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Signal vs. Noise
Jibbajabba’s post of ‘They Rule’ made me think about Visualization and after a bit of poking around and some help from a friend (thanks Mikey) I found a couple more Visualization that really did it for me.
One of the nicest applications of The Brain style, mind mapy type things is Visual Thesaurus. In fact it impressed me so much I subscribed within about 10 minutes of having seen it. Since then I have used it no less then 12 times. Not bad for 3 days.
Michael Zelter also pointed me at Music Plasma, which seems great not only as an information source of discogrpahy but also to find similar and related artists. Trace the links from some of your favorate artists to someone you haven’t heard before.
Finally I found a flash artist by the name of Marcos Weskamp, he is of recent fame for newsmap a Flash apps which presents a visualization of Google news. His project which caught my eye was Synapsis which renders network traffic visually. I just love the ‘auto-centering’ of this visualization it is both smooth and non-confusing, keep the users attension on the appropriate piece of the visualisation. Very nice indeed.
They Rule is an interesting demonstration of how to visualize the connections between powerful corporate officers. This is the kind of thing that Anacubis does really well with different database vendor sources.
They Rule allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004. The data was collected from their websites and SEC filings in early 2004, so it may not be completely accurate - companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.
A friend and I were surfing Ben Fry's site today, where we played with these interesting visualization experiments.
zipdecode (requires Java), a nice little visualization tool that Fry created to learn how the zip code system works in the U.S. When it loads, click on the map to activate it and start typing the first numbers of zip codes one at a time. Would be nice if it also included a way to zoom in to understand what geographic area (state/town boundaries) you are looking at.
anemone (requires java) is an example of organic information design that gives a visualization of the changing structure of a web site, juxtaposed with usage information.
On Rhizome, Marcos Weskamp points to "Social Circles" (requires Flash), a mailing list social visualization tool. Not sure if it's art or a serious attempt at creating visualization software, but the product is interesting. It interacts with mailing list archives, plotting messages as they happen by linking people to threads and showing, I think, either frequency of referrals to a user's original postings or frequency of postings by that user by enlarging the size of that user's representation on the diagram. Use the drop down menu in the upper left corner to pick a different list -- Flashcoders seems to be pretty active. Then press the "Play" button to watch the recent posts get plotted. Would be nice to see better filtering options in this application, e.g. ability to focus on related nodes either by thread or by starting with specific users, linking to/viewing messages. It's hard to understand the context of the relationships here. The "Display object" function shows subject headings, but the text is illegible when superimposed on over other nodes. Interesting nonetheless.
Phil Wolff pointed to DiceLaRed ("The Network Says"), a visualization application that allows users to understand the flow of data in various sources via visualization. According to Phil, "DiceLaRed creatively blends news crawling + lexical analysis + data mining + data visualization + customization + alerting." He points to an example real time graph on their home page, that shows Spain's political parties by share of the current news cycle. In real time. Clicking on a wedge lets you dive into the news stream. More thoughts from Phil on how this tool might be used.
Apply this to your customers' weblogs, your industry magazines, and local newspapers for an environmental scan.
Apply this to job board postings. Understand labor market demand across the usual dimensions. Then stretch to discover new buzzwords and "terms of art". Can you say competitive analysis? How about strategic recruiting?
Apply this to medical discussion boards. Look for spikes in conversation about symptoms to detect outbreaks and public health problems. Look for swings in interest to retarget investment in health education and social programs.
We are much closer to a dashboard that helps us understand and respond, sooner and with more precision. Thank goodness.
Juan C. Dursteler writes in InfoVis about Aero, a user experience component of Microsoft's forthcoming OS codenamed Longhorn. He reacts to comments made by Will Poole, Vice-president of Microsoft�s Windows Platform Groups, about the goals of Longhorn regarding the user interface:
The concept that Poole proposes is to create a technology favouring the so called "Life immersion", of which Longhorn appears to be the exponent. In his own words the goal is to "embrace the human factors like we've never done before, to really understand how to make that emotional connection to our customers to address all of the product requirements, making it just work, making it something that you can invite and live with every day in new and profound ways from a technological perspective to deliver that immersive experience".
Most of the screenshots show a UI for the desktop full of photographic images/effects, but a key innovation with Aero would be giving users access to their computer data using visualization without as much reliance on the folder and file desktop metaphor. As Dursteler oberves, however, the destkop metaphor will NOT change much. The comments below seem right on to me.
It would be a pity if Microsoft misses this opportunity to offer real information visualisation to the users instead of simply offering special effects. ... The promise of Information Visualisation is to make us more productive, simplifying our life in terms of knowledge acquisition. It has nothing to do with stunning the user with visual fireworks.