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New Data Visualization Tool Costs Nothing, Does A Lot

Continuing my exploration of new ways of using data from the cloud, I have found a nifty tool chock full of features that you wouldn't expect for its price: free!

It's called Tableau Public by its maker, Tableau Software.

It's called a step toward "the holy grail of data" by Microsoft's MSDN blog on Dallas, which is the new cloud data repository.

I previously wrote about how Microsoft's new PowerPivot tool for Excel lets you download huge amounts of data and present it in tables and charts. Tableau Public goes even further. Its data visualization options are incredibly extensive, letting you build all kinds of flashy interactive presentations.

Following the 1-2-3 steps of Open, Create and Share, you can even put these interactive visualizations into your blog or other Web page. It opens up countless story-telling scenarios for bloggers, journalists, researchers and students, examples of which are on Tableau's How It Works page. The site's Gallery page shows that Tableau is being used by companies such as The Wall Street Journal and CBS Sports.

In less than 10 minutes, I downloaded a free Dallas data feed--InfoUSA New, Out-Of-Business and Historical Businesses--and set up the following visualization of failed businesses near my home in Massachusetts. Even with such a simple data set, it's easy to see that businesses near the city of Brockton are struggling more than other areas, which jives with local knowledge. Tableau Public also lets you overlay various demographics. I chose population growth, which shows failed businesses tend to occur in areas with lower population growth, which is logical.

It took another couple of easy steps to generate the HTML to let me host the project right here.

This is an extremely bare-bones example, but you get the idea. Note the interactive options at the bottom (not all applicable to this example) that let viewers manipulate and even download the data.

Give it a try and let us know what you think. And please point out any interesting examples of data visualization that you've come across. Comment here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by David Ramel on 04/07/2010 at 1:15 PM


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