Thursday, September 4, 2008

New Data Visualization Tool

I think a lot of us are at the general level of, “If I put this data into an Excel spreadsheet, I can display it as a pie chart.” Today, there are other options, many of them free. Some look rather complicated. The one that made the New York Times over the Labor Day weekend looks usable to the amateur. You may have missed it; I did, but fortunately one of my colleagues sent me a link. Thanks Kathy!

Here’s a list of data visualization tools, all of which appear to be free. The list is about a year old but I couldn’t find anything more recent. The good news is that all the links I checked are still there. These are mostly services that relate to social media, not to serious data analysis, but the survival of free services is always good news.

Many Eyes is a project of the IBM data visualization lab. A quick look at its home page suggests a variety of uses from charts based on data from the Organization for Economic Co-Operating and Development to analyses of sports to analyses of the speeches of politicians. There’s a lot on the site to look at and understand what can be done. Along the way I found an incredible table that catalogs the types of data visualization that you might find useful to orient yourself to this space.

These five charts show basic types of graphics you can do with Many Eyes. I took all these examples from the Many Eyes blog. You can also do things like change colors and sort data, for example into either ascending or descending order. The blog has two tutorials; one for the layperson and another for nerds! If you want to learn more, the IBM Visual Communication Lab has a press and presentations page with many links and some videos. Many of them are conference or IT classroom presentations, and they are long and tell more about the “how” than marketers are likely to want to know. But you ought to take a look and see what’s there.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (subscription may be required) contains an interview with two of the principles in the Visual Communication Lab. Wattenberg and Viégas suggest some potential management uses:

• A team doing a complex market analysis might use a collaborative-visualization intranet site to get a much better understanding than is possible today of the ways in which one month’s data differ from the previous month’s.

• A company seeking to wring costs out of its supply chain might post a treemap showing items’ relative sourcing expenses, enabling “many eyes”—those of employees and suppliers—to spot new areas for potential savings.

• A real-time visualization of weather-related bottlenecks in air traffic could help airlines by making travelers more understanding and tolerant of delays. It could also help travelers figure out the best ways to change their flights to avoid holdups.

As you can tell, they are focusing on Many Eyes as a tool for collaboration, internal or external. It’s a fascinating tool. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear if it’s as powerful and easy to use as the website suggests.

1 comment:

Scareymonster said...

Hi there,

Can I suggest another DV tool to you ? www.instantatlas.com. This software is used by Health Analysts around the globe. There is a showcase of examples www.instantatlas.com/solutions.xhtml

Regards
David