A friend wrote asking if I could make it to an event happening this week near DC. I can’t make it, but fortunately he also mentioned as consolation that he has a cool new book on the cusp of release – and I’ve now ordered my copy.
The Friend: legendary visualization and HCI guru Ben Shneiderman (Wikipedia entry). Ben is a computer-science professor at the University of Maryland and the founder of its well-known Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL), as well as an ACM Fellow and AAAS Fellow. He has done government a million favors over the years, consulting for agencies, including his recent work on the Recovery.gov site to help that platform of data – from hundreds of thousands of sources – organize, host, and visualize the data for millions of visitors. I first got to know Ben through his support for better intelligence analysis – he helped invent a longtime intelligence analytics tool, Spotfire (see his article “Dynamic queries, starfield displays, and the path to Spotfire“). Ben’s also well-known for his award-winning 2002 book Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies, which I enjoyed and still think about when brainstorming new techie toys.
The Event: the Visual Analytics Consortium meeting in College Park, MD (August 31 – September 1), at the University of Maryland campus. The Consortium is an activity of the NVAC, the National Visualization and Analytics Center managed by one of my favorite National Labs, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The Consortium is “an active international community of researchers, educators, technology providers and practitioners striving toward a common goal: to help people make sense of complex information effectively with the support of innovative visual analytics software.” The event’s site promises to “explore the newest horizons for visual analytics. You’ll have the chance to talk with leaders in government, industry, and academia, get hands-on with the current state of the art in visual analytics, and learn about new missions and opportunities for the visual analytics community.” For more info visit the Visual Analytics Consortium site.
The Book: Well, since I can’t attend that event, I can compensate by delving into Ben’s new collaboration, a book being published this month: Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World
(Elsevier/MorganKaufmann Publishers, 2010). I mentioned NodeXL in my last post as one of a raft of open-source software tools designed for scientific research, being provided for free by Microsoft Research. The book’s self-description sells the value of this fun and easy spreadsheet plug-in:
Businesses, entrepreneurs, individuals, and government agencies alike are looking to social network analysis (SNA) tools for insight into trends, connections, and fluctuations in social media. Microsoft’s NodeXL is a free, open-source SNA plug-in for use with Excel. It provides instant graphical representation of relationships of complex networked data. But it goes further than other SNA tools — NodeXL was developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts that bring together information studies, computer science, sociology, human-computer interaction, and over 20 years of visual analytic theory and information visualization into a simple tool anyone can use. This makes NodeXL of interest not only to end-users but also to researchers and students studying visual and network analytics and their application in the real world.” – Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL
On Amazon’s site I see that there are some stellar blurbs already for the book (e.g. from Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs). So I am really looking forward to receiving my copy and reading the book.
If you haven’t checked out NodeXL yet, I hope you will (free download on Codeplex), and let me know what you think. And if you make it to the VAC Consortium meeting this week, say hi to Ben for me 🙂
Filed under: Government, innovation, R&D, Technology Tagged: | AAAS, ACM, analysis, analytics, Ben Shneidgerman, College Park, data, dataviz, Excel, info, information, information techology, infotech, Intelligence, IT, Maryland, Microsoft, Microsoft Research, MSR, NodeXL, NVAC, PNNL, research, social media, social networking, social networks, social software, software, Spotfire, spreadsheet, tech, Technology, UMD, Univerisity of Maryland, VAC, visualization, viz, Wikipedia