Monday, December 21, 2009

The Power Of Visualization

Things change, but we don't always understand how. Networks and clustering methods help to uncover changes in complex large-scale systems, but more sophisticated approaches are needed to distinguish between real trends and noisy data, between meaningful structural changes and random fluctuations. A recent PlosOne article demonstrated how bootstrap resampling accompanied by significance clustering provides a solution to this problem. The figure on the right illustrates major shifts in the structure of scientific research, showing how neuroscience emerged from an interdisciplinary specialty to a mature and stand-alone discipline.
The figure was generated by (i) clustering the original networks observed at each time point; (ii) generating and clustering the bootstrap replicate networks for each time point; (iii) determining significance of the clustering for at each time point; and finally to reveal stories in the network data and connect the changes between time points (iv) generating an alluvial diagram.

The technology used to generate biological networks is not and can't be very accurate, "medium" accuracy -for yeast two-hybrid screening of protein-protein interactions, as an example, - is on the order of 50% false positives. A recent article in PNAS titled, "Missing and Spurious Interactions and the Reconstruction of Complex Networks" by Guimera et al. outlines a method to accurately analyze different types of complex networks. It strongly relies on the fact that the nodes in networks can be organized into groups. Group membership governs which nodes can interact.

Many other simpler data visualization tools and methods exist suitable to other specific data-rich applications. IBM's Many Eyes site provides a variety of ways to analyze text, maps, trends and relationships among data points.

Bubble diagrams (also known as bubble charts and spray diagrams) are centered around one (like mind maps) or more concepts. They can then be used to compare and contrast concepts, and identify the common ground and the areas of difference. Diagramic builds such diagrams from spreadsheets and text files.

World Wibe Web makes huge quantities of information readily available."How do you take a big collection of things and make sense out of it?" asks Gary Flake, founder and director of Microsoft Live Labs designing experimental Web tools. The lab's answer to this question is Pivot, a tool recently released to the public - see a demonstration Flake gave at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA.

UI designer Theresa Neil highlights these 28 tools for creating graphs, Gantt charts, diagrammers, calendars/schedulers, gauges, mapping, pivot tables, OLAP cubes, and sparklines, in Flash, Flex, Ajax or Silverlight.
This platform is a pure javascript application framework for creating real-time collaborative applications that run in the browser.

AnyChart is a flexible Flash based solution that allows you to create interactive and great looking flash charts.

Axiis is a Data Visualization Framework for Flex. It has been designed to be a concise, expressive, and modular framework that let developers and designers create compelling data visualization solutions.

BirdEye is a community project to advance the design and development of a comprehensive open source information visualization and visual analytics library for Adobe Flex. The actionscript-based library enables users to create multi-dimensional data visualization interfaces for the analysis and presentation of information.

Degrafa is a declarative graphics framework for creating rich user interfaces, data visualization, mapping, graphics editing and more.

DojoX Data Chart
An addition in the Dojo 1.3 release is the new dojox.charting class. Its primary purpose is to make connecting a chart to a Data Store a simple process.

If you need to visualize thousands or millions of points of data, check this out. Very well designed and can be navigated with the keyboard or mouse. There's a Javascript API, a Google Visualization API or try it as a Google Gadget on Google Spreadsheets, iGoogle, or Open Social.

Dundas provides a wide range of data visualization solutions for Microsoft technologies. They offer a number of data visualization tools including: Chart, Gauge, Map and Calendar for .net and Dashboards for Silverlight.


Ext JS is a cross-browser JavaScript library for building rich internet applications. It also includes charts.

Flex has built in chart controls: area, bar, bubble, candlestick, column, HLOCC, Line, Pie, Plot.
Flex uses FXG, a graphical interchange format developed by Adobe and is similar in many ways to SVG. Nice article here by James Whittaker looking at FXG and Degrafa. See quick tutorial and article on Creating Visual Experiences with Flex 3.0.

FlexMonster Pivot Table and Charts
Flexmonster provides Pivot table Flex/Flash components rich internet application (RIA) development services.

Animated flash charts for web apps.

