September 1, 2013
The Justice League’s headquarters, either the Hall of Justice or the Watch Tower, has state of the art equipment to track bad guys and their criminal activities. We puny mortals might actually have a tool to put Batman’s own deductive skills to shame with big data, says The News Factor in the article, “Watch Out, Terrorists: Big Data Is On The Case.” Big data is nothing new, we just finally have the technology to aggregate the data and follow patterns using data mining and data visualization.
The Institute for the Study of Violent Groups is searching through ten years of data about suspected groups and individuals involved with terrorism and other crimes. The Institute is discovering patterns and information that was never possible before. Microsoft’s security researchers are up to their eyeballs in data on a daily basis that they analyze for cyber attacks. Microsoft recently allocated more resources to develop better network analytical tools.
The article says that while these organizations’ efforts are praiseworthy, the only way to truly slow cyber crime is to place a filter over the entire Internet. Here comes the company plug:
“That’s where new data-visualization technology, from vendors such as Tableau and Tibco Software, hold potential for making a big difference over time. These tools enable rank-and-file employees to creatively correlate information and assist in spotting, and stopping, cybercriminals.”
Big data’s superpowers are limited to isolated areas and where it has been deployed. Its major weakness is the entire Internet. Again, not the end all answer.
Whitney Grace, September 01, 2013
August 10, 2013
I am not much of an interface person. You can see from the design of Beyond Search. There is a feature which we update once a week or so. There are daily summaries of articles I find interesting and wish to keep in a database. I use the research in my for-fee articles and other writings like my upcoming story for Homeland Security Today about “Cadillac tail fins.” I will explain the metaphor when the story runs next week (August 12 or 13, 2013).
I read a review of Information Dashboard Design, second edition. If you are into user experience or user interfaces, you will want to read the book. I will definitely check it out.
I just wanted to point out that the image from the blog is an example of a “solution” by the book’s author, Stephen Few.
Image source: http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=1466
I find these types of extremely dense, complicated outputs interesting, not because I use them.
Check out my approach to tabular data. I stick with print outs, usually of chunks of Excel spreadsheets or short write ups with bullets and data in short tables like this one:
From the forthcoming monograph Google 20/20: A Prescription for New Revenue, which discusses the trajectory of Google Glass. The author is the Harrod’s Creek recluse, Stephen E Arnold.
If I need to show a point, I use a graphic like a stop light or maybe a thermometer.
The reason for my utter simplicity of approach is that I find the dense, busy, modern UX/UI presentations darned hard to figure out. If a person is under time pressure or does not know exactly what he/she is looking at, the likelihood of dismissing or misinterpreting data strikes me as high. Under pressure, absolute clarity and brevity are required. Fluff is okay in a personal blog, but not when money or lives are on the line.
Now in many vendors’ eyes, training is available online. Even better, a three minute YouTube video will explain “everything” the user needs to know. (Frankly categorical affirmatives about “users” is a questionable assertion.) The idea that an analyst is standing by to help the end user has disappeared like five cent Mars bars.
Fancy interfaces do not replace a subject matter expert, an analyst, and a professional working through what the data will permit and how best to present answers to specific questions. Some interfaces are pretty much guaranteed to increase risk and go unused.
July 11, 2013
It can be a challenge to visually present data in a way that is easy to understand, yet not snore-inducing. Information Management asks, “Data Visualizations: Do You Prefer Destroyed Farms or Fancy Pies?” In this write-up, Justin Kern explores the intersection between art and data visualization.
Kern has been spending time with a book by Nathan Yau, “Data Points: Visualization That Means Something.” Yau’s examples have inspired Kern, and prompted him to contemplate how familiar works of art might function as hypothetical data visualizations. He notes that designing these aids so that they actually communicate clearly is necessary but difficult in today’s business world, and suspects that artists could help:
“For artists, they’re already expressing interest in data as a medium, and the information management field might be one of the few where they could find such a quick entry into decent paying and intellectually satisfying work. And, whether we’re clear about it or not, CIOs, data managers and business analysts are reaching out for information ‘storytellers’ through visualizations. It wouldn’t be too broad a stroke to paint a scene where ‘corporate art’ is more about exciting, innovative and engaging data visualizations and less about that wrought iron abstract piece forgotten about in the middle of a bank headquarters courtyard. I’m geeked up to see how the art and data worlds will combine to make the destroyed farms and refrigerator pies that usher in a new wave of business understanding with a touch of heart.”
