Knowledge map of online communities

October 21, 2010

Randall Munroe, the young and famous  author of the xkcd webcomic, has just released a beautiful knowledge visualization. It’s the update of its online communities map. “Size on map represents volume of daily social activity”. The map is very well done showing both how the map is embedded into a bigger context (spoken language, email, sms, etc.) and providing as well zoom-in for the two hot topics of blogs and forums.

It’s a nice mix of informative content, providing overview and details, and hilarious jokes of the Web 2.0 mania, such as “desert of food updates” on twitter, “people you can’t unfriend“, and “the great firewall” between China and the rest of the map!

Online communities map

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PowerPoint and the military

October 18, 2010

PowerPoint is under military investigation. The New York times reports: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint” with an eloquent and provocative title, inspired by the so called spaghetti slide (see figure below). The leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan comment on the regards of this slide: “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” (NYT April 26, 2010). And he is not alone in thinking that Powerpoint is not the most suitable tool to display complex and relevant information for the military corps: the NYT article reports the complaints of a number of commanders, captains and generals.

More recently (15 Oct 2010) CNN reported that an army officer in Afghanistan was fired after publishing an essay complaining about useless PowerPoints. The “Why we hate PowerPoints — and how to fix them” article is authored by Nanacy Duarte, the famous design of Al Gore’s presentation on climate change. She argues that “PowerPoint isn’t inherently bad — just misunderstood” and provides  few tips for good presentations. It is key to have a good story, to use narrative techniques to connect the audience and move them to action; “Unfortunately, the development of presentations is a skill that is rarely taught and for which few sources of best practices exist. ”

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Gartner Hype Cycle

October 12, 2010

Gartner has always made use of diagrams and visual representations to support managers in taking better decisions about technology investments.If you’d like to know more, have a look at our case study on Gartner (published at ecch)

They keep updating and improving their products, such as the Magic quadrant and the Hype Cycle, to include interactive features and support for collaborative decision making. In 2009 Gartner has updated and adapted the famous Hype Cycle to the recession:

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The Web is dead. Is it?

October 7, 2010

In September (2010) WIRED has published a controversial cover with the headline “The Web is dead“, referring to statistics provided by Cisco on the share of Internet traffic by the Web and other applications. The article, several pages long, claims that “Two decades after its inception, the World Wide Web has been eclipsed by skype, Netflix, peer-to-peer, and a quarter million other apps” (pg. 119).

It’s a remarable trand worth nothing, and the graph above certainly helps the reader to understand the point, however..

It depends on the perspective. Certainly the share of the Web is shrinking, but how about absolute numbers? Secondly, the graph is based on “traffic”, meaning quantity of information and bits exchanged, and clearly video and p2p application requires an exponentially higher volume of data than the Web for the same amount of time spent on the application.

Don’t take me wrong, i like the graph and the article, I just thought the presentation of information can be biased toward the message they want to convey (as we have discussed in our paper “The risks of visualization”, see publication session). and I’m not alone in these thoughts. Bloggers have picked up WIRED graph and produced an alternative version:

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Swiss trains going visual

October 2, 2010

Swiss people are always efficient. Not to talk about Swiss trains, with their notorious punctuality and cleanness.

Now they are going one step further, employing useful visual representations  to decorate the train! Indeed they printed the map of the train  route on the tables, so passengers can entertain themselves looking at the map, learn about Swiss geography, and always know what are the next stops.

Switzerland is always ahead, so if they are using visuals on trains, I’m very confident this shows an upcoming trend!

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