• Many Eyes Adds Wordle to its Extensive Visualization Toolbox

    August 13, 2008  |  Data Art, Online Applications

    I'm sure you've seen Wordle by now, which puts an artistic spin on the traditional tag cloud. An application by Jonathan Feinberg, Wordle lets you put any text or RSS/atom feed in as input and get a cloud of words sized by frequency and arranged every which way. Above is a Wordle cloud of the current FlowingData feed.

    Many Eyes recently added Feinberg's visualization to their slew of other visualization tools.

    Wordle marks a departure from the more analytical visualizations on Many Eyes. Why bring a self-described “toy” to a site for social data analysis? People have reported finding value beyond entertainment in creating these word clouds. Teachers have used Wordles in classrooms as conversation catalysts; others have created them to express their identities, and scholars have used them to visualize the output of statistical explorations of texts.

    No doubt Many Eyes, with Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas (who know a thing or two about design) at the helm, recognizes that data visualization isn't always about analytics and exactness. Sometimes visualization is just about getting people to think.

  • Google Releases Insights for Search – India Likes Data

    August 6, 2008  |  Online Applications

    google-insights

    Google announced Insights for Search yesterday. Think Google Trends but with more information and more useful. Type in some search terms and get the rundown on interest over time based on search volume, regional interest, and related searches. It's geared towards advertisers using AdWords, but it can still be interesting to outsiders.

    For example, I put in a search for data + visualization + design + statistics and got the above. Apparently interest for all of those subjects (i.e. FlowingData) is on the decline and India sure loves its data. I'm packing my bags to India as we speak.

    [via TechCrunch]

  • New Version of Flare Visualization Toolkit Released

    July 31, 2008  |  Software, Visualization

    A new version of Flare, the data visualization toolkit for Actionscript (which means it runs in Flash), was just released yesterday with a number of major improvements from the previous version. The toolkit was created and is maintained by the UC Berkeley Visualization Lab and was one of the first bits of Actionscript that I got my hands on. The effort-to-output ratio was pretty satisfying, so if you want to learn Acitonscript for data visualization, check out Flare. The tutorial is a good place to start.

    Here are some sample applications created with Flare:

    [Thanks, Jeff]

  • Watching Our Twitter World – twittervision Redux

    July 28, 2008  |  Mapping, Projects, Software

    I've always liked twittervision. I'm not sure what it is, but it's strangely mesmerizing, getting a tiny peak into others' lives. This weekend, I recreated twittervision with a little bit of style for good measure. Say hello to Twitter World.

    The Data

    Twitter World shows updates from the Twitter public timeline, and makes use of the twittervision API for location. Until I get whitelisted for the Twitter API, I'm polling Twitter and twittervision every six minutes to keep things fresh. Hopefully neither putters out.

    The Implementation

    Like my visualization showing the spread of Walmart, I used Modest Maps (+ OpenStreetMap) to map things out, and I used TweenFilterLite to animate. I had all the gears in place and everything working nicely a couple of hours in - but that was with a flat XML file. The hard part was feeding the thing live data and then making sure everything was synchronized. That took, um, too much time.

    In any case, not bad for a weekend project.

    PS. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter :)

  • Map With All the Common APIs at Once – Mapstraction

    July 8, 2008  |  Mapping, Software

    For those who want more out of the commonly-used mapping APIs from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc, but don't want to get too heavy on the programming, Mapstraction is for you. Mapstraction is a javascript mapping abstraction library that lets you easily use different mapping APIs all at once (or switch between them).

    This means you can use functionality from one API and apply it to another, or you can just put a whole bunch of synced maps on one page like above. Other features include geocoding, polylines, marker filters, and GeoRSS and KML, so go for it. Go map crazy.

    [via ReadWriteWeb]

  • Microsoft Excel Can’t Handle Clinton and Obama’s Moola

    May 28, 2008  |  Software

    MoneyThe Internet has made it easier to donate to presidential campaigns, so much so that the Federal Election Commission has had a hard time keeping up with the seemingly sudden influx of data they have to process.

    The campaign finance reports filed by Obama and Clinton have grown so massive that they’ve strained the capacity of the Federal Election Commission, good government groups, the media and even software applications to process and make sense of the data.

    Hold up. Even computers are buckling under the pressure? The first things that came to mind were crashing servers and tech maintenance pulling their graying hair out. Reading on though, "software" is a reference to Microsoft Excel 2003, which can't handle data files larger than 65,536 rows or 256 columns.

    Phew, that was close. I mean, come on, this is nation-wide data. Give me a MySQL dump for Pete's sake.

    Anyways, tt's certainly a good indicator for how times have changed data-wise. Excel 2007 can handle more. And on that note – it's still possible to open John McCain's monthly reports in Excel 2003.

