Freewheeling about visualisation

A number of people brought this site, SayHear, to my attention at the weekend. Go take a look at it, and, especially if you’re reading this in the US, go further. Call the appropriate number and tell people why you’re going to vote for your selection.

So what is the site about? Well, you choose a number to ring based on your voting intention, then leave a message explaining why. You could indicate your intention not to vote as well. The colours of the box represent the voting intention. The information in the box represented where you were calling from. And the information “under” the box stored your voice message for others to click on and replay. Simple yet powerful.

What I particularly liked about the site was the simplicity of the idea and of the visualisation. Rich information, presented in a manner that made consumption of that information intuitive and easy. Colour codes that were consistent with external “standards”. Metadata, the area codes, also consistent with external standards. Information in text form enriched by the embedding of another form of information, that of the “voice file” at each point.

Many possibilities open up. For example, you could take “incoming calls” and represent the options the caller chose by using colour and size and shape, build a variant on a tag cloud. You could choose some other way of displaying call duration. You could associate the “box” so created not just with the speech file, but also the transcript. The capacity to use visualisation to reduce firehoses of information into manageable streams, that capacity has been around for a long time. What is new is the ability to mix and match different types of information while doing that. What is new is the platform used to deliver it.

[Note: I’m biased. The guys who designed and delivered this, Gershoni and Some Random Dude, are completely unknown to me. But the platform they used, Ribbit, is very much known to me. BT bought the company a few months ago, and I have the privilege of serving as its chairman.]

In a networked world, open innovation thrives when open platforms exist. What you see above is the shape of things to come. To echo the words of David Weinberger, small pieces loosely joined, joined to create value that could not have been created any other way.

Bonus link: I found this site an interesting read, both from a visualisation perspective as well as from the viewpoint of education in general.

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