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Datavis shenanigans

I have been wanting to do this for days. It is my profession, after all. Or rather, it is a very important part of my profession - data visualization. And I haven't pored over my Edward Tufte and my Chaomei Chen for nothing for all these years. Only reason I left it so long was that I needed a substantial number of days of both covid 19 test numbers as well as test results to be able to show what I want to show. So, here without further ado, it is:

What you see in this first graph is what you see everywhere from the worldometer site to every other imaginable platform. In fact it is the only thing one seems to see. It is a graph that is made out of accumulated numbers. Meaning that the numbers of the current day get added onto those of all the previous days. Naturally, the graph keeps moving up and up as more and more days during which more and more tests are conducted are added; given that it takes a while, possibly weeks before the cases diagnosed have a chance to recover and can then be subtracted from the total. Which will happen eventually but not right away. So, there will be no downward turn in this graph anytime soon. In fact, heaven forbid a sudden downward turn  - it would mean nothing but people suddenly dying in huge numbers overnight.

It is only natural that people who see graphs like this completely freak out about the unstoppable spread of the pandemic. Completely understandable. But a misplaced fear nevertheless. (As the saying goes - "trust me, I am a designer" ;-). But all kidding aside, this really is my job. I have been doing it and teaching it for nigh on 45 years and I have yet to be fired for incompetence.

Now look at this second graph. It has been compiled out of the exact same numbers that are on the first graph. The difference is that these are percentages that I have calculated out of tests conducted per day and cases identified out of that number. It rises and dips, but the bottom line is that overall it is even. Ergo, no horrifying increase in disease spread as the first chart would have you believe. 

Again folks - you are looking at the exact same data, except that it can be shown to you in very different ways. As any info-vis educated graphic designer worth his or her salt can show you in a flash. Which is what I have done here. 

Which I have not done to soothe your frayed nerves. I have done this to get you to finally turn away from all this and to start looking at the real elephant in the room which is the collapse of the world economy. 

Note: The health ministry gives out test numbers and case numbers here everyday on a web page that is actually very easy to understand. There is a lot of suspicion in the Turkish public that they are hiding the numbers, that these results (both tests and cases) are not accurate. Now, I would be the last person to trust any government agency anywhere in the world, much less my own. So, I am definitely taking this into account. But it is what I have to go on. I have looked for concise, easy to figure out portals like the one here for other countries (well only the US and the UK to be honest) but I can't seem to find one. Would be nice to be able to do this exercise with some other data sets as well. Especially to find out if the guys here are fibbing or not. But alas...

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