    [Thanks, David]

  • What Do You Primarily Use to Analyze and/or Visualize Data? [POLL]

    May 19, 2008  |  Polls, Software

    In elementary school through high school, I always used Microsoft Excel for my charts and graphs (and use it to clean data every now and then). In undergrad, I learned all of my programming in C++ and Java and did a little bit of engineering stuff in MATLAB. When statistics rolled along, I always analyzed data using R.

    Then I got into data visualization, and for a while it was all about Processing. When I interned for The New York Times, I used a lot of Adobe Illustrator (and still really enjoy playing with it). Lately, I've been immersed in Actionscript.

    So what do you use to make sense of data?

    If your weapon of choice isn't listed, I'd be interested to know what your "other" tool is in the comments, because, well, there's always more fun stuff to learn.

    {democracy:3}
  • Discover, Share, Publish, Distribute, and Subscribe to Data With blist

    May 12, 2008  |  Online Applications

    blist logoToday, Kevin Merritt, founder and CEO of blist, provides some background on putting data in the hands of mainstream users.

    blist is not a company of modest ambitions. We want to democratize working with data much as PowerPoint and Visio have empowered mainstream users to create their own presentations and diagrams. Before these breakthroughs in innovation, mainstream users sketched free hand and asked professionals in central resource pools (art departments and engineering departments) to turn drawings into foil transparencies and blueprints.
    Continue Reading

  • How to Learn Actionscript (Flash) for Data Visualization

    April 21, 2008  |  Software

    A while back, I asked, "What is the best way to learn Actionscript for data visualization?" As I've had Actionscript staring me in the face for the past two weeks, I can attest to the idea that the best way to learn is by doing i.e. immersing yourself in a project with a deadline looming in the dark behind you. There have been, however, a few things that have made my life a little easier as I strive for coding nirvana.

    My Only Desktop Reference

    Essential Actionscript 3.0I have stacks of books on the floor, in the closet, and on my bookshelf, but there's one book that has stayed within in arm's reach as I learn - Colin Moock's Essential Actionscript 3.0. This is usually the first place I go to look when I'm stuck on a bug or am not sure where to begin. Moock's explanations are very clear and he provides plenty of useful examples without getting too specific.

    When I first started, I read the first section "Actionscript from the Ground Up," which helped me familiarize myself with core concepts like packages, classes, and just the basic ideas of how things work. I feel like one of the hardest parts of learning any programming language is figuring out how all the components talk to each other, so this first section helped a lot. I skimmed the rest of the book, and now it's my only desktop reference.

    I'm also starting to hear great things about Learning ActionScript 3.0: A Beginner's Guide by Shupe and Rosser, but I haven't got to look at it yet.

    Flare Visualization Toolkit

    FlareJeffrey Heer's Flare visualization toolkit seems to come out at just the right time specifically for me. Seriously, the timing couldn't have been better. For instant gratification, go through the tutorial, which covers a few Actionscript basics and straightforward examples for mainly, reading in data and animating and transitioning objects.

    After the tutorial, try to build some of your own visualizations and applying what you learned from the tutorial. Finally, when you're more comfortable, dive into the Flare code to see how things work.

    Modest Maps for Flexible Mapping


    Modest Maps
    For those interested in mapping, Modest Maps has helped me a good bit. From the site:

    Our intent is to provide a minimal, extensible, customizable, and free display library for discriminating designers and developers who want to use interactive maps in their own projects. Modest Maps provides a core set of features in a tight, clean package, with plenty of hooks for additional functionality.

    They're not lying. It provides the basic map functionality like pan and zoom, but it's open, so you can do whatever you want from there. I've been using Flare and Modest Maps together to take the best of both worlds, I guess you could say. There's also the Yahoo! Maps Actionscript API, but I haven't tried it. I don't know if it's as flexible as Modest, but I like the idea of owning all of my code.

    Adobe Flex Builder for Actionscript Development

    Flex Builder 3Flex Builder has been extremely helpful while coding. The name might suggest it's only for Flex projects, but it's pretty darn good for Actionscript projects. The serious Actionscript people I've talked to only seem to use Flex. The other option is to use your text editor of choice and install the free Flex SDK, but it's more complicated (and I've never tried it).

    The downside of Flex is that it's kind of expensive, pricing at just under $250 and even more for the pro version. However, on the flip side, Flex Builder Pro 3 is free to all education customers.

    Last Thoughts

    Finally, let's not forget about Adobe's Actionscript 3.0 language and components reference. In addition to Moock's book, this is the other indispensable resource. And of course there's all the online resources you'll find ala Google.

