Real-time Dashboards are Pig Lipstick to our Data Challenges

Real-time dashboards are “all the rage” these days. It seems like a new dashboarding tool is popping up every other week, and people are going crazy over them, knocking themselves out with shiny graphed statistics.

I hate dashboards.

Dashboards are no more than a pretty little band-aid stuck over a festering wound – or lipstick on a pig. Dashboards are a failed attempt to make complex questions answerable by humans. When you put a dashboard in front of a human (albeit a well-trained, fully-committed and damn smart professional), you expect the human to do stupendously difficult things, constantly.

You expect said human to:

  • Continuously translate percentages to absolute changes and back. Mistakenly getting excited over a 30% increase symbolizing an absolute rise from 3 to 4 is something that has sadly happened to us all (not you, lean machine we know!)
  • Master statistics. Know how to tell the difference between the median and average and when it matters, or even considering percentiles, that’s… hard.
  • Remember complex state; or alternatively keep zooming in and out to try to figure things out.
  • Not get tired or bored or lazy or while catching Pokemon.

For 99% of us humans, this is simply impossible.

Most humans can’t track more than 10 dashboard panels.

All humans only view averages, giving up on other statistics reflecting your KPIs.

Heck, even Marvel’s Longshot gets confused by percentages and probabilities.

The added pressure of performing quickly only exasperates us further.

It basically boils down to us (users, managers, business, senior execs – but mostly dashboard developers) asking humans to perform tasks that the human brain simply isn’t equipped for.

The human brain is so great with so many things: Improvisation, contextualization, innovation and decision making.

But the human brain isn’t that great with repetitive tasks. Or with problems with high dimensionality or complex state.

Bottom line – if you are looking for an increase in productivity – avoid placing your human in front of a dashboard (or 12). Not only will they burn out fast, but chances are the only thing you will end up increasing is the number of problems and opportunities you miss out on. And don’t blame them, cause they’re only human!

@RonnyLehman is Loom System‘s CTO. He  began his career with 8 years in the IDF’s elite 8200 unit leading R&D teams in cyber and algorithms projects and implementations. Prior to joining Loom Systems, Ronny was VP of R&D at BioCatch, a leading provider of behavioral biometric, authentication and malware detection solutions through machine learning and signal processing.

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