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jmunoz

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Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #1 
Of all the open source visualization tool kits I've seen so far, this one, 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.

A screen grab of some of the visualizations created using Protovis is at the bottom of this message.

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 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.

What do you think?

More examples and download link for the software at
http://vis.stanford.edu/protovis/ex/

John C. Munoz
http://www.bzintelguru.com


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nixnut

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Reply with quote  #2 
Wow, that looks great. I'll go read that paper now. Thanks for sharing!
sfew

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Posts: 802
Reply with quote  #3 
John,

People should keep in mind that Protovis is a developer's toolkit, not a product that can be used by non-programmers for ad hoc analysis. Analytical applications can be developed with Protovis for end users to use for specific analytical tasks, but cannot be compared to visual analysis products like Tableau, Spotfire, Panopticon, etc.

I point this out simply to prevent inappropriate expectations.

Steve

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Stephen Few
jmunoz

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Reply with quote  #4 
Excellent point Steve. Protovis is not as easy to use as the tools you mentioned.

Just out of curiosity, do you know what percentage of your readers are programmers v. non-programmers? Might make an interesting poll with some insightful pie charts, er, make that bar charts to display the results.
Matt

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Reply with quote  #5 
The Protovis examples do look promising.

Some drawbacks appear to be: (1) no support as of yet for Internet Explorer; (2) the maps use Google maps, which becomes a limiting factor if you are posting to https/secure site; (3) certain aspects of chart interaction don't seem developed yet; (4) implementation seems a bit more on the abstract side in comparison to other options.

Of the many web charting options out there, amcharts is the only one I've found that is relatively easy to implement, can make graphs like the examples you find on the Perceptual Edge site that are otherwise not possible in straight html/css, has some interactive capabilities built-in, and is "free". Big caveat: unless you purchase the software, they keep their link in the chart; however, the software does not cost nearly as much as the more robust options available. Would be interested if someone has found a better alternative to "cheap" yet good web charts for https/secure sites? Thanks.





sfew

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Reply with quote  #6 
John,

I actually don't have any idea what percentage of people who follow my work are programmers vs. non-programmers. Offhand, I would guess that a relatively high percentage of those who participate in this discussion forum are programmer types, but a relatively low percentage of those who read my books or attend my courses.

Steve

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Stephen Few
jmunoz

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Reply with quote  #7 
Wow, that didn't take long. Bullet graphs have been implemented in Protovis! The implementation is spearheaded by Clint Ivy, who runs the excellently named site, http://www.instantcognition.com

Clint has implemented some nice mouseovers on the bullet graph, one for target, actual, forecast(s), and any range(s) that's quantified. Check out his examples and documentation here.

Protovis doesn't currently run on Internet Explorer. The Protovis community is looking into changing that.

John C. Munoz

omomyid

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Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #8 
While it's true that something like Protovis is developer-centric, the nice thing about it and related libraries is that they offer a solid replacement for Flash as a development platform for visualization on the web. If the Stanford group can solve the IE issue (or if IE had better support for SVG, etc) then Protovis would be on a level playing field with Flash.

With a good info designer and a good web developer, it would be possible to build a web application that non-developers could use quite easily. Would it be as robust as Tableau et. al.? Perhaps, over time. As data evolves to be more and more "in the cloud" it makes sense (to me anyway) to migrate the analysis platform to the same idea. If you take a look at the demonstration gallery for Protovis you'll see that the developers are building interactive apps that could easily be extended to real analysis.

BTW, I am not a developer - I dabble... :-)
-Clint

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