Category Archives: Life

Charts Infographics Life

My first infographics rant of 2012

I wasn’t planning on having a rant like this so early in the year, but then I saw the following ‘in the wild’ and felt the need to vent.

Every year I get an annual statement from a pension I paid into over ten years ago when I worked for a UK retailer. I usually ignore these as, to be honest I don’t always understand the figures completely and I wasn’t really in the job for long enough that the return will affect me greatly when I retire.

Just yesterday I received my annual funding statement for 2011 and, on opening it, found this table directly comparing the funding level from 2010 with that of 2007:-

Not only was there a shortfall in the overall funding total for 2010, but they felt it would be prudent to display the headline percentages again as this:

I mean, why? This tells me nothing more (less, in fact) than the table shown above. I already understand the figures well enough without a truly awful speedometer graphic to make things ‘clearer’ or ‘more interesting/fun’ for me…the key point is that, at this moment in time there would be insufficient funds to pay out to everybody in the scheme, compared to the surplus in 2007.  If I had a large amount of money stored in this pension fund I wouldn’t be welcoming something ‘fun’ to look at.

With only two data points to display there’s actually really no need for any graphics. The table (at least to me) is understandable enough without taking up unnecessary extra space in the report to ‘clarify’ the key data it contains.  In fact, the speedometer takes up more space on the report than the table does, and this  to only highlight the two percentages – a completely pointless waste of otherwise useful space, I think.

If there were more data points covering more years then a simple line chart like the one below would be much more useful (if a little boring), and would give a better overall picture of what has gone amiss and when – what do you think?

This makes it much easier to see how the fund has changed over time.   In fact, with this in mind I’m interested as to why the report didn’t contain more years’ data…

Anyway, that’s one rant over. The following page of the report then details where the money has been invested.

I don’t need to make any comments on this image as you probably already know my thoughts. At least it totals 100%.

As usual, comments are welcome.

2toria Life Work

Developers Block

At my day job, other than data analysis and reporting, I develop applications using VBA, Office and VB2008, and I think I’ve gotten reasonably good at doing it.  I’m there to identify areas which need improvement and then I develop tools that staff can use to streamline their day-to-day jobs.  Most of these things I come up with myself based on awareness of these ‘gaps’ in productivity or access to useful data, but staff also approach me with ideas which I then convert from paper to electronic systems.  So, basically, in my day-to-day role I’m never without a challenge in terms of coming up with ideas or developing those suggested by others.

When I get home and try to think of real-world solutions that I can write and maybe even make available for lovely people like you to use I often fall short of ideas.  It’s kind of like a ‘developers block’ of some kind.  I find myself looking for ‘that thing/idea’ that doesn’t yet exist, only to come away with nothing.  I know, I know, I’m not going to find something that doesn’t exist, but some ideas would be nice.

It’s actually quite difficult for me to gauge what people would find useful in terms of desktop software applications.  Somewhere out there, somebody wants something that will make their daily lives easier.  It could be some kind of financial function that just doesn’t exist yet, or access to multiple streams of data into one package so that analysis tasks can be made easier, but I don’t know what these things are.  And when I try to think about what would make my life easier in terms of software that I don’t have that does that thing I need, I have periods where I simply fail to come up with ideas.

Does anybody else have that problem?  Do you have any suggestions on software/services that don’t exist yet or could be improved upon?  It’d be interesting to hear your thoughts…

2toria Life

Busy busy busy

I’ve a couple of really busy days in my real job, so I won’t be updating the site much this week.  I’ll try and get a couple more posts on for the A to Z series but can’t promise anything.  Normal service will be resumed very soon, chaps – don’t go anywhere!!


A new geek.

The Bobster started her new job today and I’m really chuffed for her.  Not just because she’s got away from working on phones in a call centre and now has some responsibility, but because her new job requires a lot of Excel work.

Which means I have a new real life student!  And a future geek in the making.  I’m sure she’ll love it.