Back in May I echoed a Paul Kedrosky rant on the sorry state of tools that can simplify data visualization -- particularly in the time domain -- for regular folks. Yesterday I noticed that, in late June, the wizards at Juice Analytics posted a stunning example that shows how to use Excel to reproduce Paul's Flash-based visualization of Tiger Woods' (and his competitors') distance and accuracy over time.
"Duplicating Paul Kedrosky's demo in Excel," say the Gemignani brothers at Juice Analytics, "takes a single line of VB code." Well, sort of, they admit in the screencast that accompanies the blog entry. In that screencast, they proceed to give a great demonstration of what they call agile analytics.
We see, first, how to sort Tiger Woods -- who would otherwise appear at random places -- to the top of each year's segment of data. That's accomplished by adding another column that reports TRUE or FALSE according to whether a row applies to Tiger or not. Then the data are charted in two series -- one just containing Tiger, the other everybody else, so that Tiger's datapoint stands out from the crowd. Finally a scrollbar is added, and that's where the one line of VB comes in -- it links the scrollbar to a named range of years.
The Gemignanis conclude:
One of the best tools for rich BI might be on people's desktop already. Similar to how AJAX is exposing the latent power of todays browsers, there's a lot of latent power in Excel to produce a much richer analytical experience. It takes a change in mindset for us all to benefit.Agreed. I know I'll revisit that screencast the next time I've got a data visualization itch to scratch. Watching it reminded me, again, why screencasts are the best way to tap into the vast reservoir of capability that's latent within complex software such as office suites.
That said, the procedure shown in the screencast is awfully geeky. Most folks won't get past the canned chart types, so I think my original point still stands. We also need to ratchet the canned behaviors up a few notches.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/08/15.html#a1289