represent in the coffee/tea graphic? The amount of caffeine in four cups of various beverages?
    2. The amounts should not be close together. Bar, line, or scatter graphs are much better at showing relative amounts, pie charts can make it very hard to tell. We’re good at telling if a slice is more than half or less than half, more than a quarter or less than a quarter, but the difference between 35% and 40%, or between 18% and 22% is not immediately obvious. Like this pie chart I made of 6 random numbers between 10 and 25. I thought I might have to generate a second set but it came out perfectly useless on the first try. A line or bar graph of the same data would make it nice and clear which ones are bigger than others, but the pie chart does not. At all. After removing the labels on the pie chart, I can tell the biggest and the smallest, but I struggle with the middle four. The whole point of charts and graphs is to make the data easier to understand. Exceptions to this rule: when you’re trying to make the various amounts seem similar, or when you very carefully label your data (but design people like a clean minimalist look, so they don’t generally label well)

    Makes me want to shout at the author, Morbo style: pie charts do not work that way! Goodnight!

This got really long somehow. Again, I am very tired, and this whole thing is probably riddled with typos and editing errors.

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One Response

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  1. joseph said, on April 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Your infographic link for for-profit colleges made me think of this editorial by Peter Thiel (famous venture capital, known for being the co-founder of Paypal),
    http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/10/peter-thiel-were-in-a-bubble-and-its-not-the-internet-its-higher-education/


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