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1/30/2008
11:14 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Silobreaker advances social-network visualization

I'm a fan of network visualizations, by which I mean display of interconnectedness mined from disparate sources. The subject matter could be just about anything: witness the collection of projects at Manuel Lima's VisualComplexity site. Social networks inferred from on-line media prove particularly interesting, the sort of stuff you'll find in static form at Jeffrey Heer's and Danah Boyd's vizster site and dynamically in Linkinfluence's Map of the Political Blogosphere, which I wrote about las

I'm a fan of network visualizations, by which I mean display of interconnectedness mined from disparate sources. The subject matter could be just about anything: witness the collection of projects at Manuel Lima's VisualComplexity site. Social networks inferred from on-line media prove particularly interesting, the sort of stuff you'll find in static form at Jeffrey Heer's and Danah Boyd's vizster site and dynamically in Linkinfluence's Map of the Political Blogosphere, which I wrote about last month. Silobreaker (as an on-line application) takes these efforts a big step further.

Silobreaker visualizations add huge value to the company's underlying news-aggregation service. They classify nodes by type. If you hover your mouse cursor over a node, you can explore its connectedness, and if you hover over the node's text, you can learn more about that node, whether it represents a person, company, key phrase, or other type of entity. Hover over a link (edge) and you'll see "documents indicating a relationship." Naturally, you can double-click on a node to remake the visualization. Please, visit the site yourself and explore… and do some searches on terms that interest you. Then try the 360° Search, which aggregates content related to the search topic and displays retrieved and analyzed information via a variety of widgets.Silobreaker exemplifies functionality criteria suggested by design-researcher Matt Woolman in his book, Digital Information Graphics (as quoted on Manuel Lima's site):

Functional visualizations are more than innovative statistical analyses and computational algorithms. They must make sense to the user and require a visual language system that uses colour, shape, line, hierarchy and composition to communicate clearly and appropriately, much like the alphabetic and character-based languages used worldwide between humans.

It's worth mentioning that my recent thinking about these visualizations was prompted by a request from Wayne Eckerson, director of research at the Data Warehousing Institute, for suggestions related to TDWI's next Executive Summit (August 18-19 in San Diego), which is slated to focus on analytics. Actually, Wayne was most interested in my thoughts related to the text-analytics session, but I hope I convinced him to expand visualization coverage beyond BI to network visualizations, which are typically derived from text- and data-mining efforts.

It's also worth mentioning that I became aware of Silobreaker because of their DEMO 08 involvement. Another DEMO presenter has gotten a lot of attention but deserves instead a huge raspberry, a sign of disrespect: NotchUp. NotchUp is an employment/recruiting site that pays members who accept job-interview invitations. Their privacy policy is horrendous. Sorry, I can't link to it as it isn't visible until you've accepted a referral or signed up by submitting your resume. In the latter situation, it's too late; you've already surrendered loads of personal and professional information with virtually no restrictions on NotchUp's use of what you've provided. A blogger named Russ does a very nice job of explaining the issues in an article, NotchUp, Privacy Down, on his company's site.

Silobreaker is new and really compelling with coupled technology and content that advance in on-line social-network visualization. But not everything that's new and notable is worthy.



Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He consults on data management and analysis systems.I'm a fan of network visualizations, by which I mean display of interconnectedness mined from disparate sources. The subject matter could be just about anything: witness the collection of projects at Manuel Lima's VisualComplexity site. Social networks inferred from on-line media prove particularly interesting, the sort of stuff you'll find in static form at Jeffrey Heer's and Danah Boyd's vizster site and dynamically in Linkinfluence's Map of the Political Blogosphere, which I wrote about last month. Silobreaker (as an on-line application) takes these efforts a big step further.

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