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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

HTML Maps for DataViz

I don’t talk about data visualisation (#dataviz) much on this blog because, well, because its not something I can claim to be particularly knowledgeable about – that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion about it though.

I just stumbled upon an article that compares the media ecosystems of four various technology companies entitled Mapping The Entertainment Ecosystems of Apple, Microsoft, Google & Amazon and apart from being a well-researched and well-written article (not something that the tech press excels in, in my opinion) I was struck by how well the author uses maps to tell a story to the reader. Take the map in this screenshot:


Clicking on one of the four icons at the bottom of the map dynamically changes the shaded areas of the map to indicate which countries that company offers their services. Its aesthetically pleasing but moreover it instantly coveys useful information to me. What I love about it most of all though is that its all pure HTML – I don’t need any poxy Silverlight or Flash plugin to view the maps and interact with them – all I need is an up to date web browser (I use Chrome v22 although I tested using IE9 and it worked fine there too).

This is how I believe data visualisation should be - conveying useful info in a friction-free way. Maps are a great way of achieving that – I just wish more people agreed with me about calendars as a mechanism for doing the same!


Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 5:16 PM by jamiet

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jamiet said:

Mr Mann,

Welcome to my blog :)

I take your point about the map simply being a bunch of images but to the user (i.e. me) it gives the illusion of interactivity and simplicity - so much so that it prompted me to write a blog post about it. Isn't that the crucial point? That as far as the user is concerned it just works.

I also take your point about Silverlight/Flash being more conducive to interactivity, I guess what I'm pining for is the day when we simply don't need Silverlight/Flash. With my BI hat on:

(a) I want HTML to get to the point where it does the same as Silverlight/Flash and

(b) I want the BI dataviz vendors to embrace HTML as a means for delivering their visualisations. That is also why I bang on about Excel & SkyDrive so much:

Anyway, I appreciate your impassioned defence of your favourite technology :)


October 17, 2012 12:01 PM

Another JT said:

JavaScript != HTML.  You get blank boxes if you view that article with NoScript.

EDIT: *sigh* Even had to enable it for this site to click submit!  What happened to HTML forms?

October 17, 2012 12:30 PM

jamiet said:

"EDIT: *sigh* Even had to enable it for this site to click submit!  What happened to HTML forms?"

Can't really comment on that as I don't run the site. SQLBlog uses Community Server as its CMS and I don't mind admitting that I despise it. There was talk at some point of migrating to something better but that hasn't happened.

October 17, 2012 12:33 PM

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