“You’ve got a friend” in Minitab Support

I caught the end of Toy Story over the weekend, which is definitely one of my all-time favorite children’s movies. Now—unfortunately or fortunately—I can’t get Randy Newman's theme song,“You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” out of my head!

It's also got me thinking about the nature of friendship, and how "best friends forever" are supposed to always be there when you need them. And, not to get too maudlin about it, but just like Woody and Buzz eventually realize their friendship, all of us hope the professionals who use our software also realize that “you’ve got a friend” in Minitab.

Now what do I mean...

Exponential: How a Poor Memory Helps to Model Failure Data

These days, my memory isn't what it used to be. Besides that, my memory isn't what it used to be. 

But my incurable case of CRS (Can't Remember Stuff) is not nearly as bad as that of the exponential distribution.

When modelling failure data for reliability analysis, the exponential distribution is completely memoryless. It retains no record of the previous failure of an item.

That might sound like a bad thing. But this special characteristic makes the distribution extremely useful for modelling the behavior of items that have a constant failure rate.

Using the Exponential Distribution to Model...

Statistics: No Laughing Matter

by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger 

I told a friend about my interest in statistics, and he immediately told me a joke about broiled chicken and statistics.

The punch line involved my friend getting to eat all the chicken. Unfortunately, I forgot the rest of the joke. I can, however, assure you it was a very funny statistics-related joke.

People often make jokes when I mention my interest in statistics, and I don't think they make the jokes just because there are so many great statistics-related jokes available. There might be some good jokes about statistics, but I only know two and can only...

Hypothesis Testing and P Values

by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger

Programs such as the Minitab Statistical Software make hypothesis testing easier; but no program can think for the experimenter. Anybody performing a statistical hypothesis test must understand what p values mean in regards to their statistical results as well as potential limitations of statistical hypothesis testing.

A p value of 0.05 is frequently used during statistical hypothesis testing. This p value indicates that if there is no effect (or if the null hypothesis is true), you’d obtain the observed difference or more in 5% of studies due to random...

Analyzing College Football Overtimes

Two weeks ago Penn State and Michigan played in a quadruple-overtime thriller that almost went into a 5th overtime. Had Penn State coach Bill O’Brien kicked a field goal in the 4th overtime instead of going for it on 4th and 1, the game would have continued. But the Nittany Lions converted the 4th down (which, by the way, wasn’t a gamble) and went on to score the game winning touchdown in the 4th overtime.

Watching this game got me asking a bunch of questions. How many college football overtime games go into 4 overtimes? Did Penn State still have home-field advantage since they were playing at...

Making a Difference in How People Use Data

A colleague of mine at Minitab, Cheryl Pammer, was recently featured in "A Statistician's Journey," a monthly feature that appears in the print and online versions of the American Statistical Association's AMSTAT News magazine.  

Each month, the magazine asks ASA members to talk about the paths they took to get to where they are today. Cheryl is a "user experience designer" at Minitab. In other words, she's one of the people who help determine how our statistical softwaredoes what it does, and tries to make it as helpful, useful, and beneficial as possible. Cheryl is always looking for ways to...

Using Hypothesis Tests to Bust Myths about the Battle of the Sexes

In my home, we’re huge fans of Mythbusters, the show on Discovery Channel. This fun show mixes science and experiments to prove or disprove various myths, urban legends, and popular beliefs. It’s a great show because it brings the scientific method to life. I’ve written about Mythbusters before to show how, without proper statistical analysis, it’s difficult to know when a result is statistically significant. How much data do you need to collect and how large does the difference need to be?

For this blog, let's look at a more recent Mythbusters episode, “Battle of the Sexes – Round Two.” I...

Explaining Quality Statistics So Your Boss Will Understand: Weighted Pareto Charts

Failure to properly calibrate this machine will result in defective rock and roll. 

In my last post, I imagined using the example of a rock and roll band -- the Zero Sigmas -- to explain Pareto charts to my music-loving but statistically-challenged boss. I showed him how easy it was to use a Pareto chart to visualize defects or problems that occur most often, using the example of various incidents that occurred on the Zero Sigmas last tour.  

The Pareto chart revealed that starting performances late was far and away the Zero Sigmas' most frequent "defect," one that occurred every single night of...

Choosing Statistical Software: Four Questions You Should Ask

Data.  Analysis. Statistics. It seems like everybody is talking about the importance of doing data analysis, whether it's analytics for predicting consumer behavior or looking at critical metrics for Six Sigma and other data-driven quality improvement programs. Not only do we have more data available to us than ever before, we're also blessed...and/or cursed...with an enormous range of software options to help us make sense out of all this data we're trying so hard to understand. 

Your options for doing data analysis run the gamut—from a pencil, paper and calculator costing a couple of bucks...

What Makes Great Presidents and Good Models?

If the title of this post made you think you’d be reading about Abraham Lincoln and Tyra Banks, you’re only half right. 

