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Spreadsheets Fuel Powerful Location/Time Visualizations

 The Right Tool for the Job

Here is a picture of my dog, Apple, at bathtime.  Clearly this is not the kind of environment where she feels she belongs.  She’s soaking wet -but that’s not the problem; water is not bad.  Maybe she doesn’t find the context to be one where she can most vibrantly express herself.  In any case, she’s not the picture of contentment.

I, from an Apple management perspective, think the context is great.  She is manageable, not going anywhere, and on her way to cleanness


Here, all is well for Apple.  She still finds herself immersed in water, but this time the context is much different than the bath tub.  It’s outside, there are other dogs, my son Bear is there to play with, and she has almost absolute control over the situation.

But if I wanted to give Apple a bath, a rocky lakeshore isn’t my preference.  If I want to get to know Apple a little better, really see what she is about, this is a much better environment than a bath tub.

Both the bath tub and the lakeshore are important environments for Data…I mean Apple, for different reasons.

Workflow
I hear a lot about the tyranny of the spreadsheet, and even use the phrase myself.  But to qualify that, the spreadsheet is an outstanding tool for adding, sorting, formulating, storing data -and more.  But this tabular view is certainly not the environment where grouping, trending, combining, tracking, or predictive attempts are most readily made.

Enterprise Mashups, Visual Composite Applications, Geo Portals, whatever you prefer to call them, are an ideal way to provide folks a means of spreadsheet management but then the content can then go on to fuel powerful visual applications where the data is presented right were we like it -in time and location.  A successful geospatial content manager/visualization will enable both.  If you have an Excel file or a SharePoint MOSS list or library, go ahead and throw it into Virtual Earth or Google Earth as a GeoRSS or KML.  That’s where it wants to be.

 
IDV’s Visual Fusion software supports table-to-visualization workflows.  See it in Excel, then see it in Virtual Earth…and back. 

Models of the Universe
Every data management or visualization tool you use is really a model of the Universe.  Some tools provide a lot of abstraction, and some are better off as more literal Mini-Me‘s of reality.  Spreadsheets present the world as numeric representations arranged in rows and columns.  This level of abstraction is absolutely necessary for many types of data management, but when it comes to turning that data loose, where insight and actionability are more likely, then the model of the universe used by your tool might more closely resemble, well…planet Earth.

John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com

3 responses

  1. danielle

    nice analogy…very flattering pictures of apple as well! i like the way you think…
    So…water is the data? Apple is the user? i should probably think this through more thoroughly before i open my mouth so i don\’t sound like an idiot.

    April 10, 2008 at 9:29 am

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