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EC Project 257859

European Union

Co-funded by the 
European Union

Overview of Visualizing Techniques for Online Communities

As part of the next stage of the robust deliverables, Polecat is starting to look at creating a visual metaphor to represent and monitor community health. This still appears to be an underdeveloped area of research, and there are few really pure examples around. Most data still tends to be represented with traditional charts and graphs.

However, there are a number of interesting pieces of work being done. The guardian has worked on a time line visualisation, allowing you to "walk" through a collection of events around a certain topic (in this case the English riots):


Another is from KDDI, a Japanese cellphone carrier, that visualises twitter as a parade, really encapsulating the idea of followers and following in a visceral way. As is often the case, thought, the result fails to really enhance the data, but seems instead simply a quirky representation of it:


One that really does offer additional insight of the user is the visualisation of browser statistics:

http://www.michaelvandaniker.com/labs/browserVisualization/ using the metaphor of a record. This really allows the user to instinctively understand both market share, and product growth as a proportion of market growth. The death of AOL is especially clear.

And finally, to remain topical (but not necessarily relevant), Miguel Rios has created a portrait of Steve jobs made up of all of the tweets that included the hashtag #thankyousteve. Utterly useless, but cool nonetheless:

What the research has highlighted, above all other things, is that there is a paucity of metaphor based visualisations currently; it looks to be an undervalued approach given the potential immediacy of its message over complex data. Over the next month or so, we will start to look at different ideas, initially around the natural world, in the hope that we can succeed.

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