Visualization : It’s ART

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There is a landscape, only blocks away from your house, you pass it by everyday to go to work and yet, it takes a painting you've seen in the flee market to realize: What a beautiful place to be…

Everyday we juggle with hundreds if not thousands of data. We deal with more noise than signals. We get so emerged in the details that we forget the big picture. And then comes a Visual, and like with that painting, it's an aha-moment. We get to see the information with new eyes, we appreciate the data for what it represents, we finally Get it!

Information is beautiful, if only we can visualize it right!

So what makes a visual a work of art? 

"For a visual to qualify as beautiful, it must be aesthetically pleasing, yes, but it must also be novel, informative, and efficient." 

Julie Steele and Noah Lliinsky – Beautiful visualization 

For a visual to be a work of art, it must go beyond being artsy into being efficient, with a clear message and just the right amount information : No noise, no sacrifice. It must make us TICK.

How can we use this art behind the firewall?

I loved an experiment by Twitter engineer Ben Sandofsky where he represents the interactions between developers within twitter's projects. What Ben Fry calls: Organic Information visualization.

And it got me thinking: wouldn't it be great if every knowledge worker can, instead of running some dull reports, visualize the enterprise activity in 3D? Watching an animation of what products are getting bought, exploring customers' patterns, mining employees satisfaction based on their internal blogs… All seem to be great applications of the new Art of visualization.

Platforms such as Processing offer a great opportunity for developers to create innovative visualization and yet Business Intelligence tools don't seem to follow up. Did I miss the note that said everything at work needs to be flat or what?

And as I'm writing these lines, I see this:

Can you see all the possibilities?

Lamia Ben

BI & E20 convergence: where to?


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When I started researching Enterprise 2.0, all I was thinking was, Business Intelligence would do wonders if properly used in this context. And surely enough, more and more awareness has been rising towards that merging.

In 2008, Don Tapscott a best-selling author and digital society guru, suggested that Business intelligence will become, due to the high degree of collaboration within the Enterprise 2.0, “Collaborative intelligence” in which “minds across an organization can come together around information and data that they believe is relevant and timely and pertinent to them.”

I’m not sure organizations have been able to get that far in the previous two years. But I think the merging of BI and web 2.0 principles within the firewall, has taken few other roads which are not less interesting.

Say you’re an organization with a social presence on networks such as Facebook or Twitter. Wouldn’t it be great to get advanced analysis of your customers feedbacks, satisfactory rates… based on their tweets, blog posts, reviews and social network updates? That’s where text mining capabilities come into play.

“One of the great opportunities of both Web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0 is all the conversational content that it creates. You would be losing a good bit of the value if you do not look at this content but you need good tools to do it.”  [ Text Analytics Becomes More Valuable within Enterprise 2.0 ]

Text mining tools are actually a great way to get value out of information when you don’t have specific questions to ask. A remarkable application would be the “sentiment analysis” which aims to determine the attitude of a speaker or a writer with respect to some topic (your brand in this case). In fact, “Social networking and sentiment analysis” has even been considered a must-watch trend for 2010 by BIScorecard founder Cindi Howson and I couldn’t agree more.

Another example that caught my eye this week is SNA (social network analysis). The basic concept of SNA is to explore via visualization how people interact with one another, collaborate and share information.  Jacob Morgan raises a good point on his blogpost “Social Network Analysis for Improved Collaboration” when he says that:

“What’s interesting is that you can do a SNA before and after you implement a [Enterprise 2.0] strategy to see how the changes are taking shape.”

Well, if this doesn’t help evangelize Enterprise 2.0 principles within organizations, I don’t know what will.

I can see a bright future for the BI & E20 merging, and it’s definitely worth a more profound exploration (I’m getting into that asap and will post any new findings). I’m sure there are plenty of examples in the wild. Anything worth the mention?

Lamia Ben