A great datavis resource

The folks at datavisualization.ch have come up with a slick page featuring some of their (and my) favorite analysis and visualization tools available today. Here's a peek at some of them – click on the image to go to the site and begin checking out any or all of the tools:

Many personal favorites are here, including d3, Protovis, and GeoCommons, along with a few that are new to me. Javascript is perhaps the dominant technology in these selections, but there are other options as well. Take a look, and start experimenting.

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Looking Forward to These Eyeo Sessions

Browsing through the eyeo festival site to see exactly which sessions I want to sit in on, and wanted to feature a handful of those that are most relevant to my life and work. These choices are necessarily geared toward the visualization and data analysis spectrum, versus the more art/music/coding presentations that will be shared, although many of those appear to be fascinating as well.

Aaron Koblin has a session titled 'Data Arts', described as 'An overview of some recent projects and libraries created by members of the Google Data Arts Team.' Google is always up to something on the data front, so it will be interesting to see and hear what's new.

Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg of ManyEyes fame will discourse on 'Seeing Invisible Influences'. This sounds like a potentially fascinating topic as the eyeo site describes it: 'We’ll talk about how we use visualization to spark the joy of revelation–mapping the invisible forces that surround us, from social networks to the play of the wind. To sweeten the pot, we’ll show embarrassing outtakes from our design process.'

Amanda Cox of the New York Times will hold court on 'Complex, Big, Etc.', described as: 'So many of the words used to describe contemporary data visualization are so often very wrong. An examination of the claim “The future has an ancient heart,” through the lens of NYT graphics.' The NYT produces some of the best static graphics out there, so it will be interesting to hear her views.

Nicholas Felton will talk about data storytelling in his session 'A Man of Few Words'. Visual storytelling is a powerful tool when executed properly, so I look forward to learning some things here. His cursory description of the session: 'A survey of recent experiments with quantitative storytelling, the resulting projects and processes.'

'Near/Far' is the title of Jer Thorp's session, and sounds fascinating as well as relevant to all data analysts & visualizers. 'In this session, Jer will share a variety of new work that explores the concept and experience of location. He’ll show projects that engage with local, personal data, as well as visualizations of systems of astronomical size. He’ll discuss the importance of engaging with the character of data sets, and will share a variety of strategies and techniques for working with locational data. Along the way, he’ll share all kinds of tips and techniques, and probably tell a fair number of bad jokes.' 

Manuel Lima heads up a panel discussion titled 'The Power of Networks'. Netwsorks have assumed a critical role in analysis and visualization circles in recent years, largely due to the emergence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Here's the description: 'Network visualization has experienced a meteoric rise in the last decade, bringing together people from various fields and capturing the interest of individuals across the globe. As the practice continues to shed light on an incredible array of complex issues, it keeps drawing attention back onto itself. This talk will explore a critical paradigm shift in various areas of knowledge, as we stop relying on hierarchical tree structures and turn instead to networks in order to map the inherent complexities of our modern world. The talk will also showcase a variety of captivating examples of network visualization and introduce the network topology as a new cultural meme.'

The following morning, Moritz Stefaner will also address networks in 'OMG – It's All Connected'. The summary: 'Once again, Moritz will report from his practice as a Truth and Beauty Operator. This time, he will focus on the visualization of large networks – an important, but also difficult endeavor. We will learn how to avoid the notorious hairball visualizations, which promising new layout strategies have been developed, and how interaction can help to untangle intertwined interconnectedness in complex data sets.' Should be a great session.

Finally, Wes Grubbs will present on 'Generative Cognition and Memory', a session designed to explore the inter-relationship between humans and data. '“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple” – Oscar Wilde. Our comprehension and understanding of our surroundings and new information result from amazing processes within our brains. While Wes is far from a neural scientist, he will explain some of the inner workings of the human mind and how we can use this to visualize information, build user interfaces, explore and question everything in order to make sense of the perceived realities. While this path is anything but simple, Wes will provide creative-and technically-oriented minds with a machete of thought to hack through the complex jungle of story telling with data.' Great stuff.

