Impressive data visualization tool to be released as open source

The former leaders of IBM's Visual Communications Lab have been hard at work on a "summer project" -- desktop software that will display large amounts of information in a number of visual formats.

Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg touted version "0.5" of their Time Flow tool as a way to create visual timelines from textual data. And indeed the software can import a table of data -- presidential appointments, political contributions -- and show it as a timeline or a calendar, with color- and size-coded entries that make it easier to spot patterns. But the software also displays as sortable/filterable lists, tables and graphs -- allowing it to serve as much as a visual database as timeline -- and offers statistical summaries of the data.

Viégas and Wattenberg created the visualization site Many Eyes which was designed to "democratize data analysis," adding a social component to graphic data (well before the explosive popularity of social media).

They said they expect to release this new software as open source within a week or so on the Web site of their current company, Flowing Media. If you're interested in data visualization tools, you may want to bookmark that site.

The two showed the project at a meeting of the Boston chapter of Hacks/Hackers, a group aiming to bring together journalists and developers to discuss the intersection of technology and journalism.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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