Sometimes, you need to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of a big data visualization before you can take insight from it.
For me, that's certainly the case when it comes to the below video visualization, which covers a full day's worth of Oyster card transactions on Transport for London's mass transit system (including trains and buses). These journeys, including start and finish locations, are beautifully mapped out across the travel network.
The Oyster card is integral to a rechargeable "tap-in/tap-out" system employed by Transport for London, so journeys made on traditional paper tickets aren't reflected:
The power of unified data
Transport for London has so much more data it can combine to create a truly unified data system, including data from the machines used to top up Oyster cards, penalties for people riding without a ticket, and train delays and cancellations. With that holistic view, making any improvements to this gigantic and almost organically grown transport system seems somewhat less daunting.
The video's description gives an outline of what the beautiful colors represent:
Green indicates the number of passengers in the transit system, whether on a bus or in one of several rail modes. Blue indicates the presence of riders prior to their first transaction of the day or after their last: it is assumed that the location of a rider's first or last transaction approximates their place of residence. Red indicates cardholders who are between transit trips, whether transferring, engaging in activities, or traveling outside the transit system.
Can we make decisions?
As a method for decision making, this particular visualization is a great place setter -- it gives a feeling of how much data is here to be used, rather than throwing up any immediate insight. However, seeing how much detail is available at this level shows that visualization at a more concentrated level would be possible: For instance, a focus on stations along London's Southbank, or on stations which are undergoing an increase in usage.
I have one issue -- the London Oyster system does not have any method for monitoring a bus disembarkation, so the map is incomplete in that case. But what makes more sense? A quick and simple bus system, or a system that generates "total" data?
Re: Real Beauty in VisualizationGood point. I just think that firms can benefit from finding the balance between @SharCo exactly right. There has to be a balance that appeals to all sides and provides the correct emphasis to allow differing parties to make their own decisions.
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization Good points @Saul and issues not enough people consider. I am partiallycpartiallycolour blind and some stuff simply passes me by because I cannot see what is being represented.
Greater consideration needs to be given to a range of differences - for example dyslexia.
User Rank: Petabyte Pathfinder 3/5/2013 | 11:08:12 AM
Re: Real Beauty in VisualizationGood point. I just think that firms can benefit from finding the balance between Good point. I just think that firms can benefit from finding a balance between visualization and data presentation rather than teetering off to one side, specifically. While it's true that good packaging won't sell the product, to some it still matters somewhat.
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization And @Keith, I think it breaks down further than this. Some people are more inclined to understand differentiation by shape, others by colour. Some need it static, some will get more out of a dynamic display like the one here. You either need to really know how your team respond, or you need a tool which can deliver on all of the above.
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization @Edwin, I do think you have a real point, in that companies (or those responsible for visualization in companies) need to be proactive with visualizations and not get sucked into relying on how pretty they are. The packaging won't sell the product. That's where I worry about what Analytics-as-a-Service can actually bring here... without knowing the business inside out, what can they visualize that the owners don't already know?
User Rank: Exabyte Executive 2/28/2013 | 9:34:25 PM
Re: That is so cool Love this and it is "cool". The visualization was user friendly, it is easy to identify fundamental visualization components through the pattern and colors. I can see where this foundation develops into connecting to sophisticated TFL visualizations
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization Many people find that having data presented in a more visual format enables them to gain a better understanding. We all function in different ways and need different stimuli.
Some people can look at a spreadsheet and clearly understand the numbers whilst others need further detail and this is where visualisations come in.
User Rank: Exabyte Executive 2/28/2013 | 1:28:31 PM
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization
Yes you're right @legalcio - I wasn't complete in my answer. If I see vizualization on one end of the spectrum of Big Data usage, (predictive) analytics goes indeed a longer way. And that's where it gets really interesting to really draw advantage from Big Data usage. Good point.
User Rank: Exabyte Executive 2/28/2013 | 1:24:08 PM
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization Good point @Edwin, but I think visualization can lead to a deeper dive in Big Data and serve as the catalyst for more analysis and action. A further analysis of the London transport visualization could lead to better provisioning of resources, less bottlenecks, etc.
User Rank: Exabyte Executive 2/28/2013 | 1:16:32 PM
Re: Real Beauty in Visualization @Saul - cool it is! But what I often see is technology that is cool ... but that makes companies wonder 'so what', unless it becomes actionable. Don't you think that vizualization technology often doesn't go far enough in helping companies to get more insight? Vizualization is cool, but unless it leads to better decisions it will remain a nice to have.. Thoughts on this?