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Anne Eisenberg: Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2008 08:09:22 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: dewayne () warpspeed com (Dewayne Hendricks)
Date: August 31, 2008 9:20:16 PM EDT
To: Dewayne-Net Technology List <xyzzy () warpspeed com>
Subject: [Dewayne-Net] Anne Eisenberg: Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh
My! New Ways to Sift Data
[Note: This item comes from friend John McMullen. DLH]
From: "John F. McMullen" <johnmac13 () gmail com>
Date: August 31, 2008 6:06:59 PM PDT
To: "johnmac's living room" <johnmacsgroup () yahoogroups com>
Cc: "Dewayne Hendricks" <dewayne () warpspeed com>
Subject: Anne Eisenberg: Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways
to Sift Data
From the New York Times -- <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/technology/31novel.html?partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data
By Anne Eisenberg
PEOPLE share their videos on YouTube and their photos at Flickr. Now
they can share more technical types of displays: graphs, charts and
other visuals they create to help them analyze data buried in
spreadsheets, tables or text.
At an experimental Web site, Many Eyes, (www.many-eyes.com), users can
upload the data they want to visualize, then try sophisticated tools
to generate interactive displays. These might range from maps of
relationships in the New Testament to a display of the comparative
frequency of words used in speeches by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton
and Barack Obama.
The site was created by scientists at the Watson Research Center of
I.B.M. in Cambridge, Mass., to help people publish and discuss
graphics in a group. Those who register at the site can comment on one
another's work, perhaps visualizing the same information with
different tools and discovering unexpected patterns in the data.
Collaboration like this can be an effective way to spur insight, said
Pat Hanrahan, a professor of computer science at Stanford whose
research includes scientific visualization. "When analyzing
information, no single person knows it all," he said. "When you have a
group look at data, you protect against bias. You get more
perspectives, and this can lead to more reliable decisions."
The site is the brainchild of Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda B.
Viégas, two I.B.M. researchers at the Cambridge lab. Dr. Wattenberg, a
computer scientist and mathematician, says sophisticated visualization
tools have historically been the province of professionals in
academia, business and government. "We want to bring visualization to
a whole new audience," he said — to people who have had relatively few
ways to create and discuss such use of data.
"The conversation about the data is as important as the flow of data
from the database," he said.
The Many Eyes site, begun in January 2007, offers 16 ways to present
data, from stack graphs and bar charts to diagrams that let people map
relationships. TreeMaps, showing information in colorful rectangles,
are among the popular tools.
Initially, the site offered only analytical tools like graphs for
visualizing numerical data. "The interesting thing we noticed was that
users kept trying to upload blog posts, and entire books," Dr. Viégas
said, so the site added techniques for unstructured text. One tool,
called an interleaved tag cloud, lets users compare side by side the
relative frequencies of the words in two passages — for instance,
President Bush's State of the Union addresses in 2002 and 2003.
Almost all the tools are interactive, allowing users to change
parameters, zoom in or out or show more information when the mouse
moves over an image, Dr. Wattenberg said.
Users can embed images and links to their visualizations in their Web
sites or blogs, just as they can embed YouTube videos. "It's great
that people can paste in a YouTube video of cats" on their blogs, Dr.
Viégas said. "So why not a visual that gives you some insight into the
sea of data that surrounds us? I might find one thing; someone else,
something completely different, and that's where the conversation
Rich Hoeg, a technology manager who lives in New Hope, Minn., and has
a blog at econtent.typepad.com, was so taken with the possibilities
for group collaboration that he wrote a tutorial on using Many Eyes as
part of his series called "NorthStar Nerd Tutorials."
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- Anne Eisenberg: Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data David Farber (Sep 01)