Monthly Archives: September 2009

Promising New Visualization Developer’s Took Kit

Of all the open source developer visualization tool kits I’ve seen so far, the one I stumbled upon today (thanks Moritz Stefaner), named Protovis, seems the most practical and easy to use. Protovis comes from Stanford’s visualization group, with the help of Jeff Heer and Michael Bostock.

Below is a screen grab of some of the visualizations created using Protovis.



While there are some graphs in the examples that we might want to stay away from, those radial fan (sunburst?) type charts are just plain confusing, I think the ability to construct high-quality and insightful charts in this software makes it a winner. You can do horizon charts using Protovis. See Stephen Few’s favorable review horizon charts here. You can do sparklines and sparkbars as well. And if you want to put interactive or animated visualizations together, Protovis lets you do that too.

Other developer tool kits I’ve dabbled, namely Flare and Processing, both very powerful and flexible, seem much more difficult to learn than Protovis. And I’ve yet to find a way to generate simple bar and line charts in either Flare or Processing, but that might be just my lack of experience with those tools talking.

What do you think?

More examples and download link for the software at


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Interactive view (ala Touchgraph) of how each news story is related

Slate is getting better with their info viz efforts. Follow this link to visit the site and see their new tool named News Dots. The name isn’t sexy, but it does describe the tool pretty well. News Dots was created in Flare, an actionscript toolkit that offers lots of fun looking and useful visualizations. The visualization makes me think back to when Touchgraph was the only player in town doing this type of visualization.

screenshot of Newsdots

screenshot of Newsdots

Slate says,

“Like Kevin Bacon‘s co-stars, topics in the news are all connected by degrees of separation. To examine how every story fits together, News Dots visualizes the most recent topics in the news as a giant social network. Subjects—represented by the circles below—are connected to one another if they appear together in at least two stories, and the size of the dot is proportional to the total number of times the subject is mentioned.

Like a human social network, the news tends to cluster around popular topics. One clump of dots might relate to a flavor-of-the-week tabloid story (the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping) while another might center on Afghanistan, Iraq, and the military. Most stories are more closely related that you think. The Dugard kidnapping, for example, connects to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who connects to the White House, which connects to Afghanistan.

To use this interactive tool, just click on a circle to see which stories mention that topic and which other topics it connects to in the network. You can use the magnifying glass icons to zoom in and out. You can also drag the dots around if they overlap. A more detailed description of how News Dots works is available below the graphic.”

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