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
February 6, 2013
Is this another data-analysis revolution or just more fancy graphics? Wired reports, “Data-Visualization Firm’s New Software Autonomously Finds Abstract Connections.” Ayasdi asserts that their Iris Insight Discovery platform helps you find answers in your data to questions you didn’t even know to ask.
If you check out the article, start with the embedded video; it does a good job of explaining the product. Writer Liat Clark explains:
“It’s a type of machine learning that uses hundreds of algorithms and topological data analysis to mine huge datasets before presenting the results in a visually accessible way. Using algebraic topology, the system automatically hunts down data points close in nature and maps these out to reveal a network of patterns for a researcher to decipher — any closely related nodes of information will be connected and clustered together, like how a social network arranges its data according to relationship connections.”
By removing the requirement for human-generated queries, the software is unfettered to offer up any patterns and anomalies it detects. Chances are, at least some of those will turn out to be important. The platform is apparently already producing exciting results in the medicine, and DARPA has optimistically bankrolled much of the development, hoping its use of the platform will bolster our national security. Now, a new round of funding is launching the product into the public realm.
When Ayasdi was formed in 2008, it was built on a decade of research at Stanford, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and the National Science Foundation. The company is now located in Palo Alto, California. Their unique name is Cherokee for “to seek.”
Cynthia Murrell, February 06, 2013
December 24, 2012
You might have asked yourself the question, “what is data?” The answer according to Dictionary.com is individual facts, statistics, or items of information or a body of facts/information. Data basically supplies you with knowledge about a subject. When it comes to data analysis, you will probably ask yourself this question as well, “what is the best way for me to represent my data findings?” The answer to this one is even simpler: use visual aids. If you are unsure where to find useful and free data visuals, Computer World has been keeping a running inventory of “Chart and Image Gallery: 30+ Free Tools for Data Visualization and Analysis.”
Running through the list you will notices there are free tools for presentations, charts, and other ways to represent your analysis findings without relying on an expensive, commercial software. These free tools do require a certain set of skills; each one is ranked according to difficulty:
“Skill levels are represented as numbers from easiest to most difficult to learn and use:
1. Users who are comfortable with basic spreadsheet tasks
2. Users who are technically proficient enough not to be frightened off by spending a couple of hours learning a new application
3. Power users
4. Users with coding experience or specialized knowledge in a field like GIS or network analysis.”
With Big Data becoming even a bigger player in the business world taking advantage of these tools will help your organize the results from your Big Data analysis. Visual aids have come a long way from the standard PowerPoint.
Whitney Grace, December 24, 2012