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We are considering to start a regular guest post series focused on reviewing information visualization tools and software. After all, there are plenty of reviews available online, from testing software, electronic gadgets and books, to the literal unpacking of newly acquired goods, but almost none that deal with the development of data visualizations.

First of all, we would like to know whether there is interest in such a regular review feature, and whether there are more people around the community that want to help us with this initiative.

Other questions include: Should a popular blog like infosthetics deal with reviewing? What would you like to see reviewed? Are there specific tools or software you are already interested in to be tested? How should a typical data visualization review look like? What are the criteria? How can we compare tools with each other? What should be the benchmarks? What comparable or example datasets should we use?

Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Kim Rees is a partner at Periscopic, an interactive design firm specializing in data visualization and information presentation.

Image courtesy of Many Eyes and Panopticon.


i say: YES! we do need those reviews - that's the way tools get better! and as a teacher (design school in Paris) i would say that we need those tools to push students up that info-way
If you need any help... just ask!
have a nice day

Wed 16 Dec 2009 at 9:52 PM

Yes! These are the types of questions we'll be discussing at the BELIV workshop on information visualization evaluation (co-located at CHI 2010 in Atlanta). Join us if you can:

Wed 16 Dec 2009 at 10:02 PM

Yes, we need reviews! But rather than posting them one at a time in blog post format, I'd love to see a more usable / reusable way. I could think of something like an app store. An app should be clearly categorized based on, let's say technology or available visualization methods in addition to a short review and maybe some examples. This could help explore / filter / sort and thus find the right app for a certain purpose.

I'd love to contribute to this project, just let me know how I can help.

Wed 16 Dec 2009 at 11:11 PM

I think yes. It would also be very helpful to see how different softwares represent the same data-sets.

Wed 16 Dec 2009 at 11:24 PM

Yes, we need such reviews. Making sense of data is crucial to our everyday lives especially now more than ever with the fast-paced lifestyle we live in. Tools that could efficiently deliver results that people could act on would be most useful.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 12:17 AM

A big yes also !

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 1:15 AM

Let's go with those reviews! The best I can figure out would be a presentation of some smart flash- and actionscript-based tools.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 1:45 AM

It would be good to have meaningful reviews. Meaningful requires that real data be visualized and insights revealed that were not seen in traditional statistical tests or designs.

It would be fine to even use the visualization software being reviewed for some classical studies (gene mapping onn chromosomes, 1913; typhoid epidemics, 1800s; location of dark matter, not yet done).

It might help to require all people who write reviews to describe in detail how to obtain the data from existing data sets and how to put the data into the program.

Dwight Hines

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 1:55 AM
dwight hines

Very interesting would like to help, if I can, depends on tool and time! Tom

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 1:55 AM

Reviews are always welcome, but "Data Visualization" is such a vast field you might want to consider subsetting or segmenting it.. Tools like Tableau & EnSight are kinda in different realms, comparing them against each other (while are really Visualization tools) isn't really fair.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 2:13 AM

Excellent idea. It would be also useful to offer a first review (followed by periodic updates) trying to classify visualization tools by means of several categories. Probably the categorization itself is a challenging task.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 2:53 AM
Piergiorgio Brandolin

Yes! And please try to include open-source and free/alternative applications (software or internet-based) for us struggling beginners and freelancers!

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:08 AM

Yes please !

Of particular interest to me would be OpenSource tools.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:12 AM

I would love to see some visualizations ABOUT visualization software!

or at least some kinds of charts, that include this kind of data:
how much programming know-how one needs in order to use it
whether they are free or not (or have a free trial, at least)
whether they might be free to nonprofits

i'm hoping you include map/mapping recommendations (or a chart, comparing all of the systems that will make maps for you!)

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:16 AM

Yes, yes, yes

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:29 AM

Sounds great! I'd love to contribute reviews!

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 4:20 AM

Like most of the comments here, I agree comepltely. Very interested, as someone just dipping my toes into dataviz.
Maybe tweak the site design/nav so reviews/tools and dataviz pieces both shine independently. But yeah, go for it!

