Tech alert: Many Eyes on data visualization

Reading time: 2 min

If you’re a reporter, you have likely heard the phrase “Doing more with less” from your editor.

In the newsrooms of 2013 there tend to be fewer resources, and reporters still have to know how to run social media accounts, write stories for web/print, create videos, make graphics—the list goes on. Thankfully, more and more tools are filling the toolbox, facilitating workflow while being free and readily available to anyone with an internet connection.

Many Eyes is one example. It’s an IBM initiative that simplifies the process of creating, using and sharing graphics and charts—and the information that creates them.

Need a graphic to illustrate a story? Many Eyes is your best friend. Use it to show complicated data in simple ways, and it’s only a few clicks of the mouse away. The best part? You can also integrate your graphics into your ScribbleLive event.

There are two main ways to get started: Select an infographic that exists already, or create one of your own.

To find an prepared infographic, start by browsing through the existing collection of visualizations.
To make an infographic, follow the steps here to create one using a data set you upload or one uploaded to the site by another user.

Once you have found or created an illustration that you wish to use, click on “Share This.” You can choose to embed the static image—which can just copy and paste into your event as a quick post—or you can add the Live Visualization to your Top HTML section.

For example, here we are hosting a discussion on the content of Stephen Harper’s speeches between May and September 2013. A word tree has been embedded to the top of the event that identifies some of the recurrent themes and phrases.

If you’re eager to try it out for yourself, then we’re eager to show you how to do it:

A drawback to Many Eyes is that visualizations aren’t organized in a meaningful way on the website—they’re just listed, page after page after page of visualizations. In that sense, it’s best to use if/when you have an idea of the visualization you need. Simply search for, say, gun homicides and see what comes up in the 12 pages of results. Without a topic or keyword, good luck in sorting through the current 5,579 pages of existing visualizations.

Also, please be aware that the visualizations use Java and are thus more reliable to use with Firefox than Chrome.

Still, the database itself is very valuable. And when it works with your browser, the advantage of Many Eyes is that is illustrates complicated data in a simple way. It’s a way to visualize trends that otherwise may not be apparent and perhaps to find new leads for stories.

But wait… Looking for a good visualization and coming up with a new story idea? Now that’s something that your editor might like. And it could actually be doing more with less.

If you have any questions about this technology or other Tech Alert tools, feel free to email us.

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