A few weeks ago, statistician and journalist Nate Silver published an interesting post  on how U.S. presidents are ranked by historians. Silver showed that the percentage of electoral votes that a U.S. president receives in his 2nd term election serves as a rough predictor of his average ranking of greatness.

Here’s the model he came up with, which I’ve duplicated in Minitab using the scatterplot with regression and groups (Graph > Scatterplot ):

Silver divided the data into...

Forget Statistical Assumptions - Just Check the Requirements!

One of the most poorly understood concepts in the use of statistics is the idea of assumptions. You've probably encountered many of these assumptions, such as "data normality is an assumption of the 1-sample t-test."  But if you read that statement and believe normality is a requirement of the 1-sample t-test, then you have missed a subtle and important characteristic of assumptions and need to read on...

An "assumption" is not necessarily a "requirement"!

To understand where this idea of assumptions come from, let's forget about statistics for a minute and imagine we sell bikes online.  We...

Using Games to Teach Statistics

We usually think of games as a distraction—just something we do for fun. However, growing evidence suggests that games can do much more, especially when it comes to learning in a classroom setting.

Because statistics is a topic that doesn’t come easily to most, using properly designed games to teach statistics can become a valuable tool to spark interest and help explain difficult concepts.

So what kinds of “properly designed” games are we talking about here? Not traditional board games like Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders, but interactive computer games—the types of games younger generations...

Cha-Ching: Using Minitab Bar Charts to Display Online Holiday Spending Stats

Have you shopped online to buy gifts this holiday season? With Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday) offering shoppers free shipping and other great discounts for buying online, it’s hard not to take advantage of virtual deals.

I find myself purchasing more and more of my Christmas list online every year, and after comScore’s recent release of this year’s online holiday spending statistics in the U.S., it’s no surprise to me that overall online spending for the first 37 days of the November-December shopping season is up 13% from 2011.

Take a look at this bar chart I created in...

Using Statistics to Analyze Words: Digging Deeper

In my last blog, I showed how it’s possible to statistically assess the structure of a message and determine its capacity to convey information. We saw how my own words fit the patterns that are present in communications that are optimized for conveying information. However, these were fairly rough assessments to illustrate the fundamentals of information theory. 

In this post, I’ll use more sophisticated analyses to more precisely determine whether my blog content fits the ideal distribution. Along the way, we’ll have some interesting discussions about the vagaries of dolphin, human,...

A Story-based Approach to Learning Statistics (and Statistical Software)

Want to learn more about analyzing data? Try taking a page from Aesop's book. 

Well...really, I'm suggesting taking multiple pages from Minitab's book, but my suggestion stems from an idea that Aesop epitomizes.  

Aesop was no fool. When he wanted to convey even the heaviest of lessons, he didn't waste time detailing the intellectual and philosophical arguments behind them. He didn't argue, cajole, or berate. He didn't lecture or pontificate. 

He told a story. 

Minitab uses the same approach in Meet Minitab, the introductory guide to data analysis and quality statistics using our statistical...

3D Printers and the Additive Manufacturing Process

Traditionally, the pieces and parts for most anything we buy are designed and manufactured one-by-one and then assembled into the final product we see on store shelves.  Everything from cars and jet engines to sneakers and cell phones are produced this way.  With the advent of additive manufacturing or “3D printing,” that familiar formula may soon change.  In this process, a virtual design is fed into a 3D printer that constructs the object, layer by layer, until the finished good is fully produced. Since this is a WYSIWYG process, it is an excellent option for designers and development teams...

Minitab and Excel: Which Should I Use, and When?

Have you ever found yourself switching back and forth between a Microsoft Excel file and Minitab Statistical Software just to complete a single analysis? Which software will give me the accurate results I need quickly?

I decided to put a few important factors to the test—workflow, organization, quality focus, and help. The review below provides my own two cents on which software seems to work best in a different situations.

Creating Graphs with Raw Data Easily

Microsoft Excel is a general spreadsheet software program. It is great for compiling, sorting, and highlighting large amounts of data....

Men’s 100m Dash: How have the times changed over the years?

As the 2012 Summer Olympics are now on in full “speed,” one of my favorite events to follow is the 100m dash. I’m a runner myself - although certainly not at the incredible caliber of Olympic athletes - and I’ve often thought about how running and sprinting has changed in the last 100+ years since the modern Olympic Games started.

For instance, the USA has dominated sprinting in the last 100 years, having the majority of 100m male medalists. However, Usain Bolt – a sprinter from the tiny country of Jamaica – has been in the news recently for his record-breaking time of 9.69 seconds, which was...

Minitab Statistical Software: Then & Now

Quite a bit has changed since Minitab Statistical Software was first introduced in 1972 at the American Statistical Association Meeting. But some things stay the same!

Fast-forward 40 years, and Minitab is still attending the annual gathering. We’ll be at this year’s Joint Statistical Meetings in San Diego, July 29 – Aug. 1, and we’re really excited to officially commemorate our 40th anniversary at the event where the first version of Minitab was initially distributed and introduced to the academic market.

Even though we’re still attending some of the same events and our commitment to making...