Data is boring, information is interesting! I’ve always used this statement whenever the issue of data is being discussed. No one is really interested in looking at a large number of data rows, or even a small one. As humans, we tend to better understand a particular issue when it is presented to us in a visual way, and in this roundup you will find 20 sites using data visualization that deliver information to the user in an effective and inspiring way.
From SingleFunction.com comes 20 Inspiring Uses of Data Visualization.
Well, in my own geeky kind of way, I think data, in iteself, is not necessarily boring, but I get the point. In fact, I live the point. Presenting complex data in a way that gives us information—actionable information—is, of course, the point.
The goal is to gain advantages in business by being able to more effectively process more and more data into intelligence that can be acted upon in intelligent way. And with great methods of visualizing complex datasets, we learn to live simply with complexity.
I’ve written about Hans Rosling’s awesome 2006 TED conference presentation on income distribution and birth rates in the non-industrialized world. He used a tool for data visualization that was new at the time, and has since been integrated into many toolsets, including Google Analytics.
At TED 2007, he stepped back up to show how his work had progressed. Who’s imagine that statistical analysis could be so entertaining? But if you’re reading this blog, I think we’ve already established that for you, like me, this our kind of geeky fun.
Gary Flake, a Technical Fellow at Microsoft, demo’d Pivot at TED 2010 last month. Pivot is built on Seadragon technology, and allows for us to move beyond the simple form of searching we’ve been doing, and start to interact more creatively with massive amounts of data. And not just raw quantitative data, but visual content.
He said that the goal was to “use information so that patterns pop and we can see trends that would otherwise be invisible.”
The video is about 6 minutes, and well worth the watch. Things are about to change dramatically in the way we look through content-related data.
Data visualization super star Edward Tufte has been called upon by the Obama administration to join the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.
Tufte is known for a series of book on graphic design, particularly when it comes to the visualization of data. I went to a full day seminar of his in 1996, and became baptized in the Church of Tufte. I left with a armful of gorgeous hard cover books, smitten for data viz. I still pull The Visual Display of Quantitative Information down off the shelf regularly to consult and inspire.
His task for the administration is to track the many individual projects of the 2009 stimulus package, and determine how to best represent their progress on Recovery.gov.
Forbes.com recently ran an interview of him. Take a look.
What has been the effect of job losses and gains on different regions of the United States?
TIP Strategies has posted a great visualization of the job gains and losses since 2004. This is a great use of times series data visualization, dramatically showing the changes over time, and in different regions of the country.
As far as entertainment goes, it’s no MadMen episode. But it is just cool enough, with a dramatic finish, that I watched it all the way through 3 or 4 times.
Click to see the visualization run: The Geography of Jobs from TIP Strategies
Nice article from Jesse Farmer. An excerpt:
Metrics are the marketer’s microscope. They show him what his customers are actually doing, as opposed to what they say they are doing or intend to do. With proper metrics he can make decisions faster and more accurately.
You can decide to measure anything, but what metrics matter and what ones are just for show? Here are some rules I hope will guide you toward creating meaningful metrics that help, rather than hinder, the decision-making process.
- Be Actionable
- Be Understandable and Trustworthy
- Measure Results
- Understand the Downside
- Understand the Upside
- Don’t Be Ambiguous
- Segment by Purpose
- Appropriate Granularity
See the article at 8 Tips for Crafting Metrics That Matter
Google Webmaster Tools now has a new feature called Parameter Handling. For small businesses, this may be an easy solution to duplicate content issues on your site.
This from the Latitude Group’s Latitude Blog:
Perfect for SME’s
Let’s face it in the UK and US, amongst other countries, Google dominates the search landscape, so for SME’s and companies that don’t have any on-going web development or SEO support they may not be able to implement 301 redirects or any of the other methods to eliminate duplicate content. However, the Parameter Handling function in GWT provides a free and easy method of reducing duplicate content within Google – and currently in most instances Google is the only search engine that SME’s need to worry about.
More details at Latitude Blog: Duplicate Content? Tell Google which URL Parameters to Ignore.
Avinash Kaushik is the Analytics Evangelist for Google, and he has a new book coming out.
The title is Web Analytics 2.0: the Art of Accountability and the Science of Customer Centricity.
I read his blog regularly, and I look forward to the book.
He was recently interviewed on Mitch Joel’s excellent podcast Six Pixels of Separation. I recommend that readers visit the Six Pixels of Separation blog to listen to the entire interview (and other podcasts).