Interesting vision. If this Kern turns out to be barking up a valid tree here, this could become a lucrative avenue for artistic types. Will data visualization classes start popping up in BFA curricula?
Cynthia Murrell, July 11, 2013
June 25, 2013
Google has done it again. More new features have been released and the article, “Google Trends Now Ranks Most Searched People, Places and Things in 40+ Categories, Releases Visual Trending Product,” shares more details on the search giant’s two new capabilities.
Google’s new charts will be updated every month and they will display the most searched people, places and things in more than 40 categories. The ability to filter by 11 countries is also available and the rankings go back to 2004. The article suggests that PR companies and their customers will find this as a good metric.
We learned more about this new feature in the article:
“Built on top of Knowledge Graph, the data is accurate beyond simply keywords. Google understands the difference between “The Next Web”, “TNW” and “TNW Conference” for example, and therefore the charts are an accurate representation of what is being searched for in both broad and specific terms.”
Google has also added a visual way to showcase trending searches in real time. Keeping up with popular culture is a never ending source of entertainment and now people can keep in Google style.
Megan Feil, June 25, 2013
April 30, 2013
We must keep in mind that science fiction is one thing, and existing technology quite another. ArsTechnica highlights the difference with, “Boston Police Chief: Facial Recognition Tech Didn’t Help Find Bombing Suspects.” While facial recognition and other cutting-edge software may prove to be important tools for crime fighters of the future, we aren’t there just yet. Writer Cyrus Farivar informs us:
“While the whole country is relieved that this past week’s Boston Marathon bombing ordeal and subsequent lockdown of the city is finally over, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told the Washington Post that the department’s facial recognition system ‘did not identify’ the two bombing suspects.
“‘The technology came up empty even though both Tsarnaevs’ images exist in official databases: Dzhokhar had a Massachusetts driver’s license; the brothers had legally immigrated; and Tamerlan had been the subject of some FBI investigation,’ the Post reported on Saturday.
“Facial recognition systems can have limited utility when a grainy, low-resolution image captured at a distance from a cellphone camera or surveillance video is compared with a known, high-quality image.”
This key example illustrates why we think it is important to separate “as is” from “to be.” Forward-thinking is great, as long as we don’t let it trip us up in the present. The article notes that video surveillance was used to pinpoint the suspects—but only with much time and energy (and, I suspect but cannot confirm, large quantities of coffee). It was reported that, for example, one FBI agent viewed a single video segment 400 times in the effort to connect dots and build the narrative that eventually led to the suspects.
The article goes on to discuss Reddit‘s, um, contribution to the manhunt. That didn’t go quite as hoped, and actually interfered with the official investigation. It is important to remember that, though we have many shiny-new tools at our disposal, time-tested investigative techniques (plied by those with actual training) are still at the heart of law enforcement.
Cynthia Murrell, April 30, 2013
March 14, 2013
Data Visualization is becoming the new thing when it comes to presentation, portfolios and even proposals however there is more to this fade than meets the eye. The NetMag article “Seven Secrets of Data Visualisation” provides an informative yet comical view of data visualization and the challenges that developers face. The article gives readers seven dirty little secrets about the data visualization world.
- Real data is ugly.
- A bar chart is usually better.
- There’s no substitute for real data.
- The devil is in the details.
- Animate only when appropriate.
- Visualization is not analysis.
- Data visualization takes more than code.
These secrets may be surprising to some but to most people once they think about it they actually make sense. For instance data is what it is. Though users are always trying to find ways to “clean” their data up and make it presentable, it still takes a lot of work to make something out of nothing. Whether it comes down to formatting or using special online tools, users need help to take their data from a bunch of random numbers and figures to something presentable and more importantly understandable. When it comes to animation sometimes less is definitely more. It can be tempting to add lots of animation and special effects to your data but in the long run all it does is add to the chaos. The number six secret is probably one of the most important. Though data visualization in many cases can aid analysis it is not a substitute for data, meaning that it still takes analytical skills, effort and expertise to help bring any data to life. Visualization Developers definitely face challenges and this article definitely lays the little secrets out on the table but it’s hard to call them dirty. One might say just say they hold duplicitous roles when it comes to talking about what really goes on.
April Holmes, March 14,2013
March 7, 2013
MicroStrategy rolls out big changes in the mobile computing marketplace in 2013 despite interior reorganization and the future looks bright for the business intelligence technology provider.
“MicroStrategy Doubles Down on Mobile Data Visualization,” gives us a look into the intelligence vender and its updated focus on cloud, social and visual analysis and how it will fare against opponents like Oracle and Tableau.