    This is pretty much what I've been immersed in for the past two weeks. It's definitely a sharp learning curve, but once I got the hang of things, it's been pretty fun and nice to see my data moving along.

    Anyways, I'm just now starting to kick the tires. I am sure there are many of you who have been at this for a while and who know a ton more than I do. What references or resources do you recommend for Flash/Actionscript beginners like myself?

  • Your Notes, Snapshots, and Memories Accessible From Everywhere – Evernote

    April 2, 2008  |  Online Applications

    I just signed up for an EverNote account, which lets you store all of your notes online from all of your devices - tablet, paper, mobile phone, laptop, PDA.
    Continue Reading

  • Facebook Security Upgrade Rendered Useless – Private Photos Leaked

    March 25, 2008  |  Online Applications

    Leaky Faucet

    Just when you thought it was safe to upload those photos from that wild Friday night to Facebook, this happens:

    A security lapse made it possible for unwelcome strangers to peruse personal photos posted on Facebook Inc.'s popular online hangout, circumventing a recent upgrade to the Web site's privacy controls.

    The dumbest part is how easy it has been all this time to find private photos. All it took was a modified URL with a photo ID to "hack" into Paris Hilton, Mark Zuckerberg, or anyone else's private albums. I don't know the whole story, but given Facebook's excellent reputation, you'd think that they would know better. The security hole has been plugged for now, and I am sure the Facebook group is working hard to make sure there are no other leaky areas.

    This leak probably couldn't have been more poorly timed for Facebook with the release of their new security measures as well as MySpace's not so distant and a bit too familiar photo breach.

    This really makes you wonder - what's next?

    Photo by Meredith Farmer

    [via ReadWriteWeb]

  • toolbox-thumb

    Putting Analysis Online With StatCrunch and Covariable [Review]

    Are online statistical tools sufficient to analyze our complex datasets?
  • Organizing Your Music Visually

    January 9, 2008  |  Software

    music

    I'm not a music downloading monster like some, so I personally haven't had any problems organizing and finding my music. However, for those who are downloading music every day (legally, I hope), I can imagine your music collection is getting quite out of hand. You probably can't even remember what songs and albums you've downloaded over the past two years. What's that High School Musical album doing there?

    That's why this tool is in development. I haven't tried it out, but from the screenshots, it looks like there is potential. Although it looks like the screen can get cluttered very quickly, and with too many songs, you might just end up with a big bubble cloud. If that actually is a problem, it kind of defeats the tool's purpose since I don't really care about visualizing only 20 songs. But like I said, I haven't tried it.

  • Stamen Design Puts Out Another Good One in Digg Pics

    January 8, 2008  |  Online Applications

    digg-pics

    In the usual fashion that we've come to expect from Stamen Design, Digg Pics shows us what pictures are being dugg as well as provides an opportunity to discover new pictures. As with its Digg Labs siblings, Digg Pics offers three streams -- popular, newly submitted, and all activity.

    I always like to read posts that discuss the experimental phases and how a viz came to whatever it is; it's kind of like when you know the history of a piece of art, you can appreciate it more. Eric goes into the design process at the Stamen blog. There's screenshots of Stamen's experimental layouts, and from what I see on Digg, I'd say everything came together quite nicely.

    The picture streams are split up into Digg categories where the number of times a picture is repeated represents the number of times the picture was recently dugg. The display is clean and smooth, and of course the interaction is quite nice (and useful).

    Another good one, Stamen!

  • YouTube Releases Visualization for Related Videos

    December 18, 2007  |  Online Applications

    youtube-viz

    YouTube (or should I say Google), released their visualization for related videos. It's essentially a ball and stick graph without the sticks. The above is a screenshot of the videos related to Marty McFly playing Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future, the greatest movie of all time.

    Some of the video bubbles that circle around the Marty clip are the same as those in the "Related Videos" section of the usual page while others are not. Place the cursor over a bubble for about two seconds, and related videos for the one you have your mouse over will bubble up.

    I'm not sure if the distance between the bubbles have to do with similarity level. So far it seems not, because I've refreshed the Marty visualization a few times and the bubbles' initial positions have always been different.

    Continue Reading

  • Many Eyes Has Embeddable Visualization

    December 13, 2007  |  Online Applications

    You used to only be able to get a small thumbnail to "share" the visualization you found or created on Many Eyes (well, outside of taking screenshots and emailing), but Many Eyes just announced the embed feature. In the same way you can embed YouTube videos, you can embed Many Eyes visualizations. This is a really big step forward, because users can share what they've found or seen more easily and as a result, it's more likely others will become drawn in. You know, it's that whole viral marketing thing.

