Visual Decision Forum 2011: Our Opinion

Paris, 6th July 2011 - I was part of the 170 people that attended the Université d’Eté de la DATA VISUALISATION (Data Visualization Forum). This was the first ever Visual Decision Forum, so the turnout of 170 was pretty good. Well done to the Décideo team (Philippe Nieuwbourg) for this initiative which echoed current hot topics in the BI technology space - datavis and more globally, the Big Data phenomenon (the fact you need good datavis in order to cope with Big Data!).

Datavis - the nickname for the official term Data Visualization - is nothing new for our American friends, who have been practising datavis for a long time now.  Actors in the BI space have jumped on this discipline as it was necessary  a) to modernize data analysis, and b) to find new ways to communicate.

At Bime/We Are Cloud, we are proud to have understood the importance of datavis right from the start, and we have built Bime with this fundamental principle in mind : maximum information, in the minimum amount of space, thanks to established graphic techniques and Rich Internet UIs that vastly improve the reading and understanding experience.

It seems that the big traditional BI players are only suddenly throwing themselves into this niche simply to support their marketing spiels...but better late than never! Anyway, I could not comprehend the level of interest in "Jump" (JMP by SAS) which actually seemed to encompass the opposite of what was being preached about datavis. No big deal though, the forum needs sponsors in order to be able to take place, which I totally understand. Next year I hope to have more opportunities to see practical workshops, such as the one run by Claude-Henri MELEDO, who showcased some work by Jacques Bertin...the French "cartographer" who is practically unheard of in France, but pretty well known in the USA...[editor's note] always precursors without knowing it, the French...

I particularly liked the round table about Data Journalism, with input from Caroline Goulard (Dataveyes) et Alain Joannes, author of the book "Data Journalism". The session was about strategies for the digital future and the daily flow of information, and how it has never been so necessary than it is today to structure data, in order to create explicatory graphic visualizations that are able to sum up pages of data in a few pixels.  A lot of new economic models were put into perspective for more informative "story-telling" in order to "energize data" (the baseline used by one of the main players present, and rather well put!).

So, well done again for the initiative, the event came at a good time considering the current literature circulating in the BI space.  I think that the workshops will probably mature next year, and those from the school of Stephen Few will also be hosting some sessions... (our team is a big fan of S.Few and E.Tufte... 2 big names in the datavis world).

It would be interesting if the event could organize some sort of competition around the visualization of a particular dataset, such as the ones organized regularly by Nathan Yau, on his awesome blog FlowingData (which is where the image above came from)...the proof is in the pudding!

See you next time,