Saturday, March 8, 2014

Geek is the new cool: Here's some (circumstantial) evidence

When The Signal and the Noise got to the top of the best seller lists, it was clear that Nate Silver was on the path to stardom and that —perhaps— public perception of statistics and evidence was changing for the better.

Silver, who left The New York Times in 2013, is now at ESPN, and about to launch the new iteration of his popular FiveThirtyEight brand. This is good news for those in data-driven journalism and visualization in general. Silver's success is bringing a lot of attention to branches of communication that were once considered the realm of geeks and nerds. It turns out that those weirdos may eventually dethrone the I-guess-I-think-I-believe-I-proclaim pundit caste once comfortably encroached on op-ed pages and news in general. Suddenly, numbers, analysis, and graphics are cool. They're becoming mainstream. It's a beautiful sight.

Here's some shaky, circumstantial evidence: I've just stopped by an airport bookstore and bought the latest issues of some magazines. This week's Time comes with a long story about Silver (sneak peek,) ESPN has a new "Analytics Issue" out,* and more than 50% of the newest Foreign Affairs is devoted to data-related topics, with essays about mobile technology, the redefinition of privacy, and the debacle. I didn't even check the science and tech magazines. There's surely more stuff in those.

* For those of you who know me in person: No, I still don't care about sports. I just like numbers.