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Vis, InfoVis, Vast 2009 accepted papers posted

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The VisWeek 2009 website has been update with a list of all the accepted papers for this year.

The list can be found at

Vis Papers:

InfoVis Papers:

VAST Papers:

I am particularly happy to see that Vis and InfoVis will overlap slightly this year. It will showcase the best work from both the fields and allow for researchers to interact and form new collaborations. There seem to be some really interesting papers, workshops and tutorials. Other new features this year are the Discovery Exhibition and the Forum on Geometric Aspects of Machine Learning and Visual Analytics. Looking forward to an interesting conference in Atlantic City, NJ.


Written by alark

August 20, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

IEEE VAST 2008 – Christian Chabot Keynote

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I think one of my favorite events of the entire Visweek 2008 was the VAST 2008 keynote by the CEO of Tableau Software, Christian Chabot. [Apparently, he blogs too.]

He motivated the audience by making a very strong case for why there is a need to use Visual Analytics software. He basically said that there was a much wider customer base, than one would imagine, for quality visual analytics tool. What was interesting to me was that he said that his definition of a successful visual analytics tool was how widely adopted that tool was. I personally believe that its the best way to make sure that users have the power of visual analytics at their finger tips. 

He basically said that we havent optimized the impact of visual analytics until you help users with their own data. The demo of Tableau was my favorite part, where he would end up interacting with simple datasets to show how easy it was to get insight or just know more about the data. 

I think my favorite quote from the talk was ‘Visual analytics can help people test their hunches even when they lead to nowhere.’ 🙂 This was great since this is exactly the purpose of visualization. The idea of interacting with your data to learn more but also just confirm what you already know. 

He then showed an amazing demo of  presidential donations data from new york city. Comparisons of Obama and McCain showed some wondreful, interesting patterns in parts of new york, like the upper east side and so on. Some of those patterns were expected for those who know the demographics of new york city

Some of the highlights of the talk were: 

– Most analytics tasks dont result in ‘Aha’ discoveries. 

– People dont like to admit they need outside help to make discoveries about their own data. 

– Visualization and Visual Analytics helps people think of what questions to ask. More importantly, it helps them enter the Visual analysis cycle of interact, explore, visualize, obtain insight – rinse and repeat 🙂 

His most imprtant statement of the keynote speech was that “The number one reason people buy visual analytics software was to save time.” 

I think it was the kind of keynote that makes you think and shakes you up a bit. I agree that we needed to hear some of those words. I particularly enjoyed the talk, since I had mentioned Tableau Software in one of my previous blog posts on ‘Visualizing companies leading the way.’  After listening to the talk, I feel more confident that Tableau will make a big difference in the Visual analytics and business analytics community. If you have anything to say about the keynote, please feel free to add a comment.

Written by alark

October 25, 2008 at 5:52 pm

IEEE VisWeek 2008 – Workshops overview

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The IEEE Visweek 2008 had a bunch of wonderful workshops. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Understanding Federal Funding: Agencies, Initiatives, and Peer Review‘ workshop which was led by Terry Yoo who represented National Institutes of Health (NIH). The other workshop participants were Christine Chalk from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Larry Rosenblum from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

They basically said that given the state of the economy, it is almost certain that the funding situation is going to be bad for the next fiscal year. But given that, I really enjoyed the advice they had for the audience. Terry spoke about how its important to find the right institute within the NIH to apply to. He stressed on the fact that its extremely important to send your grant to the right place to ensure that you get funding for your research. Here’s a list of the institutes that comprise NIH. Christine spoke about DOE’s diverse funding opportunities but how sometimes they get less applications than they expect. Its definitely something to remember for all those who can apply for funding to the DOE. 

Larry Rosenblum probably gave some priceless advice regarding how a grant should be written and what are the ‘donts’ about a grant. He gave some excellent examples of things that worked in grants. All their slides can be downloaded at

The next workshop that I was very excited about was the ‘From Theory to Practice: Design, Vision and Visualization‘ which was organized by Lyn Bartram, Maureen Stone and Diane Gromala. They have some slides online at I look forward to some more such endeavors from the community. We need many more such discussions to make sure that no one ever uses a rainbow colormap again 🙂

Some of the other interesting workshops that were conducted can be found at Unfortunately, I couldnt attend them but will definitely hope to look at some of the slides from those workshops.  If any of you attended those workshops, pls feel free to comment on them in the comments section.

Written by alark

October 25, 2008 at 5:11 pm

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IEEE Infovis 2008 overview – 2

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Geometry-Based Edge Clustering for Graph Visualization
WeiWei Cui, Hong Zhou, Huamin Qu, Pak Chung Wong, Xiaoming Li
This paper reminded me of a similar paper from Stanford called ‘Flow Map Layout‘. That paper had some crisp, clean images which conveyed information effectively.  In the talk, WeiWei presented geometric handles that they provide to control the edge clustering for improved graph visualization. They use a ‘control mesh’ that can be generated at different levels of detail (manually or automatically) based on the graph structure. I thought the results looked good, but its use is limited if the user cannot easily interact with the provided tools. 

On the Visualization of Social and other Scale-Free Networks
Yuntao Jia, Jared Hoberock, Michael Garland, John C. Hart
In this paper, they introduce a graph layout algorithm that reduces the overlap between edges. 
This was interesting since later in the week, Frank van Ham in his talk said that users tried hard to reduce the number of overlapping edges when they were asked to make their own layout of social networks. 