While there are many other though provoking topics and presenters, these are the ones most likely to stand out for me, get my brain engaged, and lead to future creative bursts. Can't wait!

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eyeo venues

The next few weeks are likely to have a number of posts on the 2012 eyeo festival in Minneapolis. I've already managed a few posts, and with the festival another 6 weeks away, there are sure to be a handful of others, as I learn more about the skills and achievements of many of the presenters.

Today, though, I want to look at some of the venues where the festival will take place, as they are likely to play a pivotal role in the interactions that take place both within the structured events as well as in any informal or post-event gatherings.

First up is the Walker Center, Minneapolis' acclaimed modern art venue, where the daytime activities will be held.


The Walker should certainly present a stimulating atmosphere for the advanced technology and innovative ideas to be shared during the daytime sessions.

The Tuesday night setting is Aria At The Jeune Leune – an event space that formerly housed a celebrated theater company. This is a very industrial sort of space in a former warehouse within Minneapolis' Warehouse District near the Mississippi River. The exterior:

Theatre de la Jeune Lune

Aria will host the opening night keynote from Museum of Metropolitan Art (MOMA) Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, the favorite curator of the visualization crowd due to the influential exhibitions she has put together at MOMA. This promises to be a grand kickoff to this year's festival, with a mixer and social time to follow the keynote. Given that the Warehouse District is home to some great food and beverage options, the evening could run into the wee hours.

The Varsity Theater in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota plays host to the Wednesday evening keynotes and mixer. The Varsity has become renowned as a great spot for local artists as well as touring bands, and even as a wedding venue.

Varsity Theater, Dinkytown, Minneapolis

Thursday evening, the action moves to the Nicollet Island Pavilion, smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi River.

Nicollet Island

More to come on this great event, both leading up to, and of course, after attending.

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The New Site

Finally, after what seemed like months (it was really only a few weeks…) I have a new site up and running, if not fully baked. The most difficult part of the site creation was the selection of a CMS (Content Management System) that provided most, if not all, of the features I wanted and was no longer getting through Liferay, my site framework for the last few years.

So what motivated the change? Simply, that Liferay had become nearly impossible to blog with, and to update anything seemed to take forever, when it worked at all. I liked Liferay, but it simply was running too slow, and was quite honestly more than I need for the future. Bye Liferay – more good memories than bad, although the frustration level had really ramped up in the last year. I needed a nimble, flexible, lightweight site framework that still has more power than basic blogging software.

The tryouts began – Elgg, Hotaru, ModX, Elgg again, back to Hotaru, then ImpressPages, and Elgg yet again. I cast glances at Pligg, Dolphin, and a few others, and thought briefly about Drupal and Joomla, which I've used in the past. Something always seemed to be not quite right for what I needed, so I kept switching and testing, playing, and switching again.

Finally, I recalled Symphony, a lightweight yet highly flexible and extensible tool I had looked at a few months earlier. My previous reaction was "cool, but not sure how to get it started", so I gave it little further thought. Until last week, when I looked at it again, did some reading, and found an 'ensemble' the rough equivalent of themes for other CMS tools. Then it all started to click…Symphony made it exceptionally easy to create new blog entries – and new pages – and to embed other apps seamlessly in iFrames (one of the reasons I had chosen Liferay). And it did all these things quickly, plus it looked good, used Google web fonts, and allowed for almost limitless flexibility, most of which I have yet to tap into.

So Symphony it is, and will likely stay for a long while! Bear with me while I get everything up to speed, including adding new features, porting old blog entries, and figuring out the endless possibilities. Welcome to the new, faster, more flexible Visual-Baseball Project site.


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Eyeo Schedule is Up

Got a first look at the daily eyeo festival sessions, and have some hard choices coming up. There are so many talented folks presenting at this event – it's almost overwhelming.

For starters – Kevin Slavin or Shantell Martin? Ben Fry or Ayah Bdeir? Aaron Koblin or Manuel Lima? And that's just the first few hours of Day 1 of a 3 day roster of awesome talent. Not counting the opening night keynote from Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator in The Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Metropolitan Art (MOMA) in NYC.


