Foreshadowing Anne’s upcoming series of posts on large, public, and free data sets, here are two interesting tools to help you visualize massive quantities of data. First, my grad student Margaux informed me of Google Fusion Tables (shown above). The site lets you upload data and visualize it in different ways. The website has some samples.
From the website:
Look at public data.
Get started with an interesting data set from the Table Gallery.
Import your own.
Upload data tables from spreadsheets or csv files. During our labs release, we can support up to 100MB per table, and up to 250MB per user. You can export your data as csv too.
Visualize it instantly.
See the data on a map or as a chart immediately. Columns with locations are interpreted automatically, and you can adjust them directly on a map if necessary. Use filter and aggregate tools for more selective visualizations
Next, is Microsoft’s Pivot. Instead of being a web-based service, it is a program that runs on your computer (Windows only). It is currently available by invite-only (invite code available from TechCrunch) and I just installed it but the installer encountered an error so I am not yet able to play with it. But from what I’ve seen, it really provides a type of faceted browsing front-end for disparate sources of data.
Pivot makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. We tried to step back and design an interaction model that accommodates the complexity and scale of information rather than the traditional structure of the Web.
TechCrunch got a sneak preview and wrote up a more detailed description:
The best way to understand the importance of Pivot is through a real-world example of how this technology would work. So let’s say I wanted a visualization of all the Wikipedia links to TechCrunch, Pivot would essentially crawl all of Wikipedia and create a map of the Wikipedia pages that are connected to TechCrunch, such as Michael Arrington’s Wikipedia page.
Another real-world use of Pivot is extracting data from Facebook. For example, you can use Pivot to crawl Facebook and break down friends by various data points like relationship status or college. Microsoft has an interesting example of Pivot being used to sort through Sports Illustrated covers, where you can break down covers into verticals by type of sport, team, athlete and more.