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 4:46 AM

Yes, as a Librarian looking to implement visualization techniques to my work and services I would appreciate not only reviews, but a matrix of products with their associated reviews, urls etc. An updated matrix of this information would be extremely useful for me, my faculty and students.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 5:12 AM

This looks like a great idea! We recently released a report, "A Consumers Guide to Low-Cost Data Visualization Tools" that you might want to check out: http://www.idealware.org/visualization/download.php

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 5:32 AM

Yes, I would like to see these reviews and will participate. Through IR&D we compared 9 different visualization kits at Bridgeborn & have been looking for both time and outlet to share insights.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 6:02 AM

Absolutely - it would be wonderful to share our user-experiences of data viz tools using concrete examples and cases.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 8:47 AM

I feel that the visualization community really needs such an endeavor. Increasingly, there are outsiders who want to use our tools and have no idea what the strengths and weaknesses of certain tools are. Such a review series will be extremely beneficial to users in and outside the community.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 8:58 AM

I also support reviewing visualization tools. There should also be a table of categories that make it easy to compare tools with each other, such as programming language, operating systems, backends, maturity, development community, types of plots, ease of use, embeddable, etc. Something similar to http://www.wikimatrix.org/

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 9:29 AM
Uri Laserson

I would really welcome the opportunity to have our software reviewed in this community - getting feedback from people who know a lot about visualization will only make our software better. Let me know how we can submit ourselves for review as well! (I'm not nominating as a reviewer because there would probably be a conflict of interest :) )


Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 10:52 AM

I would be happy to help out with the review and testing process.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 12:07 PM

Yes!! Would love even to have a digest of current apps out there.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 12:28 PM
Clare McDermott

Yes please!!

Your site has introduced me and friends to the 'joys' of data visualizations, and coming from a complete data vis. noob, having you guys review the available tools would be extremely helpful.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:29 PM

Yes! Would love to have our solution, FusionCharts, reviewed here.

The data sets that could be used are (depending on where mostly data visualization is used these days) are simple Monthly Revenue and Analytics charts to slightly more complex Network Monitoring Charts that would require real-time visualization too.

Some other things that could be included are: What domain of data visualization is the tool best suited for? For example, if a tool offers only gauges, then it is best suited to display KPIs in a dashboard. If a tool has a very good alerts system, then it is good for real-time monitoring systems. If a tool has the basic charts which are very customizable and flexible, then it can be used for the most of the generic data visualization (polls, analytics, surveys etc) though I am not very sure what exactly to call that.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 3:46 PM

If you do reviews, I'd like to see them in a separate section and the authors should be reputable. To this end, it is essential the qualification(s)/background(s) of the author are listed (as they are for the author of the post at the top of this page).

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 6:07 PM

It would be very nice! The format of the review shouldn't be too fixed, just try to find hig standards of the reviews.

Thu 17 Dec 2009 at 10:45 PM
Gil Roitto

I think it's a great idea and I'd be willing to write a tutorial for the flare.prefuse.org library, as well as others.

Fri 18 Dec 2009 at 11:27 PM


Yes to the app store/matrix forms of presenting the available solutions, helping (wizard?) people choose software according to their needs, budget, time and skills.

Yes, the categorizing itself is going to be challenging.

Yes, it is pertinent to have some benchmark use cases/studies, eventhough this is a very questionnable point, it would help people go for the process that seems the most natural to them.

Yes, Tableau as well as opensource tools should be reviewed.

Yes, user experience reports/testimonies would be a big plus, These reports/testimonies should happen in some kind of standard framework (series of questions to answers, issues to address).

Following versions and adapting the review to them is going to be demanding. It is important to link any review/testimony to a precise version.

Integrative use of ohloh and co, would spare time and effort.

It seems like a dedicated website could be necessary.

I'd be happy to participate to the process.

Sat 19 Dec 2009 at 7:19 PM

YES! I am always looking for such visualization tools. Very usefull when it comes to present information model not though diagrams but adapted to the business view.

