1/21/09

Visualizing Information with ManyEyes

If you've followed my "product review" blog posts in the past, you know that I am a sucker for presenting information in new and entertaining ways.  Well, I found a tool from IBM that really excites me about how information can be presented in ways that help the end-user quickly grasp large amounts of information in a better way.
IBM's "ManyEyes" project is a tool in development by their wonderful AlphaWorks team.  I remember playing around with AlphaWorks projects early on in this decade, and haven't really been paying attention to them over the past few years (apparently a dumb mistake on my part.)  Yesterday's inauguration promoted the ManyEyes project by allowing people to view the inaugural speech by President Obama as a word tree.  ManyEyes allowed you to play around with the speech and see how phrases lead to statements, and helped see the theme of the speech in a new way.
That got me to playing around with other speeches, and I uploaded President Lincoln's 1861 inaugural speech and found that there were two words that stuck out in his speech - "Union" & "Constitution."  It was really insightful to use a tool like this to quickly understand the theme of the speech, and to make me look at it in a new way.
Well, it also turns out that ManyEyes doesn't just allow you to present speeches or other pure text information in different ways, it also allows you to take datasets and present those in a visual presentation.  I started by taking information that we compiled in our "Big Law Firms onLinkedIn" posting from a few months ago, and uploaded the spreadsheet data intoManyEyes.  There were a few interesting visualizations that really gave me a different view of the data.  It is really helpful when you can take "flat" information and actually make it pop out at you.  

The last thing I've played with on ManyEyes (for this blog post anyway) is uploading geographical information.  I looked at the data on home foreclosures in the United States over the past 4 months, and uploaded that into ManyEyes to create a visualization map.  If I had enough time, the data could be even narrowed down to the specific county within each state.  
So, kudos to IBM's AlphaWorks team for creating a product that allows us to visualize data in an easy to use fashion.  I suggest that if you are also interested in presenting information in more interactive and visual ways, go to IBM's ManyEyes website and register to use the product.  There is no cost for the AlphaWorks registration, but do remember that anything you post can be seen by any other registeredAlphaWorks member.  So, no confidential information!!!
Enjoy, have fun, and share what you think!

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