Picturing the Uncertain World

Part of my current development project is conveying to people that estimates are uncertain. Every estimate comes with unforeseeable risks (and many foreseeable ones that nobody takes the time to foresee). But how best to represent this graphically? For some reason, cumulative probability charts seem to leave people cold.

I figured that someone might have worked this out. Previously I’d read one of Edward Tufte’s books and found it, in short, to be long on opinions and short on data about what actually improves comprehension. (I haven’t bought any more Tufte books).

I picked up Picturing the Uncertain World by Howard Wainer, hoping that it might be more useful.

While it’s an interesting read — aimed at the lay audience — it didn’t really give me what I was looking for. It did however point me in the direction of some other more technical books.

I have one small pet peeve about this book. The margins are enormous. This is apparently done to allow room for infrequent side labels. It’s a prodigious waste of space that could be saved. The book just doesn’t need be the size it is. Perhaps the paperback edition is more sensibly laid out.

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