The Five Ws of Data Presentation

Thanks to the provocation of a Boston Hacks/Hackers MeetUp, I tried out a new way of talking about the a process for Data Therapy.  Most children in American learn about the five Ws in the context of how to report a story like a journalist – discuss the who, what, when, where and why.  This provides a nice metaphor for the way that I talk about the process of making a creative presentation of your data!

  • The Who – identify your audience as well as you can
  • The What – find and characterize your data-driven story so you understand it fully
  • The When & Where – respect the context your audience will be in when seeing your presentation
  • The Why – be clear to yourself about your goals, and try to identify your audience’s
  • The How – pick an appropriate technique for your presentation and try it out

I know, the last one isn’t a W, but according to Wikipedia that has historical precedent!

The key problem here is that few resources exist to help you pick the How based on the who/what/when/where/why!  I’ll expand on this more later, but we need to build scaffolding to help people pick appropriate data presentation techniques based on their data, audience and goals.  Is a heat-map or bar graph better for my data? Should I use a stand-up / sit-down physically activity or a pie-chart? These are the central questions I’m trying to help people solve with my Data Therapy workshops.