Thursday, May 16, 2013

Data Mismanagement

I'm not trying to get all beer-snob douchey here, but I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not impressed by BeerViz's beer picker-thing.

Data should get some sun,
he's looking a little Helles.
I noticed it first mentioned it yesterday morning on Twitter (why, yes I do have a Twitter account—it's @drindrank1), and then 500 more times throughout the day. Using data collected from BeerAdvocate, the site claims presents a pretty straight forward idea, "Tell us your preferred beer style, and find similar beers to try out."

I guess it kind of does that, but not very well.

Everything starts off—well—a little off. It first asks you "What's your kind of beer? Choose your preferred beer strength to begin exploring similar beers." The viewer is then presented with images of three beer—one Light, one Medium, one Dark. I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you guys that color and strength are not remotely related, but maybe someone should mention that to the BeerViz developers. In any case, each glass, upon clicking it, has a number of associated styles. In the Light category, for example English Bitter, Munich Dunkel Lager and Faro are represented.

Something seems to have gone a little pear-shaped.

Things get a little confusing in the Dark category, too. Not that they don't have Stout covered (six of the eight beers listed are one form or another of Stout). No Porter, Dunkelweizen or Brown Ale, but they do have a Helles Bock included in this category.


Onto the "Explore Similar Beers by:" area.

Four categories here—Appearance, Taste, Aroma and the generic Overall. Here's where we get into the site's "wheel of suggestion" based on all that Beeradvocate data. Clicking on any of the "Similar Beer" tabs will show you beers that share similar characteristics for that category. By choosing Medium / Taste—for example—someone who may enjoy Dog Fish Head Pumpkin, and wants to find something similar in flavor and color might (according to the wheel) also enjoy Goose Island Matilda—logically. Those looking for something less specific might click the Overall tab. Fans of the classic English Bitter, with all its caramel malt and earthy hops—say like a Ruddles County—might (again, according to the wheel) really dig the six chili pepper-spiked similarity of Twisted Pine's Ghost Face Killah. Those two seem pretty akin.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the developers of this, uh, tool, don't really know anything about beer—that, or they're just sloppy. They seem to be trying to let the data do all the work—and they also seem to be inputting it incorrectly. Data are only as good as they are interpreted—and it doesn't look like it was interpreted that well.

Or at all.


  1. Maybe it's badly researched or gimmicky, trying to be a Cicerone in your pocket...but actually it just seems like a really dumb idea to begin with. While we're at it, it's pretty hard to take the Cicerone thing seriously as well. ;-)

    1. The cicerone thing never bothered me. It's not my bag, but to each his one, right?

      My issue is with the software. It's a fine idea, suggesting beer based on other beer preferences, but that's not going to work on software that has errors in it—like offering dark beers in light beer categories. It's—as I said in the post—sloppy work.