Google Chart API

The Google Chart API lets you dynamically generate charts.

gRaphaƫl is a Javascript library to help you create stunning charts on your website.

iLog Exlixir
Enhance data visualization within Flex and AIR applications with IBM ILOG Elixir.


Creates charts such as bar charts, line charts, pie charts, time series charts, candlestick charts, high/low/open/close charts, wind plots, and meter charts. I wish these charts looked better out of the box, because the features and functionality are good, but the visual design really detracts from the graphs. JFreeChart guys- email me- together we can make the world of JFreeChart a prettier place.

JQuery Plugins

The PHP graphing scripts provide a very easy way to embed dynamically generated graphs and charts into PHP applications and HTML web pages.


JS Charts is a JavaScript chart generator that requires little or no coding. JS Charts allows you to easily create charts in different templates like bar charts, pie charts or simple line graphs.

Kap IT Labs Diagrammer and Visualizer
Kap Lab's Diagrammer provides ready-to-use yet highly customizable multi-layout data visualization and diagramming for Adobe Flex and Air.

Visualizer displays data as graphs to better visualize connections. Kap Lab's Visualizer provides ready-to-use yet highly customizable multi-layout data visualization for Adobe Flex and Air.


A simple to use, yet robust library for transforming table data into a chart. This library uses the HTML5 tag and is only supported on browsers other than IE until ExCanvas gets proper text support.

Open Flash Charts
Open source Flash charts.


PlotKit is a Chart and Graph Plotting Library for Javascript. It has support for HTML Canvas and also SVG via Adobe SVG Viewer and native browser support.


Protovis composes custom views of data with simple marks such as bars and dots. Unlike low-level graphics libraries that quickly become tedious for visualization, Protovis defines marks through dynamic properties that encode data, allowing inheritance, scales and layouts to simplify construction.


Microsoft Silverlight comes with the bar, line, pie, column, and scatter charts.

Telerik Charts for Silverlight, WFP, ASP.NET
Telerik Charts offers rich functionality and data presentation capabilities.

Visifire is a set of open source data visualization controls - powered by Microsoft® Silverlight™ & WPF.

yFiles for Ajax , .NET or Flex
The yFiles product family means state-of-the-art software components for the visualization of networks and diagrams. Unequaled automatic diagram layout, cutting edge graph analysis, and extraordinary visualization.

A few more resources:

Gephi, the open graph Viz platform

XML/SWF Charts is a simple, yet powerful tool to create attractive charts and graphs from XML data.

Bime, Browser-based business intelligence solution (based on Flex)

75+ tools to visualize your data

Kquery-based Highcharts

Flare is an ActionScript library for creating visualizations that run in the Adobe Flash Player

Microsoft Chart Controls, ASP.NET and Windows Forms Chart Controls for .NET Framework 3.5 SP1

Periodic table of visualization methods (data, information,concept, strategy, metaphor)

Popular and Creative
visualization methods

jqPlot Charts and Graphs for jQuery

jQuery Sparklines

AnyChart Flash Chart Component

Chart FX from Software FX has lots of great products for every platform.

Also check out MIT's SIMILE project

Google Vizualisation API with maps and magic-tables

InstantAtlas™ enables information analysts and researchers to create highly-interactive online reporting solutions that combine statistics and map data to improve data visualization, enhance communication, and engage people in more informed decision making.

Dygraph is an open source JavaScript library that produces interactive, zoomable charts of time series. It is designed to display dense data sets and enable users to explore and interpret them.

Mindsetgeometrics allows to build custom charts using predefined SVG files or Adobe Catalyst models.

Seer is a lightweight, semantically rich Ruby on Rails wrapper that provides a seamless interface for the Google Visualization API . It allows to easily create a visualization of data in a variety of formats with a single line of code.

YUI Charts from Yahoo

Silverlight Pivot

AmCharts is a set of Flash charts for your websites and Web-based products. AmCharts can extract data from simple CSV or XML files, or they can read dynamic data generated with PHP, .NET, Java, Ruby on Rails, Perl, ColdFusion, and many other programming languages.

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