Follow the Data

A data driven blog

Archive for the tag “data-visualization”

Swimming in a living infographic

I grumbled about the “drowning in data” cliché in a recent blog post and asked for an alternative metaphor. Now Gary Flake has come to the rescue in his TED Talk about Pivot, a data visualization framework that looks pretty neat (but is Explorer-only for now).  Says Flake,

We talk about the curse of information overload. We talk about drowning in data. What if we can actually turn that upside downand turn the web upside down, so that instead of one thing to the next, we get used to the habit of being able to go from many things to many things,and then being able to see the patterns that were otherwise hidden?

Earlier in the talk, he had used a swimming metaphor instead of a drowning one:

… viewing data in this way, is a lot like swimming in a living information info-graphic.

There’s more about Pivot and its underlying technology Seadragon here.

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Data services

There’s been a little hiatus here as I have been traveling. I recently learned that Microsoft has launched Codename “Dallas”, a service for purchasing and managing datasets and web services. It seems they are trying to provide consistent APIs to work with different data from the public and private sectors in a clean way. There’s an introduction here.

This type of online data repository seems to be an idea whose time has arrived – I have previously talked about resources like Infochimps, Datamob and Amazon’s Public Data Sets, and there is also theinfo.org, which I seem to have forgotten to mention. A recent commenter on this blog pointed me to the comprehensive knowledge archive network, which is a “registry of open data and content packages”. Then there are the governmental and municipal data repositories, such as data.gov.

Another interesting service, which may have a slightly different focus, is Factual, described by founder Gil Elbaz as a “platform where anyone can share and mash open data“. Factual basically wants to list facts, and puts the emphasis on data accuracy, so you can express opinions on and discuss the validity of any piece of data. Factual also claims to have “deeper data technology” which allows users to explore the data in a more sophisticated way compared to other services like the Amazon Open Data Sets, for instance.

Companies specializing in helping users make sense out of massive data sets are, of course, popping up as well. I have previously written about Good Data, and now the launch of a new seemingly similar company,  Data Applied, has been announced.  Like Good Data, Data Applied offers affordable licenses for cloud-based and social data analysis, with a free trial package (though Good Data’s free version seems to offer more – a 10 MB data warehouse and 1-5 users vs Data Applied’s file size of <100 kb for a single user; someone correct me if I am wrong). The visualization capabilities of Data Applied do seem very nice. It’s still unclear to me how different the offerings of these two companies are but time will tell.

The London data cloud

Now that’s what I call data visualization … The city of London is planning to erect a “digital cloud” in its Olympic village before 2012. The cloud would be made up of interconnected plastic bubbles that would float above the city and display different kinds of data: sports results, weather measurements, traffic data and so on. The team behind this Buckminster Fuller-esque project includes people from Google (of course) and MIT (ditto), and, perhaps unexpectedly, author and semiotician Umberto Eco. The home page is visionary (although I thought the narrator of the official video was rather uninspiring) – it talks about “Code rather than Carbon” and “a space alive to the touch, an aerial ecology“. The Cloud is supposed to be self-sufficient in terms of energy, with a zero energy footprint – the people ascending into it will provide energy when they descend and the rest will be provided by solar panels.

Another quote from the official site:

Like all tell-tale signs of brooding weather, the Cloud is a display system. It is both screen and barometer, archive and sensor, past and future. The patterns of its animated skins offer a civic-scale smart-meter for London as a whole, sign-posting particular events, transport patterns, weather forecasts, timetables, and footage either real-time or decades old.

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