I was reading this tutorial on ggplot2 and was struck by a bit where it said that

durations are typically best displayed along a logarithmic scale

Is this an established principle? The author states the claim as if it were, but I've never seen them plotted like this (at least not in phonetics), and to me, a linear scale makes more sense (time moving at a constant rate and all).

If it is an established principle, I would appreciate some references and maybe an explanation of why this is the case.

  • $\begingroup$ Looking at it more carefully, in the tutorial he is not talking about time series. But the question remains: when/for what sort of data sets, if any, is this true? $\endgroup$
    – jja
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ It's not a principle, it's advice, and it's not about time-series, but duration data. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


The author is presumably referring to the way the exponential distribution is a good model for certain event occurrences. The Wikipedia page for the distribution has a long section of applications in Occurrence of Events, starting with:

The exponential distribution occurs naturally when describing the lengths of the inter-arrival times in a homogeneous Poisson process.

Taking a log transformation of something with an exponential distribution will produce something more linear in the parameter, which is usually easier to see and reason about.


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