Data Visualizations

After a slow Twitter weekend, I stumbled across a new Twitter tool, TwittEarth, via Mashable.

This is a beautiful representation of Twitter’s public timeline, similar to twittervision, but with goofy avatars in 3D. It reminds me a lot of the work stamen design has done with Digg, e.g. arc. The visualization shows how many people are active in the Digg community at any given time. Tools like TwittEarth and twittervision do the same for Twitter.

Google recently released the Google Visualization API, based on software written by Hans Rosling. Check out his software in action at TED a few years ago. It’s both phenomenal and convincing, showing the true power of good data visualization.

One of the few Facebook apps that I still use is Friend Wheel, which shows how my network is intertwined and especially the clustered areas of friends.

Aside from being cool eyecandy, these representations give substance to data. Visual representations of data are something we take for granted. Remember the last time you built a slide deck with some data? I’ll bet you’ve used fonts, colors, pie charts, graphs to emphasize the data you had to present.

People have a much easier time relating to abstract concepts when they are represented visually. Frequently, the metadata collected provide an equally or more interesting representation. For example, TwittEarth includes the tweet (data), but what makes it really appealing is the metadata (location mapped to the globe). At a glance, you can tell that the US and Europe are active now, probably due to the time of day.

We’ve been trying to build visualization into Mix and Connect for a while. It’s easier said than done. I do think that a great visualization leaves an impression, e.g. I saw Hans’ presentation months ago, and when Google finally released the Visualization API, I spent a few hours trying to figure out ways to use it. His presentation was made more compelling by the eyecandy.

What do you think makes a good data visualization? What type of visualization could make Mix and/or Connect more compelling or interesting?

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

13 comments

  1. @David: Also my top enhancement. I thought that’s what logging in would get me, but no dice. Probably soon though.

    I ran TweetCloud too. I think “dude” and “lulz” were among the largest, just adding more reason to follow me for the scintillating content, lulz.

  2. @David: Also my top enhancement. I thought that’s what logging in would get me, but no dice. Probably soon though.

    I ran TweetCloud too. I think “dude” and “lulz” were among the largest, just adding more reason to follow me for the scintillating content, lulz.

  3. @Jim: The first one, heatmap, is one I like. It’s very applicable to any kind of data. O’Reilly has one for books that I’ve seen. We talked about this for measuring internal data.

    The second one is trippy. Cool stuff.

  4. @Jim: The first one, heatmap, is one I like. It’s very applicable to any kind of data. O’Reilly has one for books that I’ve seen. We talked about this for measuring internal data.

    The second one is trippy. Cool stuff.

  5. It came as no surprise to me that the feed scribs has plunged down to 455 [via Jake on twitter]. I might be wrong in my thinking but somehow I believe it has to with the diversity of the content.

    A think-tank(that’s what you guys call it) cannot only contain a very skewed set of opinions with a limited authority (which is the case here). There has to be a wider participation from people who would bring new ideas, to the platform and maintain the diversity of post and thereby uphold the reader’s interest in them.

    I understand that this is private to you people but what is the harm in at least having guest articles/post from other contributors.

    Just a thought.

    -Shishir

  6. It came as no surprise to me that the feed scribs has plunged down to 455 [via Jake on twitter]. I might be wrong in my thinking but somehow I believe it has to with the diversity of the content.

    A think-tank(that’s what you guys call it) cannot only contain a very skewed set of opinions with a limited authority (which is the case here). There has to be a wider participation from people who would bring new ideas, to the platform and maintain the diversity of post and thereby uphold the reader’s interest in them.

    I understand that this is private to you people but what is the harm in at least having guest articles/post from other contributors.

    Just a thought.

    -Shishir

  7. @Shishir: Feed scribs tend to rise and fall for no apparent reason. We have posted content from outside the ‘Lab in the past. Remember Puneet? He now has his own blog. I’ve invited others to post guest contributions in the past as well.

    I assume you still work for Oracle, so if this is your way of asking to contribute, drop me an email with your suggested content, and I will review it.

  8. @Shishir: Feed scribs tend to rise and fall for no apparent reason. We have posted content from outside the ‘Lab in the past. Remember Puneet? He now has his own blog. I’ve invited others to post guest contributions in the past as well.

    I assume you still work for Oracle, so if this is your way of asking to contribute, drop me an email with your suggested content, and I will review it.

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