Category Uncategorized


Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 8.04.50 AM

Cinematic is to film as Literary is to prose. It’s not a measure of quality or of beauty. It’s mainly the application of technique to impart an additional layer of meaning to the writing, performance and direction of the medium. Cinematic technique lifts the viewer to another, more profound point beyond the literal.

Whether it’s film, literature, verse, stagecraft or other visual arts, techniques vary but they have the same purpose. They make the audience feel more than what is said.

The quality of a good work of art is that it tells a truth without saying it.

And this, I believe, is what the analyst should also strive for. It is at least what I try to do and, having practiced for a while, I think I can convey some of the techniques I learned.

We don’t have a better word for describing these techniques than “cinematic”. They allow the presenter of complex and rich data to convey meaning with an economy of rhetoric. They draw the audience into completing the picture thus making it their own. They persuade without pleading. They teach without lecturing. They create, in a way, a poetic language for data that combines techniques from several arts, especially cinema.

The means for teaching this is a workshop called Airshow.

Together with IBM, we are proud to bring Airshow to Boston, New York and Helsinki this year.

Register here.

Announcing Next Airshows: Boston, New York and Helsinki

Airshow New York was our best Airshow ever. We sold out to an audience who engaged and challenged us to our best performance. We are learning more each time and after three shows we have honed the show to a fine performance.

Due to the demand met in New York we decided to return there in December 5th but to also present in my home town of Boston on December 3rd. We are also presenting in my second home town of Helsinki in November.

You can sign up for any of these events at

The purpose of Airshow is:

  • To explain how to present rich data in a compelling and emotionally engaging way.
  • To explain the principles of visual persuasion.
  • To offer hands-on training with the tools of persuasion: iPad and  Perspective.

The method we devised borrows heavily from the techniques of Cinematography and screenwriting to impart meaning to the audience beyond the literal words spoken or images shown on screen.

This includes:

  • Framing
  • Light and Color
  • Depth
  • Motion
  • The Reveal
  • Texture
  • Establishment
  • Characterization
  • Point of View

These techniques are demonstrated with “feature presentations” and then deconstructed in interactive lectures. Throughout we also weave Aristotelian rhetorical tips and present from the Asymco repertoire of stories.

The day ends with a hands-on exercise. iPads are required.

At the end of the seminar you should be able to:

  • Understand how data can be used to persuade through an appeal to logic as well as through empathy.
  • Understand the basics of “data cinematicism” including the techniques analogous to cinematography and direction.
  • Understand story development techniques including how to facilitate the audience’s entry into the story.
  • Build a cinematic presentation.

We are looking forward to seeing you at the next Airshow.


When will the US reach smartphone saturation?

The latest comScore data places penetration at about 61%, up over 10 percentage points from the same time last year. The 50% last year is itself up nearly 14 percentage points from the same time in 2011. This progress in the diffusion of smartphones is shown the following graph:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 10-7-5.32.48 PM

I set the time frame for the graph to start in 2005 because there was still a market at the time. We can estimate the number of users from data supplied by

My Comments on Tablets on Bloomberg Surveillance

My thanks to Tania Chen for organizing my appearance on Bloomberg Surveillance in New York on September 26th.

Is Apple Really Dominating the Tablet Wars?: Video – Bloomberg.

Although there isn’t much one can cover in 5 minutes, there were some good questions around tablets. The role of Amazon and Microsoft in particular.

Asymcar 4: Death of a salesman

Asymcar 4: Death of a salesman | Asymcar.

Are cars sold or purchased? Horace Dediu and Jim Zellmer discuss automotive “ecosystems” vis-à-vis Apple and Tesla’s direct sales model. We further dive into the rigidity and risk of such value chains and divert a bit into automakers’ attempts at aviation. Finally, we consider the potential monetization of automotive metadata and what that might mean for new, perhaps “over the top” style entrants.


Also history lessons: Ford Trimotor, Ford production system, The Kaiser people’s car.



The last frontier

Tracking the mobile phone market hasn’t been getting any easier. The lack of published data from many incumbents (including the largest) is compounded by the lack of visibility into entrants. It’s not just ZTE and Huawei which are up-and-coming, but companies such as Lenovo, Xiaomi and Yulong make up an increasingly large part of the overall market. (Not to mention BBK, Meizu, OPPO and TCL).

Canalys suggests that China’s top five vendors make up 20% of the world’s smartphone shipments. This is mostly due to the rapid rise of the category in China and the advantages local vendors have in that market. Absent this large segment, a complete picture of the market is simply not possible. Nevertheless a fuzzy picture of the entire market can be still be painted.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8-20-12.44.02 PM

Airshow coming to New York

I’m delighted to once again have the sponsorship of IBM for the presentation of Airshow. This time it’s in New York City on Wednesday, 25 September at the IBM Building, 590 Madison Ave. My thanks again to Paul Brody for being so gracious and earnest in his support.

