Descry: Open Source Visualizations from MIX Online

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Over on MIX Online, they’re looking into the power of information visualization as a communication tool. They call this “Project Descry.” As part of the project, they’ve released a series of open source, web-based visualizations each of which are available for download from Codeplex so designers and developers can learn from them, extend them, and contribute to the project.

The four available visualizations are as follows:

  1. The Obesity Epidemic: this one addresses concerns about the ever growing obesity problem in the U.S. It uses Silverlight to show Tee-Shirt sizes as a way to help people visualize obesity. The Silverlight application relays statistical information via the DOM to the web page for display. Selection of the obesity rate data is done using LINQ queries on an external XML data file.
  2. Their First Words displays incidences of word usage for a given word search of presidential inaugural addresses. This sample shows tight the integration between Silverlight and the HTML DOM, and they show search results using the advanced text rendering capabilities of the browser. A squarified TreeMap displays word search results by employing advanced LINQ queries against the inaugural data.
  3. A Website Named Desire is an interactive infographic of the amorphous web site creation process, began as a real world poster that we wished to move onto the web. This project enhances the real world experience by enabling annotation of high resolution graphical content with markers, Canvases which scale, slide and are interactive, in a compelling and intuitive way.
  4. The Social Timeline is an interactive visualization which allows users to download FriendFeed entries for a particular FriendFeed user, view them on a timeline and pivot on this data in several ways. This sample demonstrates some advanced control concepts such as virtualization and theming.

On a personal level as a FriendFeed user, I’m loving that last one. I can see all my friends’ posts on a timeline, filter the friend list, filter posts to only see those with likes or comments, filter by services, and more. Although it may not be the way I’ll go an read through FriendFeed every day, it’s a pretty amazing real-time visualization of my network.  


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