There are a couple short passages that I want to call out from the beginning of the interview. He says about his upcoming book:
“You’ll see me frequently use the words analyst and marketers….to me, really there isn’t an analyst that isn’t a marketer behind the scenes, and there isn’t a marketer that isn’t an analytst behind the scenes.
We live is such a data-driven world where the web experience and the customer experience is changing with every passing day. Every marketer needs to know that data, analytics, qualitative quality is going to give him or her the edge. And every analyst needs to know that unless he deeply understands marketing, he or she can never do analysis that creates great customer experiences.”
This is precisely the concept that led to the term “creatalytics.” It is the confluence of creative and analytics, of marketing and data. These can no longer be separate disciplines.
Here’s something interesting, but related to this blog only insofar as an example of the use of excellent data visualization tools.
There was a set of charts presented in the Sunday NYT with a very cool charting technique to show slowdown/expansion cycles in the economy, and how they relate over time to leading indicators like industrial production. Gives a really nice sense of the volatility of the current cycle, relative to historical vol.
I looked for the online version, and it turns out they have an interactive graphing visualization that’s even better than the print.
Select clips from a recent AdWeek article:
“Those hoping for a turnaround in the U.S. ad economy next year could be sorely disappointed, according to a new forecast from WPP’s GroupM. What’s worse, the new research predicts that outlays in 2010 will decline even more than they will this year.”
“Global ad spending in measured media is expected to drop 4.4 percent to $425 billion in 2009 compared to 2008 when spending was up 3 percent”
GroupM Futures director and chief forecaster Adam Smith said … “The 2008-2009 period is now a more serious advertising recession in scale, duration and relative to the global economy than the extraordinary 5.1 percent real-terms post-dot-com global advertising correction of 2001,” Smith said.
This article and study were brought to my attention by Tony Brock of thinkLA. Here are my thoughts:
Reduction of budgets will certainly continue throughout 2009.
But an equally dramatic trend will be a substantial shift of budgets from brand campaigns to paid search and SEO work. With the right analytical discipline, SEM in particular can be fine tuned and refined very quickly, giving it the agility to always be optimizing for maximum return on advertising dollars. (more…)
In a LinkedIn group discussion, KimKochaver, Director, Advertising Trade Marketing at LinkedIn, posed the following questions:
“What do you, the marketers, want to see on LinkedIn from an advertising perspective? What questions do you have for us about our members or about how they’re using LinkedIn”
She is mainly talking about brand marketers. That’s their big push recently. I’m rarely in that category, but I am part of an extremely lucrative marketing of advertisers. We are the advertisers that is purely ROI-driven. We’re driven by data, not brand. I’ve managed significant expenditures on Google and other search engines, and I’m always looking for more positive-ROI ad impressions.
So…What do I want to see?
From my perspective, I’m open to trying any new advertising platform, so long as it provides two main things: (more…)
A new AdWords interface is in beta. Have you seen it? What do you think?
I used it just a bit today, and here are some comments that I just wrote up on the Search Engine Professionals group discussion on LinkedIn:
I think the expandable tree menu on the left (like in AdWords Editor) is helpful. I drill up and drill down a lot between ad groups and campaigns, and this feature saves time.
In my opinion, there is a lot of polishing that needs to be done before this will be my preferred interface. A couple things that bug me:
The page renders with an absolute width. And the columns do not resize, either dynamically or manually. So with a reasonable number of columns, I’m constantly having to scroll left and right to see my data. Not helpful. (more…)
I was reading Will Scully Power’s blog; he is the Data Director at M&S Saatchi. He says that he coined a new term: Datarati, in reference to a “new generation of data gurus” in advertising. His info says that he “focuses on the confluence of data, analytics and optimisation in the world of advertising…” Right up my alley. Very cool blog: check out his blog.
In a post, he points to a video from an AdWeek Quantcast panel last Fall. There is a bit in this video from Andy Fisher, the Analytics Director and National Lead at Avenue A | Razorfish, that really caught my attention.
The moderator asked the panel of ad agency data analytics pro’s how agencies can use insights from digital data to inform the creative process and advertising.
Mr. Fisher opens his comments with “we are drowning in data…we have more data than we know what to do with.”
Here’s the excerpt that is particularly interesting to me, and quite relevant to what I’m trying to communicate in the blog (emphasis is mine):
“I would argue that it all comes down to a fundamental understanding of the consumer. And when we use all this data to understand the consumer, if you can get an idea of the consumer, you can then build the website, craft the digital experience, you can build the creative, and you can plan, buy, measure and optimize the media, all with that common framework.