Seating is limited but there are still 25 20 3 available.

This will be the third Airshow, having started in June in San Francisco and rolling into Chicago in July. The event keeps getting better with a plan to introduce a hands-on module allowing participants to build cinematic data-driven presentation during the afternoon.

Airshow is intended as both an exhibition of technique and as an explication of   the methods for creating persuasive presentation enabled by new technologies.

Without revealing too much, the gist of the theory espoused is that presentations can benefit from:

  • The use of directly manipulated visuals
  • Cinematic effects honed by cinematographers over a century
  • Aristotelian presentation principles

Together, these techniques solve the “job to be done” of persuasion—a job universally in demand but deeply underserved by current tools and techniques.

The participant should come away from the event with the ability to:

  • Use the iPad as their primary presentation tool, with or without a projector to large and small audiences
  • Use a cinematic technique of presentation where a layer of implicit yet easily sensed meaning is overlaid upon the words spoken and images viewed
  • Appeal with empathy, logic and credibility to all audiences.

You can register for Airshow New York here.

See also: The end of the projector.


Sponsor: TextExpander touch 2.0

Type faster on your iPhone or iPad using short abbreviations that expand into long snippets, such as email addresses, URLs, and standard replies. Tap in your abbreviation and it automatically expands to the full snippet. You can even insert today’s date automatically with the default abbreviation “ddate”! Use Dropbox to sync your snippets to all your iOS and Mac devices!

New in 2.0: Make customized, boilerplate replies fast and easy using fill-ins. Compose messages and expand snippets in formatted text. Insert macros for date, time, date math, etc. easily when editing your snippets on iOS.

Please note that iOS does not allow TextExpander touch to work in the background (as it does in Mac OS X). But you can expand snippets directly in over 160 apps that have built-in TextExpander touch support including OmniFocus, Drafts, Things, iA Writer, DayOne, Byword, Notesy, Elements, and WriteRoom. See the complete list of supported apps.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate

The end of the projector

After having “taken the show on the road” and spending an inordinate amount of time giving presentations during the last year I came to the conclusion that what remains less than good enough for presentations is the variable quality of projectors.

The problem is not just quality of image but also the unpredictable size of screen, how far it is from the audience, how poor the contrast or color reproduction might be and to what degree there is support for wireless connections.

When presenting detailed, information dense graphs, these quality issues become presentation killers and not only do they result in poor retention for the audience but decrease the confidence of the presenter, leading to a vicious cycle.

The answer is not to lug around your own projector because many times the venue will not accept it, other times the image “throw” is not matched to the screen and it’s a pain to set up and transport.

What I think needs to happen is that the projector needs to be disrupted.

This is where the iPad and Perspective come into play. When presenting using Perspective we have the ability to “airshow” or present directly to the (iOS) devices that the audience has with them.

This way not only the presenter’s screen is “mirrored locally” but also the direct manipulation and choreography of the data reveal is instantly visible. You can see a fragment of how it works in this test:

This is the technique we use at the Airshow event and it has proven to work well even with large audiences. To see it in action (and to learn how to develop presentations into cinematic experiences) join us at the next Airshow in Chicago.

Next Airshow: Chicago, July 13th


We’re excited to bring the second Airshow to Chicago in July. Thanks to Ryan Singer and Jason Fried of for offering to host us this summer.  Their venue is ideal for our particular pedagogy.

Speaking of which, I should explain what it is.

Our first Airshow (San Francisco, June 9th) had several objectives:

  • To explain a theory of narration with data, especially big data
  • To narrate this explanation with a tool called Perspective
  • To reveal and test a new feature within Perspective called airshow

Now that we have revealed the feature (mirror your presentation including your direct manipulation of the visuals to any member of the audience—wherever they may be—on their own device, available in version 3.0) we can talk more freely about the structure of the show.

It’s in three parts:

  1. Performance
  2. Cooking Show
  3. Theory

The Performance is the “keynote story” whose recipe we show in the Cooking Show and whose motivation and foundations we deconstruct in the Theory. You can think of the sections as as answering “{What, How and Why} make a great story.”

The show is self-referential in that we use the process we teach to do the teaching. In other words, we use a great storytelling tool to tell great stories about storytelling. Furthermore, Airshow, as a show, uses a tool whose feature  is itself called airshow.

It’s not that complicated; at least not if you understand recursion.

Register here: (Limited to 37, bring an iPad).