Rare is the day that no survey full of interesting statistics isn’t published. Indeed, I wonder how the media would exist without them. Apparently 97% of news media use 76% of all surveys for at least 58% of their coverage.
That’s just made up, but does it sound plausible?
But stats must now be set out in a different, eye-catching way, partly to make bald numbers more palatable. This colourful, picturesque, clever display of contemporary data and numbers, has coined a new word: infographics, and it has become both a science and an art in its own right, as you would expect.
For example, in 2010 one hundred million new Twitter accounts were activated, which as an infographic could be presented as a comparative graph, a swirling pie chart, a box with key words enlarged like a tag cloud, different colours, video links and sound attachments. Or the fact could just be stated in a sentence of good old fashioned words!
Drawing Conclusions from Stats
Here are three bunches of stats written as words that appear to be true. While it’s easy to be blase about statistics, they do tell us quite a lot about the way the technology world goes, how people tick and what conclusions should be drawn.
1. The number of UK citizens who have used the net goes on rising. Nearly 42 million adults (83% of the populace) have used the internet and only 8.5 million (17%) have not done so, to date. This is the figure of those who have either at least once done it or never been online.
Worldwide, in June 2011, it was estimated that 2,110 millions had net access, that’s 34% of the world’s population.
2. The App Store Official UK Charts have reported that the app that has hit the top spot in the paid-for iPhone Apps category is WhatsApp Messenger, which allows users to send texts for free across different brands of smartphone.
Another favourite is Angry Birds which has had over 500 million downloads since 2009. Amazing Breaker, a puzzle video game topped the free apps category, while the paid-for category also featured Shadowgun game and the Sky Movies app, video on demand software.
3. According to w3schools.com, the October 2011 most popular web browsers were: Firefox (38.7% of web searches), Chrome (32.3%), Internet Explorer (21.7%), Safari (4.2%) and Opera (2.4%).
Compare this with October 2010 and it was Firefox (44.1%), Chrome (19.2%), Internet Explorer (29.7%), Safari (3.9%) and Opera (2.2%).
On those figures, it would seem that Chrome is doing a lot better, Internet Explorer slowly declines and Firefox is on the slide. The lesson we draw from that is that customer loyalty is a thing of the past, yet most people do not switch browser on a whim or fashion.
In conclusion, all these stats remind us of two old rules in life:
- there are lies, damned lies and statistics
- all generalisations are dangerous, even this one.