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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Visualization – Microsoft Pivot

Microsoft previewed one of its new technologies from the labs, the Pivot.

(on a separate note, while watching the video I realized that till now I didn’t know how to spell pivot correctly)

From the video, it seems that new Pivot does the same thing as it’s desktop older brother in Excel, namely allows to slice a collection of data along available dimensions.

What new Pivot seems to offer on top of that is a more immersive way of exploring data sets, especially those whose items can be visualized somehow. So it’s like a very visual drill-down capability.

3D map visualizations of data from presidential inauguration

Some impressive map overlays (phone calls data during Obama inauguration):

http://senseable.mit.edu/obama/index.html

I find visualizing data to be such a cool topic – which can easily be seen from the number of posts related to statistics on Ogito blog, like this one.

But there is often a gap between aesthetics and usefulness of advanced visuals.

To be useful we typically require easy access to lots of context, to be able to draw any conclusions from the data, for example:

  • ability to drill down – investigate what contributes to the variable value
  • ability to compare variable level through time
  • ability to compare variable level in case of different objects (e.g. competitors, regions, etc.)

(Ogito statistics for cities — registration required to see the charts — use simple Google Charts and tables with links to underlying sets of objects, and this is already enough to get the basic understanding outlined above)

Sometimes complex visualizations add difficulty to perform these basic operations rather than reduce it.