There are 4 basic categories of data visualization geeks in my mind: the statistician, the geographer, the designer, the computer scientist. Easy.
(Ok I know: the good, the bad and the ugly are three but I just needed an attractive title.)
There are things I hate and love of each of you. I’ll tell it right away: I am a CS and I love it.
Respect. Almost all the basics of data visualization come from statistics. We people from information visualization with CS background and HCIish tendencies love to think we invented the field. No, statisticians did. John Tukey, Edward Tufte, William Cleveland.
Guys, I hope you are not offended, but why in the world the vast majority of the stuff you do looks so ugly and complex? There is a whole world of people out there seeking to visualize the number of calories they ate in the last month to monitor their diet.
The world has changed, people want easy tools with nice interfaces. I know, it’s glossy stuff … but do you want to keep developing stuff for a pin-sized niche?
Jacques Bertin invented information visualization. And, even if most people don’t know it, geovisualizers run hundreds of useful experiments we still have to put into practice in our field.
Also, people are so much attached to maps, regions, continents, they understand it in a second, that I am a bit envious of you. C’mon maps are the most powerful visual tool humans invented in history. Geography rocks!
But you know what guys … Pfff … aren’t you tired of these maps? Isn’t it too limited? Do you really think there is still space for huge innovation here? I hope so.
You know what? I hate you guys. Really. I am so jealous of how beautiful your stuff looks like. Neat and clean, attractive, artistic at times. Cool.
First, I hate you because I would like to be a little bit like you and I can’t because I am not a designer and I will never be.
Second, I hate you because you have a lot of success! Really, I spent 10 years of my life to get a master degree and a phd and since then I sweat my shirt every day writing papers waiting to be sent to the reviewer’s claws. Then I show what I do to my wife and she says: “Mmm … so this is your job?” And you? You have a lot of success because you are irresistibly attractive. You win. Well done.
But guys … can you make it a little bit more useful from time to time? Really I think you can do better than that, and then you will be the kings.
The Computer Scientist
These are my fellow colleagues. We coined the term “Information Visualization”, we have been pushing forward this stuff for years. Don’t we merit some respect too? In our team we have the inventor of treemaps and parallel coordinates, we dare for interaction more than any other and we are rocking this stuff every single day. Not bad right?
We also have the best modern books around (too few anyway) and the best conferences and journals in the field. And we have funded succesful companies like Spotfire (now Tibco) and Tableau. We are making this thing real. Sure … now I know … we deserve some respect.
And our faults? Hard to tell … maybe you can help me with this?
If I have to mention one: we still lack some solid theory, a science of information visualization. But for this you can ask to Robert and his fellows who are organizing a workshop on theory at infovis.
Ok guys, no really … I love you all. I know this is a bit rough but I needed to have some fun. I wish to thank all of you guys who shape and have been shaping this field from different angles for years. I love it. I’ve learned so much from you and I am still learning every single day. This is a nice place to be in 2010. Spread the word!
Any harsh comments? :-) You can contact me on twitter or leave a comment here below.