Aaron Schiff

Aaron Schiff is a freelance economist and a datasmith. He uses economic models, statistical tools and data visualisation to help organisations make sense of a complex world.

Auckland Unitary Plan – mapping building restrictions - The Dismal Science

Aug 08, 2016

Auckland Council has published the geospatial data for the version of the Unitary Plan recommended by the Independent Hearings Panel. I thought I’d use this to take a quick look at the recommended plan’s provisions for protection of things like character and heritage. In the Herald on Friday, Don Stock wrote about the Auckland Unitary Plan (UP) as recommended by the Independent Hearings Panel: It has ignored the principles of democracy and natural justice by denying communities any say in the radical upzoning introduced outside the public consultation process. It has removed any requirement for good design in developments. It has removed any protection for old buildings. It has removed minimum sizes for apartments. It has removed requirements for off-street parking. Shamubeel Eaqub has already called bullshit on the “undemocratic” claim. The other claims are mostly … Read More

New go-to place for business-related data - The Dismal Science

Apr 08, 2016

Over the past few months I’ve had a lot of fun working with Figure.NZ on some really exciting projects. There’s a brilliant new feature called Business Figures. By answering a couple of questions, you can instantly see relevant data for all kinds of businesses in New Zealand. The team put a lot of hard work into this and I think it’s amazing. Until now, business data was not very easy to get — it’s spread across a bunch of sources, and a lot of it is wrapped up in the somewhat cryptic ANZSIC system for classifying businesses. One of the really clever things that Business Figures does is make it easy to find data in ANZSIC categories, even if you have no idea what ANZSIC means. I helped to make some interactive data maps that are now available … Read More

Visualising metadata - The Dismal Science

Nov 04, 2015

Data visualisation typically focuses on the data itself, but in some cases the metadata is interesting in its own right. Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about how to visualise the structure of metadata. Ultimately this could be combined with a data visualisation to make something that coherently shows both the data and its structure. A couple of interesting examples are the harmonised trade system, and ANZSIC. Both of these are hierarchical classification systems, for international trade and industries respectively. Harmonised trade is particularly fascinating. It classifies products into a bewildering array of categories. I can’t imagine the effort required to create and maintain this system. As an experiment I made a visualisation of the New Zealand flavour of harmonised trade. Above is a static picture — each circle represents a category and shows its sub-categories. Read More

Household access to the internet in NZ - The Dismal Science

May 27, 2015

The NZ Census asks a bunch of questions about household access to various types of telecommunications services, like fixed-line phones, faxes, mobile phones, and the internet. The internet question is a bit crude — it does not distinguish between dial-up and broadband for example, and simply asks about access rather than use. But anyway, the […]

Budget 2015 visualisations - The Dismal Science

May 26, 2015

The NZ Herald published some great visualisations of Budget data yesterday. My favourite was Harkanwal Singh’s bubble plot that simply shows percentage changes in expenditure categories. The really nice thing about this is that the bubbles move and interact with each other. The result is a slightly chaotic but still very legible breakdown of expenditure. […]

Proportion of quaxing households - The Dismal Science

May 22, 2015

The next item in the Census challenge is the number of motor vehicles per household, and I thought I’d use this to look at the rate of quaxing in New Zealand cities. By definition households with no motor vehicles must quax, so for each Census area unit I’ve calculated the proportion of such households, for […]

Rent to income ratio - The Dismal Science

May 14, 2015

Yikes, it’s been too long since I did a Census challenge post. Been busy with work and stuff … The next question is weekly rent for households in rented dwellings. One of the results reported is the median weekly rent. I decided to calculate the ratio of that to median weekly household income (for 2013) […]

Human development visualisations - The Dismal Science

Apr 20, 2015

I’m happy to say that my entry into the UNDP’s human development data visualisation competition has been selected as one of their top nine finalists. You can check out the other finalists on the HDR Data Tumblr, there’s some really great work on display.

What if it was always Daylight Saving Time? - The Dismal Science

Apr 14, 2015

The end of New Zealand Daylight Saving Time is upon us, and every year this makes me cranky. The evening darkness seems to make Auckland’s damp winters feel extra long. Out of curiosity I thought I’d look at what the sunrise and sunset times would be if we used NZDST for the whole year. The […]