Diff in the Loop: Supporting Data Comparison in Exploratory Data Analysis

Picture of April Yi Wang
April Yi Wang
Picture of Robert DeLine
Robert DeLine
Picture of Steven M. Drucker
Steven M. Drucker
Published at CHI in New Orleans, LA 2022
Teaser image


Data science is characterized by evolution: since data science is exploratory, results evolve from moment to moment; since it can be collaborative, results evolve as the work changes hands. While existing tools help data scientists track changes in code, they provide less support for understanding the iterative changes that the code produces in the data. We explore the idea of visualizing differences in datasets as a core feature of exploratory data analysis, a concept we call Diff in the Loop (DITL). We evaluated DITL in a user study with 16 professional data scientists and found it helped them understand the implications of their actions when manipulating data. We summarize these findings and discuss how the approach can be generalized to different data science workflows.