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Jan 23

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

IBM Wants Many Eyes on Visualization

IBM today announced Many Eyes, a site for sharing and commenting on visualizations. Martin Wattenberg, who developed the original version of the treemap we use for our book market visualizations as well as the awesome baby name voyager, and Fernanda Viegas, who worked with him on the equally awesome history flow visualizations of Wikipedia, are the geniuses behind this project.

Many Eyes home page

As with swivel, users can upload any data set, but the tools for visualizing and graphing the data are much richer. The visualization options include US and World maps, line graphs, stack graphs, bar charts, block histograms, bubble diagrams, scatter plots, network diagrams, pie charts, and treemaps. The site isn't yet live, but should be very shortly. Meanwhile, you can get a good sense of the types of graphs available by checking out the visualization gallery.

I asked Martin and Fernanda how they compared themselves to swivel, and Fernanda replied:

You also asked if we see our site as "Swivel for visualization". That phrase isn't quite accurate (any more than Swivel is "Many Eyes for data" ;-). Both our site and Swivel are examples of a broader phenomenon, which we call "social data analysis," where playful, social exploration of data leads to serious analysis. At the same time the two sites fall on different ends of a spectrum. Swivel seems to have some neat data mining technology that finds correlations automatically. By contrast, we've placed our emphasis on the power of human visual intelligence to find patterns. My guess is that both approaches will be successful because social data analysis is a powerful idea.

Martin added:

In Many Eyes our goal is to "democratize" visualization by offering it as a simple service. We also think that there's something special about visualizations that gets people talking, so we placed a big emphasis in design and technology to let people have conversations around the visualizations.

Personally, I'd love to see swivel and manyeyes working together, as swivel already has some great data sets, but has only a limited number of graphing tools. But that's an exercise for the future. For now, data wonks can just rejoice that both sites exist, and should start exploring, and as Martin says, conversing about what they find. I love both of these sites.

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ImNotQuiteJack   [01.23.07 02:08 PM]

Interesting stuff! Reminds me of Ben Fry and his work on processing, an open source programming language for data visualization. Very interesting and beautiful results, but not necessarily as democratic or accessible.

Deepak   [01.23.07 07:10 PM]

Data heaven. I learn about Swivel and Many Eyes on the same day. The visualizations in Many Eyes are gorgeous (although the sign up sucks). I am looking forward to seeing if these sites can be mashed up with other sites to derive some really cool valye.

PJ Brunet   [01.23.07 10:58 PM]

I think they should make it a WordPress plugin.

Maybe I'm just stingy, but what's in it for me?

Dan   [01.24.07 03:57 AM]

Brilliant, I love the idea...

can't wait to slice and dice different data sources to get a funky graph.

anonymoustroll   [01.24.07 06:03 AM]

Funny... no RSS feeds discovered by Sage on the front page.

Visualization grade out of the gates: C-

MySchizoBuddy   [01.24.07 08:31 PM]

sharing the charts would be nice, plus a way to embed them on my own sites. just like youtube does.

Tom Paper   [01.24.07 11:06 PM]


Many Eyes is definitely an amazing site in terms of visualization. I did want to alert you to another site, Data360, which was launched in October of 2006 and is a collaborative trend tracking website, offering both public and private platforms where users can track and collaborate on data. See We have been compared to Swivel, although I would say where they are more playful, we are more serious. We know our site can appear complicated and we are working on simplifying it. We think Data360 offers a utilitarian functionality for anyone wanting to present a story involving numerous graphs. Data360 also has a lot of really interesting information already on the site. We have a capability to do specific calculations between datasets, as well as to calculate growth rates between data points of the same time-series dataset. Graphs can be specified and fine tuned along numerous attributes, such as font size of axes, legends and titles. We also offer rich presentation capabilities, including pdf report generation, with user uploaded pdfs, as well as 1 to 6 graphs on the same page. We are just rolling out a new functionality we call ADF, for automatic data feed, which will allow users to have data sets from certain sources to automatically be updated - forever. Our team is comprised of former Chief Financial Officers who have been thinking about data reporting for years; we wanted to build a product that would let anyone track and repeatedly report, in a compelling manner, on any subject of interest to them.

We would be grateful for your review of our site.


Tom Paper

Chris Spurgeon   [01.27.07 07:16 AM]

Ya know, IBM alphaWorks project rolls out clever and sometimes amazing innovations on a regular basis. Yet I get the feeling that the hacker/O'Reilly reader community doesn't pay that much attention to their demo projects. A pity.

Chris Spurgeon   [01.27.07 07:19 AM]

(Forgot to add this to previous post)

For instance, look at what they're doing with weather.

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