How CNN’s presidential election coverage helped my mother finally understands what I do for a living

9 November 2016 - 21:43, by , in blog, No comments

by Jim Butz, co-founder and CEO, Southport Services Group

When I left work yesterday, I had no intention of watching the election results playout hour-by-hour on my television. In fact, I planned to spend the night catching up on Narcos episodes before heading to bed to get my recommended eight hours of beauty sleep (no comments.)

By about 9:30 pm, I couldn’t resist the temptation to change over to network news to get a “quick” update on the results. I grabbed the TV remote, and by chance more than intention, landed on CNN. That’s when I saw the CNN “Magic Wall” for the first time, and my plans for an early evening fell apart.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years of my professional life helping companies make sense of data. What I do has been described by many changing labels over the years — executive information systems, decision support systems, enterprise reporting, business intelligence, analytics, etc…. But at the end of the day, I’ve always viewed what I do as helping people make sense of data.

This was a concept that has always been difficult for my mother to fully understand. I’ve tried using examples based on brands that she knows – companies like American Express, Citibank, Campbell Soup, Tory Burch, etc… Despite many attempts to explain what my company does, I’ve never been able to really connect the dots for her in a way that she truly understood. Until last night when I saw the “Magic Wall.”

John King was able to use the “Magic Wall” to present election data in a way that simply isn’t possible with static graphics or summary-level visualizations. Let me give you an example: telling us that Donald Trump led Michigan by 40,235 votes with 80% of the votes in while looking at an image of the state of Michigan is informative. But in many ways creates more questions than it answers and leaves plenty of room for speculation and guessing. Where are these votes coming from? Are they coming from areas that traditionally lean red or blue? What are the demographics of the areas that are still outstanding and what does that mean for my candidate?

With the touch of the screen, John King was able to answer all of these questions and more by drilling into the county-level election detail. In doing so, he moved the presentation from informative to enlightening. By instantly toggling between current and prior election results, he was able to lead us on a fact-based journey through the data, allowing us to draw our own conclusions based on the data — no political commentary, no bias, no spin, just facts.

The combination of touch technology. intuitively designed user interface and timely, accurate data had me hooked. I went from a guy who was just interested in getting a “quick update on the results” to a guy who spent four hours glued to CNN, totally engrossed by the “Magic Wall” and the story it was telling me.

So mom, this is what I do for a living. I help companies make sense of their data. I use cool technologies like the Magic Wall to allow people like John King to interact with the data in a way that allows them to eliminate guesswork and make better decisions based on facts. See John King in action here.

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