Treemaps for Information Visualisation

Jeremy Wagstaff writes:

One of the things that bugs me about our oh-so-cool information revolution is this: We show such little imagination in how we actually look at that information. Think about it. We have all this fascinating data at our fingertips and yet we have decided the most effective way of viewing it is in…a table. Or a chart. Or a list of search results (“1.7 gazillion matches — click here for next 10 results”).

There has to be a better way. And actually there are lots. One of the best is the treemap. A treemap is a bunch of squares, arranged to form a mosaic. The size and color of each block mean something.

Here is an example.

China and the Internet

The Economist discusses the wider implications and provides numbers about the growth:

The numbers of internet-connected computers have more than doubled since the end of 2002, to 45.6m, and internet-users have risen by 75%, to 111m. China now has more internet-users than any country but America, and over half of them have broadband (up from 6.6% at the end of 2002). Users of instant computer-to-computer messaging systems have more than doubled, to 87m. Blogsonline personal diaries, scarcely heard of three years agonow number more than 30m. And search engines receive over 360m requests a day.

The spread of mobile telephony has been no less spectacular. At the end of last year China had 393m mobile-phone accounts, nearly 200m more than at the end of 2002 and more than any other country.

Apple and Microsoft

Robert Cringely writes:

Office is how Microsoft makes most of its revenue, and Office is the bludgeon Microsoft uses to keep other software vendors in line. Without Office, Microsoft is just a company with an archaic and insecure OS. If Apple does go ahead to compete head-to-head with Microsoft for Microsoft’s own Windows customers, Cupertino will have to be ready in case Mac Office is withdrawn and Windows Office mysteriously breaks on Apple hardware. There is a good likelihood this won’t happen, especially if Microsoft can find a way to rev Mac Office for IntelMacs sorta running Windows — a hybrid product that would look better than the Windows version while retaining 100 percent compatibility and generating an enormous new revenue stream for Redmond. This is the carrot Apple will use to keep Microsoft from doing something truly destructive.

Steve wants Windows applications to run like crazy on his hybrid platform but to look like crap. In his heart of hearts, he’d still like to beat Microsoft on the merits, not just by leveraging some clever loophole. So he needs the top ISVs who are currently writing for OS X to continue writing for OS X, and that especially means Adobe.

There’s only one way to make that happen for sure, and that’s for Apple to buy Adobe.

Open Source Models

[via Anish] Jeffrey Phillips writes:

The web paradigm is changing the way we think about work. Now I can work from anywhere, with anyone through web-based collaboration. The web paradigm should also change the way we compute and use data, systems and information, and bend these to our way of working, rather than us continually working to the computer’s existing shortcomings. Right now, the computer and the network and the software it contains is an idiot box. I do as much for it as it does for me.

Where did we go wrong? We introduced a product that was good at doing one task (computation) very quickly into a situation (the knowledge based office) that does many things once. So the power of computing, especially given the massive computing power available to most of us, is never used, and the real requirements we have in the way we work are not ones the computer was originally intended to support.

What can we do to change this? Look to the open source software models. That’s where change is likely to occur. Microsoft Office and the large transactional packages we use to run our businesses don’t really help knowledge workers with their requirements. That’s why blogs, wikis, tagging and other concepts and functions from the open source and web world are so intriguing right now to many knowledge workers.

Mobile Web 2.0 Characteristics

Ajit Jaokar writes:

The characteristics(distinguishing principles) of mobile web 2.0 are:

a) Harnessing collective intelligence through restricted devices i.e. a two way flow where people carrying devices become reporters rather than mere consumers

b) Driven by the web backbone but not necessarily based on the web protocols end to end

c) Use of the PC as a local cache/configuration mechanism where the service will be selected and configured

TECH TALK: Blue Ocean Strategy: The Book

There are two books I have read recently that Id like to share: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne and Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb. I have talked about both before. I mentioned Blue Ocean Strategy in a recent Tech Talk on the Value of Vision, and I had mentioned Nassim Talebs thinking in a series on Black Swans almost two years ago. In this series, I want to discuss both in more depth. We will begin this week with Blue Ocean Strategy.

Here is what the Publishers Weekly has to say about Blue Ocean Strategy (via Amazon):

Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean metaphor elegantly summarizes their vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate. Unlike “red oceans,” which are well explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” represent “untapped market space” and the “opportunity for highly profitable growth.” The only reason more big companies don’t set sail for them, they suggest, is that “the dominant focus of strategy work over the past twenty-five years has been on competition-based red ocean strategies”-i.e., finding new ways to cut costs and grow revenue by taking away market share from the competition. With this groundbreaking book, Kim and Mauborgne-both professors at France’s INSEAD, the second largest business school in the world-aim to repair that bias. Using dozens of examples-from Southwest Airlines and the Cirque du Soleil to Curves and Starbucks-they present the tools and frameworks they’ve developed specifically for the task of analyzing blue oceans. They urge companies to “value innovation” that focuses on “utility, price, and cost positions,” to “create and capture new demand” and to “focus on the big picture, not the numbers.” And while their heavyweight analytical tools may be of real use only to serious strategy planners, their overall vision will inspire entrepreneurs of all stripes, and most of their ideas are presented in a direct, jargon-free manner. Theirs is not the typical business management book’s vague call to action; it is a precise, actionable plan for changing the way companies do business with one resounding piece of advice: swim for open waters.

A review in strategy+business gave the following example:

The key element of a blue ocean strategy is a value innovation: a combination of differentiation and low cost that sets a product line or service apart from its competitors. Consider, for example, the story of Yellow Tail, a wine created explicitly for the U.S. market and launched in 2000 by Casella Wines, a small, family-owned Australian winery. Casella challenged the wine industrys givens: that wine is a unique beverage for the informed consumer who requires a complex, wide range of products and is best reached through marketing and brand building that drips with enological terminology.

Casella created a blue ocean by introducing a fun, nontraditional wine targeted at the U.S. drinker who does not normally drink wine a market three times the size of the U.S. wine market. Soft, sweet, and fruity, Yellow Tail appealed to beer drinkers and ready-to-drink cocktail drinkers, without the traditional focus on tannins, oak, complexity, and aging. Casella made selection easy by offering only one white and one red wine and by replacing the technical jargon with a striking kangaroo logo.

The result: Yellow Tail became the fastest-growing brand in the history of both the U.S. and the Australian wine markets and the No. 1 big-bottle (750ml) red wine in the U.S. by August 2003 and Casella Winery grew to be one of the largest wineries in Australia.

Tomorrow: Cirque du Soleils Reinvention

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