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Data Visualization

I have always loved Data Visualization (well, always since my adviser John Bartholdi pointed me to Tufte’s classic “Visual Display of Quantitative Information”). I teach data mining here to our MBAs, and have wanted to include the topic, but never knew what to include. Thanks to Stephen Baker of Business Week and his pointer to Many Eyes, I think I am getting an idea. Many Eyes is an IBM site with a goal of making data visualization algorithms and data sets widely available. It is a fantastic place to spend a few hours. As an example of what you can do on the site, here is a tag cloud of my vita (the source is at

I think you can find a fair amount about me just by looking at that tag cloud, though I am a bit biased (most ink blots end up looking like me in my eyes). Perhaps even more than by reading through a 12 page vita (by the way, vita (or curriculum vitae) is supposed to meana short account of one’s career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position”. What ever happened to short? What is the name for the document where you put down every blessed thing you ever did in your academic career?)

The structure of Many Eyes is unusual: you don’t download computer software. Instead, you upload your data (which immediately becomes public, so don’t try this with your financial records) and work with it there. This means that Many Eyes is quickly collecting a huge amount of data (23,256 data sets so far) that it (and you and others) can work with. This “social networking” aspect is unexpected, but I would bet that some interesting results come from it.

Another fascinating site is Wordle, which also creates tag clouds, but does so in a more artistic way. Here is my vita in that form (a couple of versions). I think I will use it during my next salary review!

I think I will need a few more days to recover from my surgery before I can get any useful work done.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Tony Rose | June 25, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I love Wordle and recently visualized my iTunes library using it. It sure is fun to use. I think a practical business application would be to use it for brainstorming sessions.

    Many-eyes is also great for sharing visualizations.

    Glad I found your blog!

  2. BC Travel | June 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve used wordle a few times. I’ve found it to be very interesting. I used it on a database of articles I have and thought it was great.
    Cool blog Mike!

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