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Doing Data Journalism Badly

from the flop dept

While there was a lot of rhetoric concerning the Instagram terms of service mess recently, most observers of these kinds of things noted that for all the claims from people that they were “quitting” the service, few people ever actually follow through on such threats. So, it surprised some this morning when the NY Post reported that Instagram users actually did flee in large droves, citing data from a company called AppData. They argued that there was a potential 25% decline in users, which is huge. The news apparently contributed to Facebook’s stock dropping by nearly 3%… despite the claim being almost entirely bogus.

Even a quick look at the data that AppData presented should have raised some eyebrows:

As lots of folks pointed out, starting with Zachary Seward at Quartz (linked above), the drop shown does not occur until December 24th… a good week after the whole controversy went down. Furthermore, AppData does not measure all Instagram usage at all, but the small subset of people who have connected their Instagram accounts to their Facebook accounts. But most people just use Instagram as a mobile app, and AppData doesn’t measure that.

Meanwhile, Robin Wauters over at TheNextWeb does a brilliant job of showing plenty of other services that AppsData’s “data” also shows “plunged” during the same time period, including Yahoo! Social bar, which shot up… and then back down:

Or Pinterest, which dropped a bunch during that same time period:
Wauters lists a bunch of other examples as well, all suggesting that maybe the original claim by AppData, repeated by the NY Post (and then others) had little basis in reality.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: appdata, instagram, ny post

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Comments on “Doing Data Journalism Badly”

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out_of_the_blue says:

"Doing Data Journalism Badly" -- Yes, you are.

Oh, wait. You’re apparently still under your own illusions.

Yes, you can rely on dolts to remain dolts no matter how obviously exploited by greedy corporations. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”, and “products” aren’t very bright. Just at the moment, I think they should be made into Soylent Green, but perhaps that will pass.

Take a moment for Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick and click:
Actual unsolicited testimonial: “Until I read Techdirt.com, I didn’t know what shameless self-promotion was!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, I wouldn’t say this is all bad, it certainly points to one thing, all those people who say “I will quit” some probably do, this would make me interested in looking more deeply into it.

Say like trying to find a correlation between number of post saying “I quit”, “I will leave”, “I am cancelling” etc to drops in network activity, download of apps etc.

AppData may not be accurate enough to give exactly coordinates but it could be good enough to give a general direction.

Saying that I agree AppData may not be trustworthy enough to make claims about how many leave or to measure market share impact accurately, but it may be good enough to spot trends.

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