For a visualization junkie, this festival is akin to a hoops fan seeing every game of March Madness, with great seats to boot. Can't wait! More to come as eyeo approaches.

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Finally Completed – Batting Explorer

Think I'm finally done tweaking the template for the series of Batting Explorers built using the Simile Exhibit framework. Since the last post, I've managed to modify a few things, including much cooler filtering capabilties, courtesy of a "pop-up" style filter panel. This provides the added benefit of greater display space for the individual batter "cards", which can now spread across the screen much more effectively.

A look at the filter panel overlaid on the results:

These are incredibly easy to create once the design was finished, as evidenced by the fact that there are currently five different explorers available to play with, with more to come. Each new one takes between 5-10 minutes to run the data and tweak the data links and references. For now, there are explorers for the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Ultimately, another 6 or 7 will be online.

While a tutorial may be in the offing, why not just start playing with these. They're quite intuitive once you get going. Just go to the Collections page, and look for the Simile Exhibits collections, or any of the individual Batting Explorers.


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Batting Explorer Update

Almost done with the template for my series of Batting Explorers, where users can manipulate more than 30 filters to discover and uncover batter data by team, season, position, and much more. Results can be sorted by more than 20 variables as well, making it a flexible tool for quickly locating information.

The latest addition to the template is the ability to click on a batter's card to view his full stats at the great Baseball-Reference site.

Once this one is complete, it will be quite simple to create versions for other decades (note – the original is the 1980s) going all the way back to 1900 – maybe even earlier.



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Batting Explorer Interactive Visualizations

I'm currently at work on the first Batting Explorer, an interactive tool where viewers can filter season level batting stats using more than 25 different filters. This project is being built using the great Exhibit tool, currently housed at simile-widgets.org. Within the Collections page on this site, you can find more than 50 game level explorers built using Exhibit; it is a pretty remarkable tool to work with, and I see more future use for it on this site.

It appears that there will be a batting explorer for each decade, as too much information slows the response time, and thus defeats the beauty of using javascript rather than a database to feed the pages. Here's a look:

Batting Explorer

Obviously, once the batting series is complete, I'll feel the urge to do a pitching series along the same lines, followed by whatever seems compelling at some future date. 

As soon as the Batting Explorer is launched, I'll try to follow with a video tutorial to illustrate all the possibilities, but it is also easy to just jump in and start playing with all the filters to get a sense for the power that Exhibit provides.


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Coming Soon – Eyeo

For those who don't know, eyeo is a visualization festival that takes place in Minneapolis this June. According to all reports, last year's inaugural festival was an amazing success, leading to this year's rendition selling out in about 6 hours!


The festival lineup is off the charts for anyone in the visualization space, with notable visionaries from around the globe presenting their slice of viz – whether it comes in the form of traditional data visualizations, or interactive art, music, or some combination of each. The attendees list is also quite impressive, based on the names I've seen thus far.


I'm looking at this as an opportunity to learn, share, and make contacts in the visualization space. The event schedule seems geared to bringing people together both during and beyond the official events, and with folks coming from all over the globe, it figures to be a very exciting event.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until June, but that gives me plenty of time to plan and to learn more from some of the great talents in the field.


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Information is Beautiful Movie Explorer

OK, so this is not a baseball post, but it does involve visualization, and it employs the great Exhibit toolkit from the MIT Simile project. The Information is Beautiful website, led by David McCandless, hosts monthly visualization challenges for data and visual geeks like myself. Trust me, there are some exceptional folks out there turning seemingly mundane information into incredible visuals.

Anyhow, the data provided for the current challenge is movie-based, with loads of information on movies released between 2007 and 2011 – genre, story, profitability, budget, audience score, and much more. Here's a screenshot of what I did with the info:

Movie Explorer

Entrants can use any part of the info, or all of it. Given that my entry is competing in the interactive division, I chose to show most, if not all of the information, by building a 'Movie Explorer' using Exhibit. Take a test drive here – personally, I find it a bit addictive and fun to play with, but maybe that's just me speaking as a proud parent. Caution – it seems to work best in recent versions of Chrome and Firefox – my version of IE has problems with the scripts.


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