AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | pie

Happy Pi Day! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. If you had an internet browser open to this site today, 3.14.15 at precisely 9:26:53 am (EST) looking for today’s post to be about Pi Day, then you probably know that today is a particularly prodigious Pi Day as we have a date and time that represent the first 10 digits of pi, something that will not occur for another 100 years (OK, to be fair, another 12 hours, then another 100 years!).

Lesson Learned: Pi Day is celebrated internationally each year with deference to every mathematician’s favorite constant – the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter —which is approximately 3.141592653… and has now been calculated to over 1 trillion digits! (Back in my school days, we only had to memorize 3.14.) Pi enjoys an illustrious history and you can read more about it and actually see one million of those daunting digits on www.piday.org.

Apple pi by Alex Cockroach via Flickr

Apple Pi by Alex Cockroach via Flickr

Now, as we slickly segue from the consistently celebrated constant to the perpetually plagued pie chart, let’s take a moment for a 360 degree look at pie chart perspectives from around the blogosphere:

We can only surmise how Cole Nussbaumer, of storytelling with data, feels about pie charts with her evocatively titled 2011 post, death to pie charts. Perhaps not surprisingly, it opens with, “I hate pie charts. I mean, really hate them.” Nussbaumer explains, “My main beef with pie charts … is this: our eyes aren’t good at attributing quantitative value to two dimensional spaces. In English: pie charts are really hard for people to read!”

Pie charts receive a bare modicum of redemption from Slate in a 2013 article, In Defense of Pie Charts wherein author Matthew Yglesias declares (somewhat not-so-convincingly, as it’s by way of a double negative), “it’s by no means true that pies are never the right way to go.”

Back in our own evaluator neighborhood, Kim Firth Leonard, of actionable data blog stands boldly on the fence declaring, “I’m not entirely ready to abandon using pie charts in my own practice” in her 2012 post, My love hate relationship with pie charts. And pie.

And evaluation’s dataviz darlings Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K Emery have allowed pie in moderation with only the simplest of ingredients, of course, as elucidated in their recipe card for gorgeous graphs, the Data Visualization Checklist (downloadable from either of their sites).

Coming full circle (seriously, how could we not?) with a return to Pi, we can perhaps see some esoteric connections to evaluation in this fact, courtesy of www.piday.org: “As an irrational and transcendental number, [pi] will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern.”

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

The following is shared on behalf of Mel Mark, AEA’s intrepid 2006 President, Professor at Penn State, and infamous evaluation lyricist. The song below was sung at the closing session of AEA’s annual conference this past week in Anaheim.

Rad Resource:  Evaluation Pie to be sung to the tune of American Pie by Don McLean

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
Group assignment used to make me smile.
And I knew that with point oh-5 chance
That I could find sig- nif- i- cance
And, maybe, better programs for a while.

But all the non-use made me shiver
With every report I’d deliver.
Bad news in the summary;
My critics said, he’s a duh-uh-my.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I saw the data didn’t jibe,
But something touched me deep inside
The day my re-port died.

So bye-bye, e- val- u- a- tion pie.
Drove MANOVA to the levee,
But MANOVA was dry.
And the small r squared was shrinkin’ hither and nye
Singin’, “this’ll be the day that stats lie.
“this’ll be the day that stats lie.”

Did you write pro-gram the-ry,
And do you have faith in the questions key,
If the client tells you so?
Now do you believe in the stan-dards,
Can qual types mix with the quant nerds,
And can you teach me how to read Po-Mo?

Well, I know that you’re not theory-driven
`cause I saw you dancin’ with Mike Scriven.
Well, you both got sum- a- tive.
Man, I dig the way that you live.
I was a lonely outside con-tract-er
With a client problem that I couldn’t cure,
And I knew I was so unsure
The day my re-port died.

I started singing
Bye-bye, e- val-u- a- tion pie.
Focused my group on the levee,
But fo-cus went awry.
With sug-gestions the program funds couldn’t buy
Singin’, “this’ll be the day my plans die.
“this’ll be the day my plans die.”

Now for many years we’ve had our AEA
Presidential Strand, it was the place to be,
As 3 comments helped us see.  
When the jester sang in the last plen-ry,
With a tune he borrowed from Mc-Clean
And a joke well it came from you and me.

And while Jennifer was looking on,
The jester made the people yawn.
The session was adjourned;
The encore it was spurned.
As Fetterman read a book by me,
Stragglers drank in the lobby,
And I wished that the drinks were free
The day my re-port died.

I started singing
Bye-bye, e- val-u- a- tion pie.
Focused my group on the levee,
But fo-cus went awry.
With sug-gestions the program funds couldn’t buy
Singin’, “this’ll be the day my plans die.
“this’ll be my plans die.”

I met a man who had a book,
And he held it with a happy look.
And then he tried to sell some more.
I logged on to the eval store,
Where I bought some textbooks years before.
But the website said the man’s book didn’t sell.

On Eval-talk the flamers screamed,
Consultants cried, and the theorists dreamed.
But not a program flourished,
Though bottom lines were nourished.
And the three Mikes I admire the most,
The checklist, use, and the Friar’s Roast
They could not save me, that’s no boast,
The day my re-port died.

I started singing
Bye-bye, e- val-u- a- tion pie.
Drove MANOVA to the levee,
But MANOVA was dry.
And the small r squared was shrinkin’ hither and nye
Singin’, “this’ll be the day that stats lie.
“this’ll be the day that stats lie.”

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice.

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