…And we found that if you can do that, it can be a very powerful thing. But I will be frank, it is a real challenge to get people in the industry to begin to think that way, to be able to do things like data-driven creative, or data-driven user experience, or data-driven design. It can be very challenging to get people over that hump. My experience has been, when people get over that hump, it can be very powerful, but it’s really hard to do.”
To me, this is interesting for a couple reasons.
I may get into this second point in another post, but I will say this now: as I’ve talked about this idea to a few people lately, I’ve specifically (and coincidentally) used Razorfish, and how it was positioned in it’s early days, as an example.
The way I saw it in the last 90’s, Craig Kanarick and Jeff Dachis were successful selling their services to the big brands, because their clients were terrified of missing out on the Internet thing, and they saw Razorfish as the young, hip, artistic kids that “got it.” The black clothing, the piercings and tattoos, the purple hair, the deviant content sites…that was all part of the mystique. And ultimately, they sold to the fear of missing it.
These days, data analytics isn’t going to make anyone look hip or artistic. But it’s analogous in the sense that its the next big wave. And it’s slightly out of the comfort zone for those who do things the traditional way. And ultimately, even traditionalist are beginning to realize that either you get on board with the Datarati, or you miss the boat. And missing this boat? If that prospect doesn’t scare, it damn well should.
The video can be found here:
AdWeek ’08 Outtake: We’re Drowning in Data, Long Live Data!
(Summary for the short attention span types: a dry intro, then a video that you have to see.)
In 2006, Hans Rosling gave a presentation at TED, the context of which was income distribution, health, and tech adoption in the third world. But mostly, the presentation became known for the method of presenting the data more than the data itself.
He had wanted a way to visualize data that went beyond the X and Y axis, a way that could show many dimensions, including time, in a visually compelling, animated fashion.
In short, a way to clearly communicate the nuance that is often buried deep in complex data, underneath the convenient summarizations that can cause us to miss more granular opportunities.
From this, he worked to create gapminder.org which in turn created the software he needed. And it’s this software, called Trendalyzer, that is demo’d in his presentation at TED.
About a year later, Trendalyzer was bought by Google, and is now part of the Google Visualization API.
Here is the awesome presentation at TED. If you’re a data geek like me, this is well worth the 20 minutes. Perhaps the most entertaining presentation of 3rd world life expectancy data ever.
I’m eager to dive into this API and use the tool to create motion charts that will help me understand complex PPC campaign performance and site conversion data.
If you’ve used this tool, I would love to hear about your experiences with it.
(And here is Hans Rosling’s Bio on the TED website.)* Update: As I saw demo’d recently at a Google Analytics product manager presentation at a recent Web Analytics Demystified’s Web Analytics Wednesday, Google has added this to Google Analytics. Looks like a very nice integration. For a nice synopsis, Micah Fisher-Kirshner, Search Strategist and analytics guru at Red Bricks Media writes about motion charts in Google Analytics.
I went to live.com, and searched for “msn adcenter” to check something. Here’s how they’ve done with their own SEO. Check out the first organic result. Oops.
Who can tell me what’s really going on here? Maybe this isn’t a problem with the SEO work on page in question….maybe it’s an issue with live.com and how they decide to show description text. And where is the “http://”?
I’m reading Jim Collin’s Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t.
I was just reading it in the gym, while riding the bike, and I hit a paragraph that I liked enough to grab my pen (what kind of geek takes a pen on the exercise bike?) and highlighted it for a blog posting.
This paragraph is in the first chapter, where he’s discussing his methodology for the research that went into the findings in the book. The relevance to this blog is in his approach to data analysis and the distillation of actionable knowledge from the analysis.
I want to quote it directly: (more…)
I was reading a series of great blog posts about visualization of complex networks at the cleverly named Visual Complexity blog, and I was feeling a kindred spirit. References to Darwin, Edward Tufte, ecosystems.
I clicked on their Books list, and saw many of my favorites. What caught my eye was a link, under each book, called “map”. This references AmazNode, a flash app that uses Amazon’s recommended reading data to create a relational mapping.
A search like this:
gives you a mapping like this:
The static screenshot doesn’t even begin do it justice, because after you search, it grows slowly, with new connections being added every second for several minutes. The cloud bounces and jiggles and dances as new items pop up and add weight to parts of the cloud.