Sat 19 Dec 2009 at 9:25 PM

I would appreciate such a series of reviews. These reviews should shed light on both sides; the standard tasks (loading a standard dataset, basic exploration, etc.) as well as tool specific issues.
For the standard tasks we should actually check how efficient or effective a tool is in order to find certain structures and features in the data - we are all too easily blinded by flashy tools and forget about the analytical part.

Sat 19 Dec 2009 at 10:31 PM

I would appreciate such a series of reviews. These reviews should shed light on both sides; the standard tasks (loading a standard dataset, basic exploration, etc.) as well as tool specific issues.
For the standard tasks we should actually check how efficient or effective a tool is in order to find certain structures and features in the data - we are all too easily blinded by flashy tools and forget about the analytical part.

Sat 19 Dec 2009 at 10:34 PM

sounds great! go for it!

Tue 22 Dec 2009 at 4:20 AM

As a provider of interactive visualization tools, we would of course be delighted to have our applications independently reviewed!

Wed 23 Dec 2009 at 12:36 AM

I'm a reader who's not professionally involved in visualization, but would like to bring more sophisticated presentation into various projects I'm involved in. A matrix would be very useful. Thorough reviews are time consuming, and it's for yourself to judge whether it's what your energy should go into.
I would be happy just to see a simple matrix, or perhaps the maintenance of a visualization software category on Wikipedia.

Wed 23 Dec 2009 at 1:09 AM

Yes! - for me as a online journalist, this info would certainly be helpful.

Tue 29 Dec 2009 at 9:08 PM

This idea sounds great, and I like the discussion that is helping it to evolve. As the creators of data visualization and storytelling tools, we'd be thrilled to have our software be a part of this review process. Please let us know how we can participate.


Josh Knauer, CEO, Rhiza Labs
Twitter: @jknauer

Sat 02 Jan 2010 at 1:24 PM

A resounding vote "Yes!" with the proviso that reviews are conducted by real-world users with real-world needs -- and not by vendor staff. Vendors are usually good at generating feature matrixes, but I find more value in hearing an actual user's experience in accomplishing results with a product. Thanks for considering this initiative; as other comments attest, it is a great idea.

Lee Lukehart, Chief Data Visualist
SavvyData "Making Data Make Sense"

Sun 03 Jan 2010 at 6:21 AM

Absolutely! I would like to review QlikView for this exact purpose. Please contact me as I would like to guest post.

Mon 04 Jan 2010 at 10:47 PM

Yes. I would like to help out with the review and testing process.

Wed 06 Jan 2010 at 3:09 AM

Yes, I believe is important have this information. I would like to envolve in the procces

Wed 06 Jan 2010 at 4:54 AM

Yes! I would like to see more of this in the Communications world. Network Security and Network management

Wed 06 Jan 2010 at 8:27 AM
Kamil imtiaz

I'm an addicted reader of your blog and I would love to see software/technology reviews. But also some tech tips or hints of how each article's featured image was created or could be created.
love your blog !

Fri 08 Jan 2010 at 6:05 AM


Fri 08 Jan 2010 at 6:46 AM

Most appreciated. Specially around Network Theory and Social Graph visualization.

Sun 10 Jan 2010 at 11:37 AM

Yes, please.

Tue 12 Jan 2010 at 3:25 AM
Christopher Jost

Seems like structuring the review process is a project on it's own.

I started to put the issues raised in your comments in a debategraph (which you'll find once you click on my name).

Feel free to contribute, rearrange or delete...and don't dispair if you've got some problems with the tool, still a bit buggy sometimes.

Wed 13 Jan 2010 at 2:27 AM


Tue 19 Jan 2010 at 7:38 PM

Hi all.!!!

Tue 19 Jan 2010 at 7:39 PM

Yes absolutely. Also interested to run them on some of our very large data sets (e.g. mining our social network platform for schools). We have already worked with developers of social network visualisation software at universities in Europe so happy to make this info available on a wider basis and try out new ones.

Wed 20 Jan 2010 at 11:28 PM

Mega yes!

Let's have reviews and give people who don't know HOW a way IN!

Sat 24 Apr 2010 at 5:36 AM
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