Things I keep meaning to look into..

Thanks to Sara, I stumbled across Flowing Data a few weeks ago. It’s got me thinking a lot about data visualization and, as it’s the time of year when those sort of pipe dream projects get a little more chance of getting explored, I’ve been keeping track of the things related to data visualization and reporting and such that I want to look into more when I have some time. Below is a quick list, annotated more for my own reference.

PolicyMap – this one’s neat and I want to figure out if what it does is what I think it does and whether it might be worth paying for in order to pull demographic information about the areas from which we get our students. Knowing, for instance, if we get applications but not enrollments from particular areas and being able to dig into additional local and regional demographic information might be able to help us figure out if we’re not attractive as an option for students from particular backgrounds, which could then lead to further research about why.

blist – I’m not at all sure I understand what this is or maybe just not how it works, but I’m intrigued by the idea of sharing data structures across users. Seems like this might be terribly useful for IR folks using data from some of the larger student information systems (PeopleSoft, Banner, Datatel, etc.) to report out to the Common Data  Set and IPEDS..? As a more or less totally random aside, I’ve also wondered if the name originated from a slurring of “b-list” or as a slang word a la “blissed out”.

BigTable – not data visualization but rather data storage, this one breaks all kinds of commonly accepted database design and efficiency rules, and possibly because of that is terribly intriguing. No idea what possible application it might have for me, but it’s neat and therefore worthy of being checked out more.

Tableau – this was a vendor from the conference I was at last week and I’ll admit that I’m a little skeptical that it really can do everything it claims. There’s also the piece about sharing online through *their* servers that makes me twitch a little.. but.. I’m intrigued, so I’ll check it out further.

For what it’s worth, I’m also trying to figure out if I can carve out time this summer to learn more about Fuzzy Set Theory and how some lessons from econometrics and forecasting models, particularly  ARIMA, could be applied to enrollment projections.. yeah.. I tend to get optimistic about summer projects, but I think if you don’t, you just get stuck doing what you’ve always done and I guess I get bored with that too fast. *smile*


3 thoughts on “Things I keep meaning to look into..

  1. Sara says:

    cool – I’m with you on the forecasting/econometrics thing – let’s put our heads together! i’m about to be out of town til mid-June…but yeah, that’s been on my back burner for a while too.

  2. Hey thanks for putting blist on your list of things to look in to.

    The idea behind the name blist is really simple. It’s just a contraction (well, technically a portmanteau) of web list. Say it real fast 3 or 4 times. Web list. Web list. Web list. blist. It’s just like the word blog is a contraction for web log.

    Two of the basic ideas behind blist are a) that data wants to be free and discovered and b) half the battle of creating a database is figuring out what the data structure should look like. If you want your data to be discovered, simply make your blist public. If you want to use someone else’s data structure as the starting point for your own, use the Discovery (search) tool to find something similar and then copy it as your own. We have some immodest goals. We want to democratize working with data. That effort includes giving people the ability to publish and subscribe to interesting data and to discover great data structures.

  3. Lots of cool tools on your list…

    I’ve been tracking several of these as well recently. Here’s an article on data visualization I wrote for Campus Technology Magazine if you’re interested in a few more:

    PolicyMap seems most intriguing to me in the ways that you state. I’ve been playing around with it a bit and think it has real promise. It seems that in some cases the mapping areas are not finite enough for all applications….but it seems that this limitation is beholden to the data set that it uses.

    I’ve had some experience with Tableau and think it does a nice job integrating more than the usual visualizations with OLAP.

    The key takeaway for me is that without appropriate data models these tools are just that – tools – not solutions in and of themselves.

    Thanks for sharing.

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