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Time to Use: Less than 10 minutes
Purpose: Categorize and explore visualization methods
Description: Developed by Ralph Lengler and Martin Eppler at the University of Lugano in Switzerland, the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods is useful, fun, and thought-provoking. Lengler and Eppler have organized visualization methods into six categories:
Within each category, they have compiled a library of visualization examples from tables and pie charts (under data visualization) to value chains and spray diagrams (under strategy visualization) – around 100 in all. Lengler and Eppler have mapped the examples to a semblance of a periodic table reminiscent of those explored in high school chemistry.
The chart itself, with its attractive layout is a site to behold. But the fun truly begins once you begin interacting with it. When rolled over, each cell pops up an example of the visualization method. For me, it has helped as a frequent reminder to think outside of the tried and true and explore the range of options available for visualization.
Notes: To learn more, be sure also to read Lengler and Eppler’s academic paper describing the development of the table at http://ow.ly/wk7d.
Flowing Data (Strength in Numbers): Great examples of data visualization from the author, Nathan Yu, a PhD statistics student with a background in design. He also compiles other data visualization resources and encourages sharing and open-source.
Flowing data: http://flowingdata.com/
Information is Beautiful (Ideas, Issues, knowledge, data – visualized!): From the author of The Visual Miscellaneum, David McCandless. McCandless describes himself as a ‘visual & data journalist’ interested in ‘how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through BS and reveal hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!’ He also has a great scrapbook on Flickr at http://ow.ly/DaIG
Information is Beautiful: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/
Infosthetics (Where form follows data.): Maintained by Andrew Vande Moere at the University of Sydney, this site ‘collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways.’ His examples veer wildly from mapping the impact of global warming to a tour of the brain to stitching travel itineraries on postcards – food for thought!
Visual Complexity: Focusing on visualizing complex networks, this site archives and annotates projects from around the world that use systems visualization tools. ‘he project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web.’
Visual Complexity: http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/
Today was one of those days when a lot of things came together for me. I am attending a nonprofit technology conference – an event that represents the intersection of my interests in tech and nonprofit management. I had the pleasure of attending a session and then enjoying a luncheon roundtable with Beth Kanter (if you are interested in measurement in nonprofit media and you aren’t reading Beth’s blog, you should be).
This evening I am coordinating a meetup in San Francisco of people interested in program evaluation. We coordinated this via LinkedIn and the attendees span the gamut of members of the American Evaluation Association (I serve as its Executive Director), a couple of people from the nonprofit tech conference – those with a bent towards tech metrics and listening and learning in order to improve technology implementation, and a couple of old friends. Of the 10, I know 3 well, a couple more in passing, and the remaining half not at all.
I thought back to Beth’s blog post on Network Weaving, “the act of taking responsibility for building a network and forging connections between groups or people” from April 7. She extended the concept, originally drawn from groups and organizations, down to the personal level, asking “can you take those principles and use it to connect people in your own professional network?” As I age, and my network grows – both online and off – I realize that this action, that of network weaving, is extremely fulfilling. The objective is not just to expand the network, but to build individual connections among people who will learn from and value one another.
I wanted to take Beth’s idea and think about steps we might take to build these relationships. And, feeding my inner data junkie (or my type-a compulsion, however you would like to frame it), I took about an hour or so to research the attendees for the meetup, to learn more about each person online. Since the arrangements were made through LinkedIn, their profiles were readily available – and a quick google search rounded out my well-intentioned snooping.
I learned things I didn’t know, including about my friends, and found commonalities among those attending – common interests in education programs, graduate schools, health careers, blogging. I am going to dinner armed with something that I really want to know about each attendee, and with a few key pieces of information to help them break the ice with one another. I’m also going with the planned intention of identifying whether there is another person in my network who might benefit from connection to one of the dinner guests, as well as a commitment to active listening for opportunities to nurture the network. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be seen as an adept weaver, a professional matchmaker for the modern age?
Time to Use: Less than 10 minutes
Purpose: Produce word clouds from qualitative data
Description: This extremely easy-to-use tool creates word clouds, larger versions like the example at left, from qualitative data. It takes as input any qualitative text (may be cut and pasted directly from a word document) or RSS feed. It returns a word cloud that maps the words (omitting standard English words like ‘the’ ‘and’ and ‘to’) with word size based on frequency.
The resulting cloud may then be further customized with various color themes and formatting.
Access Wordle here (use this version first and for analysis)
Tool: Google Alerts
Time to Use: Less than 10 minutes
Purpose: Scheduled notification of online content posted across the web
Description: Google alerts provides a way to be notified on a regular basis about key terms of interest to you. A natural starting point is to set up alerts for the name of the group with which you are working. However, there are many other ways to use alerts to gain knowledge about key decision-focused issues.
Let’s say you are working with a group that is striving to change the way we talk about new immigrants. Two possible phrases are “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented immigrants” and your group is working to increase use of the latter. Regular alerts would allow you to see what is being said and to respond through any of a number of channels.
Key advantages to google alerts as a decision-making tool are:
Finally, if you are not getting exactly the responses that you anticipated, refine your search using the advanced search tips found here: