Nate Silver’s ‘538’ Shines With Nerdy Luminescence; Ezra Klein’s ‘Vox’ Polishes Turds


Do you have a (figurative or literal) boner for political and sportsball prognosticating whiz kid Nate Silver? I got one from reading The Signal and the Noise,probably because I minored in statistics in college. It raged even harder last year when I heard about the 538/ESPN deal (despite my personal reservations about that fucking pedophile Mickey Mouse). Well, get your (figurative or literal) fapping accessories ready, because 538 has relaunched chock full of “data journalism.”

Remember last week when Ezra Klein promised to save mouth-breathers such as ourselves from not understanding the news real good? He said he’ll deliver in-depth ‘splainin’ of the news to alleviate the anxiety of having shit for brains and that the information overload would be coming “soon.” Have you been visiting Vox and feverishly refreshing looking for content? For now, it turns out the website is just an ad for GE until the full launch, and the spinach content is currently dished out via social media. Facebook is the venue for Q&As with their experts (read: reporters). Vox uses Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share charts and graphs created by other people with little context.


“Wow, Fitz. That’s kinda harsh. I really liked the Wonkblog, and I think Ezra Klein is so cute with his glasses” you’re saying, “Got any examples of why you think Vox is so crappy?”

Of course I do, but (beyond the annoying faux-conversational style we just engaged in, which is thus far endemic to Vox) I’ll only share one, so I can get back to fellating Nate Silver (figuratively).

Have a lookie-loo at this Facebook stream:


Two bones must be picked. Firstly, Vox says that revenue is down from corporations (the red line) and up from individuals (the blue line). They got it half right, but applying a little quantitative literacy (read: math) to the vegetables in the source material will reveal that federal income tax revenue from corporations did significantly decrease over time but revenue from individuals did not change over time. Deux, the point of the source article is not really data analysis, but comparing two different tools (R and Python, for the curious nerds) for creating visuals. The author even disclaims the simplicity of the linear regression model employed and teases readers with the model diagnostics that he and his partner will tackle in the next installment of their series on R vs. Python. (Sorry, we had to go to super nerd town there, but at least I didn’t say “heteroscedasticity”.)

Compare that to the St. Paddy’s Day launch of 538. Five verticals! A clean, colorful design! A metric shit-tonne of original content! Including interactive charts and graphs! Things animate and pop up and what-have-you when you roll over them! Writers who are smart about their subject matter AND smart about data! Context and explanations of what they’re doing!

Not to be outdone in the artisanal blogging data journalism arms race, the newspaper of record announced they’ll be launching a similar thing called “The Upshot” run by David Leonhardt. I had no idea that nerdy was going to be the thing in Spring 2014; I thought it was going to be gold in your hair and icy pastels. But by the look of 538’s contributors, maybe it’s both. They should really get away from their cubicles and get some sun.

For great Happy Nice Time People fun in the comments: Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, David Leonhardt. Fuck, Marry, Kill. Go!

[538/Vox’s Facebook/The Swarm Lab/The New York Times Company]

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