My Best Stuff

I’ve written lots of things I am really proud of. Here are the twenty ish ones I usually come back to when it comes to naming the hits I liked the most, or at least the ones I always come back to. They are listed in no particular order.



The Next Bechdel Test

(DEC. 21, 2017) What does the next Bechdel Test look like? The time is ripe for a successor. Is there a short, punchy test we can apply? One that, if movies start passing it, would indicate that the industry is actually becoming better for both the women who make movies and the people who watch them? Is there a new test that could pull the modern film business in the right direction? And if there is, where on earth do we find it? We pitted 50 movies against 12 new ways of measuring Hollywood’s gender imbalance.

A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross

(APR. 14, 2014) So this was if not the first than certainly one of the very first things I wrote at FiveThirtyEight. It’s certainly been one of the stickier pieces, and the dataset I built for it by combing through hundreds of paintings in early 2014 has been of pretty good use for the internet since. Either way, I liked it because it was a really fun on ramp to talk to people about conditional probability.


The Walk-On

(Feb. 26, 2015) Right, this one was exciting, and I’m shocked it actually happened given the large series of people who needed to say yes to something. Inexplicably, I was able to go down to Florida and get scanned into the Madden video game and best of all receive a coveted Madden rating. The catch: I am not an athlete and never truly have been. All of this to answer the question of how would a normal dude do in today’s NFL.


How I Became The Worst Player In Madden

(Feb. 26, 2015) Of course we brought cameras with us, this was too ridiculous not to film. Anyway, come for the fascinating look behind one of the most popular video games on the planet, stay to see what a Walt Hickey NFL kick looks like.


How To Spot A Front-Runner On The ‘Bachelor’ Or ‘Bachelorette’

(May 22, 2017) One of my favorite pieces ever, written with Bachelor franchise super fan Ella Koeze. Essentially treating “The Bachelor” franchise with the same statistical rigor we apply to most other televised competitions. I came in skeptical of the franchise, sure, but reader, I now love the Bachelorette.



Star Wars Killed A Universe To Save The Galaxy

(Dec. 15, 2016) I marinated on this story for well over a year or two, spurred by something tweeted by the inimitable Eleven Thirty-Eight about a vote that shook Wookieepedia, and a further dive (I think it was this post?) into how exactly one of the oldest fandoms on the internet was working through the sea change. Either way, I’m very happy with how it went.


Star Wars, In One Chart

(Dec. 16, 2016) This was an attempt at homage to one of the iconic data visualizations of yore, Charles Joseph Minard’s visualization of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia. I had to count a ridiculous number of Battlecruisers and, somewhere buried on my computer, have the figured for the rebellion as well. Either way, Ella outdid herself on this one, and you can check out the video about the chart here.


The Definitive Analysis Of ‘Love Actually,’ The Greatest Christmas Movie Of Our Time

(Dec. 22, 2016) Yeah, this was a busy couple weeks. I really love the movie “Love Actually” and pretty much annually revisit Ben Dreyfuss’ “Why Love Actually Matters.” Here again the viz team crushed it.


We Analyzed 1,000 Fortune Cookies To Unlock Their Secrets

(Aug. 3, 2017) A really dumb idea taken to its logical conclusion. Why not buy a thousand fortune cookies to figure out what they’re truly on about? The manual labor on this was absurd but I really liked how it turned out. I think a lot about how most people interact with forecasting over the course of their day to day and how that’s different than people in my line of work experience forecasting.


I Went To A Psychic And Then Found Out How Right She Really Was

(Aug. 21, 2014) That story was in a lot of ways a continuation of this line of inquiry from FiveThirtyEight year one. Basically, lots of people see fortune tellers, lots of fortune tellers tell you things about the future, and technically we should be able to figure out how likely those predictions actually are for someone like me.


The Four Types Of Vin Diesel Movies

(May 5, 2017) Vin Diesel fascinates me, in part because he presides over one of the few remaining global franchises that is not based on pre existing intellectual property and also in part because I think he’s a wonderful but enigmatic storyteller who doesn’t really subscribe to a lot of the arcs and beats that are essential in Hollywood storytelling. I work through some of that in this piece, and I think it’s because he learned how to tell stories from Gary Gygax and not Joseph Campbell. Anyway, it’s still like 4 percent of his tweets.


The Three Types Of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Movies

(Jun. 17, 2016) I watched every movie Dwayne Johnson ever made to try to understand what makes him great. You can literally watch Johnson learn how to act, and then become a pretty good actor at that. He’s one of a kind.



The Three Types Of Meryl Streep Movies

(Feb. 24, 2017) In time for her twentieth Academy Award nomination, I watched all of the nominated performances of Meryl Streep. Damn she is good. The best Meryl movie is “Postcards From The Edge,” on this point I will throw down.



Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Eats About 821 Pounds Of Cod Per Year

(Apr. 7, 2015) We did the math. It got weird. A guy lived on this diet, specifically a guy that was not Dwayne Johnson. I got to write about him too, in a story that will go down as having the single greatest piece of art ever put on FiveThirtyEight.  I don’t know why people love what The Rock eats so much but I’m obsessed as well.



Al Gore’s New Movie Exposes The Big Flaw In Online Movie Ratings

(Sep. 7, 2017 )This story I will always love, it’s the product of actual years of interest in how people perceive things, and how those biases inform what the rest of the world sees.



Be Suspicious Of Online Movie Ratings, Especially Fandango’s

(Oct. 15, 2015) I remain fascinated by this to this day. Will the people who sell you movie tickets strive for accurately rating the very films who they sell tickets for?



Don’t Let ‘Jurassic World’ Ruin The Franchise: A Guide To Judging Movie Sequels

(Jun. 12, 2015) The entire concept of a franchise, and how the overall product in the movie business has gone from a single entity to an overarching story, and how precisely to evaluate that, I find all that interesting.



A Mistranslated Word Led To Some Of The Best Fake News Of The 20th Century

(Mar. 21, 2017) More than a century of stories have helped people build a relationship with the planet and, to an extent, the hypothetical Martians that inhabit it. And if you want to understand stories about Martians, you first have to look at the ridiculous period in American science when prominent astronomers vociferously argued that they had scientific proof Martians existed because we could take pictures of the canals they dug.


If Trump Wins, Here’s How The Map Might Look

(Oct 19, 2016) Yeah, I feel pretty good about writing this. If I could go back in time, would I be more credulous of Trump’s odds? Sure. But this was pre-Comey letter. The reality is, this was the right way to evaluate this candidate at this given time, and I’m thrilledI did it.


Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be

(Jul. 7, 2014) No one starts a band with the intention of becoming classic rock. It’s just sort of something that happens. Figuring out which genre a band fits into — is it techno or house? — has always been a tricky part of the music business. Identifying what’s classic rock is particularly challenging because it’s a constantly moving target, with very different kinds of music lumped together under the same banner. How the people who choose what music you hear — whether on the radio or an Internet streaming service — go about solving this problem reveals a deep connection between data and music.




Spotify Knows Me Better Than I Know Myself

(Sep. 16, 2014) Here’s where .The world has changed. Today, many of us don’t even buy music digitally anymore, let alone in a store. We subscribe to streaming services and let our entire musical lives exist on an app. The Spotify Discover playlist came from somewhere.




Significant Digits

December 2014 – Present

I believe that in order to get good at something you have to do it every day. You don’t have to enjoy doing it every day, but for 700 days over the past three years I’ve written a daily column talking about numbers buried in the news.




We must solve this.