“Mobile has been a big part of MicroStrategy’s focus for at least three years, and it has been steadfast in its strategy to build native apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The native-app approach differs from that of many other BI vendors who are betting on HTML 5… In its latest release, MicroStrategy has continued to refine the online and offline performance of its mobile apps with smart caching, support for video and PDF content inside dashboards, and usage tracking of BI activities on the device.”
Big changes were announced for MicroStrategy’s 9.3 release and includes an upgrade to Visual Insight, Micro’s visual data discovery technology; the Cloud, now in its second year also looks promising and has more than 30,000 users. A big boost in social networking intelligence will also be an asset though it is still to be seen whether customers can handle their own internal data before they make the jump to social sphere origination.
A big question regarding MicroStrategy is whether or not they will continue to see growth under reconstruction after poor execution in 2012. Compared to the rest of the BI world, it really did not grow into its potential. However, it is a company to take note of and follow.
Leslie Radcliff, March 07, 2013
March 1, 2013
Hong Kong wants to improve government agencies with new technology and business initiatives for its citizens’ needs, says “Hong Kong Government Chooses SAS(R) Data Visualization To Improve Citizen Services” via Market Watch. As the headline states, the Hong Kong government selected SAS(R) Visual Analytics as the means for improvement. The Hong Kong Efficiency Unit heads the project and it will examine citizen complaint data using the SAS software. The hope is to find new insights and solutions based off the data. Some of SAS’s selling features are the ability to view data across multiple platforms and visual representations.
“’This is new for the Efficiency Unit: deploying transformative software from SAS to help us transform government services to better serve our citizens,’ said Wai-Fung Yuk, Assistant Director, Hong Kong Efficiency Unit. ‘SAS software will allow us to examine large amounts of complaint data and rapidly draw insights to make informed decisions. No matter how much data is involved, time to insight is crucial.’”
The Hong Kong Efficiency Unit probably chose SAS, because it is the largest independent BI vendor. SAS Visual Analytics has carved out a niche in the IT market not just for its data visualization, but also for the analytical correlations that it finds in seconds. Hong Kong has joined SAS in obtaining “the power to know.”
Whitney Grace, March 01, 2013
February 21, 2013
Attivio is a leader in self-professed active intelligence. The new version 3.5 is expanding and bettering their ontology. Ontologies are more familiar to librarians, as a set of formalized categories, terms, and relationships. A bit like a thesaurus. Attivo tries to maximize the business impact of users information assets. A better ontology is no doubt going to help. MarketWatch offers the full story in, “Attivio Active Intelligence Engine 3.5 Adds Advanced Ontology Module and Event-Driven Visualization.”
The article begins:
“Version 3.5 features a new Ontology Module and event-driven visualization capabilities that let analysts immediately understand what’s happening on large, multi-node systems. Additional enhancements include expanded SQL support and automatic generation of thumbnail and preview images to help customers more rapidly view and retrieve critical information.”
Attivio offers one solution to enterprise search. LucidWorks offers another. For those who are shopping around, LucidWorks is a tested and trusted solution, relying on the power of Apache Lucene and Solr. There are lots of good enterprise solutions that depend on open source technology. LucidWorks just happens to be the one that offers the most dependability and best support options. Check out their commercial support offerings as well.
Emily Rae Aldridge, February 21, 2013
February 19, 2013
SAS has announced a new product geared toward work groups and midsize businesses. The new SAS Visual Analytics brings an enterprise-level computing ability to scaled down systems and works with database appliances Greenplum and Teradata.
According to “SAS Rolls Out Visual Analytics for Work Groups and Midsized Businesses,” by 2015 more than 30 percent of analytics projects will deliver insights based on structured and unstructured data. This is important to know because small business intelligence will have to scale up in order to meet the demand. That’s where SAS comes in.
“Designed as a starting point for organizations wanting to add analytics to their business strategies, SAS Visual Analytics’ self-service option lets business users explore their data without having to seek assistance from their IT departments.”
While SAS touts its new software as more than just a simple business intelligence product and confirms that it will be fast and easy to use there is still the question of whether or not the software can live up to its billing as a useful to those businesses with a handful of users, all the way up to global deployment. Seems ambitious.
Be that as it may, there is no doubt that it is a step up from the small business platforms that are currently on the market. It will be an interesting system to watch unfold as it moves into the future.
Leslie Radcliff, February 19, 2013