    Just one weird thing. I had to change the single quotes in the copy and paste snippet to double quotes for the embedding to work, because my version (or all versions?) of WordPress escapes the single quotes.

  • Google Has a Charting API Too Now

    December 7, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Yahoo: Look Google, I've got a Flash charts API now. I make it easier for people to plot their data, and look, pretty colors.

    Google: So what. Look what I've got. I have URL-based chart creation with fun, cartoon-ish Google colors. My API is way easier, and plus, since I'm Google, everyone will use my API and not yours.

    Y: Why are you so mean to me? We both have two O's in our name. Can't we be friends?

    G: No. That's right, you heard me. I'm better. Now kiss my feet.

    Sigh, poor Yahoo. Right after Yahoo released their flash-based charting API, Google proudly announces a super simple charting API of their own. The idea is very straightforward. It all starts with the URL http://chart.apis.google.com/chart and from there

    1. Add parameters to URL
    2. Link to URL as an image

    That's it.

    For example, this URL

    http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=520x225&chd=s:helloWorld&cht=lc&chxt=x,y&

    chxl=0:|Mar|Apr|May|June|July|1:||50+Kb

    gives you

    You have the usual options of line, bar, pie, venn, and scatter; and you can change the colors, labels, size, etc.

    With all the charting available, could this be a sign that data is becoming more popular?

    [via Blogoscoped]

  • Yahoo Charts Control Library Now Available

    December 6, 2007  |  Online Applications

    YUI Charts Example

    Yahoo User Interface 2.4.0 was recently released which includes the new YUI Charts Control.

    Josh Tynjala of the Yahoo! Flash Platform team contributes the new YUI Charts Control, a hybrid JavaScript/Flash component that supports bar, line, and pie charts. The Charts Control draws data from the same DataSource Utility that underpins the YUI DataTable Control, making it possible to do combined chart/table visualizations. The Charts Control accepts CSS style information, allowing you to skin the chart itself without touching the underlying .swf file. But if you do want to dig into the Flash side of this project, you can get full access to those assets on the ASTRA site.

    What does this mean? It means that we're probably going to see a lot more hack-ish looking charts online (example above); but we might also see some nice-looking charts since it seems like they're potentially customizable. In any case, it's good to see this. There's some cruddy Flash-based chart libraries that people are actually charging money for. This free and open library should have some positive effects.

  • Graphwise: Crawling the Web for Tabulated Data

    November 8, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Graphwise LogoGraphwise launched a few weeks ago, but I'm just hearing about it now, so I guess there hasn't been a whole lot of buzz about this new application.

    The Graphwise group has got a spider crawling the Web for data in HTML data tables and as a result, has accumulated a pretty big data warehouse. There's currently 2,766,560 extracted tables in the Graphwise database. That's pretty good, and I think they're building on a pretty good idea. However, Graphwise advertises itself as three pieces of a three-piece puzzle -- get data, visualize, and share.

    To say the least, the visualize and share portions need work. Here's a visualization from the front page:

    Graphwise Graph Example

    I...I...don't know what to say. Why the 3-d bars with the gradient background and the giant, semi-transparent Earth in the foreground blocking everything? It makes me want to throw up. It seriously looks like someone threw up data on the screen -- data vomit. The javascript-enabled graphs seem to be making the browsing experience pretty sluggish too.

    Am I being too harsh? My conscious is yelling at me for calling the graphs regurgitated food.

    OK, OK. So to sum things up -- the data warehousing and Web crawling are great. The spiders are clearly doing their job, so thumbs up for that. As for the visualizations, I, well, uh, it needs work (along with all the other junk that comes with running these types of data-centric applications).

    [via Swivel]

  • Use Flare Visualization Toolkit to Build Interactive Viz for the Web

    October 30, 2007  |  Software

    Flare Logo Tom from Stamen Design and Hadley from the GGobi group kindly pointed me to the recently ported Flare visualization toolkit. Developed by Berkeley's Jeffrey Heer, Flare looks extremely useful for anyone who is interested in developing interactive visualizations (e.g. time series, stacked bar, pie charts, graph) for the Web that run in the Adobe Flash player.

    There's a pretty good tutorial that I, as a beginner, found straightforward. I ran into some problems when I was trying to "import a library into another project," but per Jeffrey's suggestion, I upgraded to Adobe Flex 3 beta (currently a free download). That cured my problems. Adobe Flex is apparently still a little rough around the edges. Oh right, and the tutorial provides instructions on how to develop with Flare in the Flex Builder environment.

    I'm currently going through the demos to gain a better understanding of both Flare and Actionscript, and it looks very promising. I'm pretty excited about what I can do once I've improved my Actionscript programming skills.

    Check out some screenshots from the Flare demo reel after the jump.

    Continue Reading

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