Monthly Archives: August 2009

Ghosts of Old Ideas

While checking out Info Aesthetics this morning I read a piece on datamasher.org, a visualization site that combines data feeds from data.gov to provide insights into underlying data relationships.

This makes me think of a concept I had a while back called “Know Your Vote”. It’s purpose was to cull and parse congressional vote data to make sense of how our representatives were REALLY voting on issues. By cross-referencing different voting sessions we could determine when our representatives were saying one thing and doing another and get a better sense of how they felt about issues (just think of Obama during the campaign implying he would take up liberal causes, and now while in office he’s MUCH more of a corpratist that we had realized).

datamasher.org triggered the memory of the old concept because I think it would be incredibly valuable for citizens (and congressional staff) to begin to use data insights to catalyze action on particular issues that may have been hard to visualize previously. Access to this kind of data and corresponding tools to visualize it also provides an avenue to hold our representative’s feet to the flames further downstream of a news item’s public-eye lifecycle.

Either way, it’s great to see access being granted to goverental raw data for us to sift through and find meaning in.

PAD++ Reborn

Picture 1

While at NYU I had the pleasure of attending a guest lecture by Ken Perlin. During this talk about non-linear thinking he demoed a very old program he called Pad++. It’s unique hook was that it had the ability to infinitely zoom in or out, thereby allowing you to organize information spatially. So, for instance, you could organize an entire encyclopedia around the alphabet and each level of zoom into the letters could reveal more detail. We’ve seen this UI treatment a lot lately everywhere from Photosynth to the various Wefail “zoomer” sites.
Picture 3

Now there’s a mind-mapping software called Prezi that also employs this metaphor. Positioned as a web-based alternative to Powerpoint, the unique differentiator lies in it’s inherent non-linear structure. I’m kicking the tires on this a bit now and can’t wait for an opportunity to give this a try. Check it out.