Tag Archives: innovation

Stake Graphs for Web Page Performance

I often complain that infoviz for web stats is poor if you’re not an analyst by trade. Now that I’m working for one of the most popular websites in the world, I should at least come up with a device that could be used to answer the fundamental questions we have when looking at real-time analysis of a news article:

  • Is this article doing well?
  • Is it likely to do better or worse from now on?
  • Should we replace this article with another one?

Obviously, there are lots of other questions that need answering, but these are probably the main ones when it comes to news articles – our basic “unit” of content.

My thoughts turned to Stephen Few’s bullet chart (PDF) device for this. However, I made some variations to make what I’m calling a “stake graph” because it can look like a stake you might drive through the heart of a vampire. Or something.

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A Problem With Visualising Data

Data visualisation (“dataviz” or more broadly, “infoviz”) appears to serve two main purposes. The first is to show data to people who are not analysts or experts. This is so that they can understand some or all of something that has already been identified in that data. The assumption here is that raw tables, or perhaps bunches of charts or diagrams, don’t easily reveal what’s going on. An example of this would be Tufte’s favourite graphic, which summarises a large amount of what would otherwise be rather uninspiring figures about temperature, troop numbers and the positions of rivers on a route.

The second purpose is to help analysts and experts discover things in raw data that would be difficult to find by other means. An example of this (perhaps, because I’m not an expert in the domain) might be PrognoSim, which visualises the effect of medical interventions on patients.

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Ubuntu HUD 3 Months In

I’ve been using Ubuntu Precise Pangolin’s HUD feature, which is now included with Ubuntu’s Unity desktop.  You may recall I went a little crazy about this feature when it came out of beta. So after a few months of using it, what are my experiences?

Firstly, it’s clear that the HUD needs a speedy machine. My first use of the system was disappointing because I’d hit the HUD key (more on which later) only to have to wait about 350ms before anything happened. Speed, in the case of quick-fire casual use of something like this, is crucial. So, I replaced my 5-year old Dell with a new machine (Geek out! Intel i5 3550 3.3GHz Ivy Bridge, 12Gig RAM, NVidia GTX 500 Ti, OCZ Agility 3 SSD SATA-III).

With the speed problem completely cured, I then found that there was something I didn’t like about the default left CTRL key that launches the HUD. So I changed that to the caps lock key. Higher up the keyboard and less awkward as it’s under my little finger. It’s also the key I’m used to using for Enso Launcher on my laptop at work. Enso uses a quasimode by default. Although you can configure it to a full mode, I have kept it as the default because I find all the good things that are said about quasimodes to be true.  However, Enso is of course just an application launcher while the HUD is much more of a grown-up CLUI. Having to keep your little finger on the caps lock while typing anything more than a few characters is pretty tricky. So a full mode for the HUD makes more sense, although I’d still like the choice of a quasimode to see what it would be like.

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Now Flattr-ing

Having received my Flattr invite, I’ve now added buttons to this blog and hope to retire early on the proceeds. (EDIT: They’re now just on the individual post pages, since they load rather slowly)

Flattr is a system whereby people can show their appreciation of content on the web. It works by allowing you to donate a proportion of a fixed amount of money every month to whomever you want. I’m setting aside 2 euros per month (but it could be any amount). If I click a Flattr button twice this month, two people will get a Euro each. If I click ten times, ten people will get 20 cents each, and so on. If I click nothing, my 2 euros will go to charity.

If you like my thing, and have a Flattr account, you can show your appreciation too. I don’t expect the get much, if anything, but the web is a free global publishing system with Google indexing it. If I were an upcoming musician, an author or an artist, Flattr might make my situation completely different.

Google Wave: OpenDoc Redux

I’m watching the keynote from Google I/O the other day and it’s impressive stuff, technically at least. I can count on the fingers of one hand the occasions I’ve wanted (or needed) to collaborate on the same document in real-time with anyone, but I shall curb my natural cynicism. The mere fact that they are releasing a large part of Wave as “open source” (no mention of actual licence as yet I don’t think)  makes it all an order of magnitude more exciting than if (for example) Microsoft or IBM were presenting these ideas.

There is a lot to take in here, but some initial thoughts from my notes:

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