Exploration of Networks Using Overview+Detail with Constraint-based Cooperative Layout
Tim Dwyer, Kim Marriott, Falk Schreiber, Peter J. Stuckey, Michael Woodward, Michael Wybrow
This paper discussed the results of collaborations with biologists to visualize complex biological
networks. I think we need to encourage such collaborative projects and maybe have some more 
initiatives in the form of awards and incentives to get more researchers to work in such a collaborative manner. 

Rapid Graph Layout Using Space Filling Curves
Chris Muelder, Kwan-Liu Ma
In this talk, Chris presented an interesting idea to create graph layouts. In particular, I liked the use of the Peano curve (one of the space filling curves used in the paper) for graph layout. I think that semantic zooming will make their work extremely interesting and as per the future work section in their paper, they are planning to do it. 



Improving the Readability of Clustered Social Networks using Node Duplication
Nathalie Henry, Anastasia Bezerianos, Jean-Daniel Fekete
This was an extremely enjoyable talk, particularly because the Nathalie did a very good job of conveying the content of the paper by mixing in some well time humor. Her talk focused on 
the visualizing social networks and discussed some of her previous work and proposed results of an evaluation of some new techniques to visualizing such graphs. Duplicating an actor in social networks was found to be promising for social network analysis. Since analyzing social networks is such a topic of interest for security purposes, this work is quite timely. 



Effectiveness of Animation in Trend Visualization
George Robertson, Roland Fernandez, Danyel Fisher, Bongshin Lee, John Stasko
This was an interesting presentation by George, where he presented some of their work on evaluating
the effectiveness of animations in presentations and analysis. Their user study particularly 
was focused on evaluating the effectiveness of techniques such as those used in Hans Rosling’s
famous talk from TED 2006 on Global health, poverty and infant mortality etc. If you have not
seen the video yet, it can be seen at

Perceptual Organisation in User-Generated Graph Layouts
Frank van Ham, Bernice E. Rogowitz
This was a very enjoyable talk since in this project, they took the approach of letting random web users create their own layout for social graphs. The idea was to analyze their layouts and see if they can uncover underlying clusters in the social graphs. They found that users used the edges to delineate the boundaries of the graph. This is completely contrary to all the graph layout algorithms which have a sunburst style layout. It was great to see Bernice Rogowitz at the conference again. She has done some wonderful work as regards color and its used in creating effective visualizations. Here’s a list of some of her publications. The ‘Which Blair‘ project from Vis ’01 and the ‘The end of the rainbow‘ work with Lloyd Treinish.

Spatially Ordered Treemaps
Jo Wood, Jason Dykes
This was a talk in which they used treemaps whose ordering was based on spatial constraints. It 
was a project where the authors worked with geographers and found that they preferred to maintain
spatial relationships between items. The layout along with some bezier vectors that they added
to the layouts to show some temporal relationships made for a unique talk.

Written by alark

October 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Infovis 2008 Keynote

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Visualization in vivo 
Jake Kolojejchick, 
Chief Scientist
Viz, a business of General Dynamics

The InfoVis 2008 was an extremely enjoyable and interesting talk where Jake actually talked about some of the truth that visualization researchers need to here. It was very interesting to hear how he
focused on information-centricity and how focusing on the data and information is critical. 

What most strongly resonated with me was the emphasis on “Visualization-based interaction”. He 
said that visualizations needs to go beyond simply showing information to the user and start focusing on becoming a rich medium for exploration, annotation and sharing. 

Most of the remaining talk focused on how his company had dealt with some of the challenges 
of deploying a visualization software, Command post of the future (CPOF)  where they needed to get real time data to military personnel for facilitate fast decision making and reduce the uncertainty for all the
parties involved. The ability to share and collaborate remotely made it a success and I think it is truly a fascinating visualization story. 

He introduced a concept of collaboration literacy which extends the concept of visual literacy
and verbal literacy. Visual literacy and verbal literacy are well known. Collaboration literacy discusses how we collaborate and how we learn to collaborate, right from simple daily face-to-face meetings to virtual telepresence.

Some of the things that he mentioned that according to me are critical for us visualization researchers are: 

– We need to realize that visualizations are the medium that users use to understand information. 
– Dont make users do extra work. I completely agree with this and I think that Google’s success
has been partly due to this exact reason. For example, now when we try to search for keywords
in Google, they suggest commonly used keywords that will make it easier to search.
– More ways to incorporate self-synchronization where users across the board are able to understand 
the information and are able to synchronize their knowledge with what other users have at that time. 
Alternatively, some annotations and interactions can let one know that the user on the other
side has understand some key concepts and so they are on the same page and start interacting from there on.

Written by alark

October 21, 2008 at 1:25 pm

IEEE Infovis 2008 overview – 1

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I am attending the IEEE VisWeek 2008 in Columbus, OH right now. Its a wonderful conference, the first part of which is focusing on information visualization. Here are some of my thoughts about some of the wonderful talks that I’ve heard so far. I wont be posting as regularly as Robert Kosara‘s almost live miniblog on or Carlos Scheidegger‘s blog at but I will definitely keep posting my thoughts on the papers and other events. 

Rolling the Dice: Multidimensional Visual Exploration using Scatterplot Matrix Navigation
Niklas Elmqvist, Pierre Dragicevic, Jean-Daniel Fekete 
An interesting way to explorer multidimensional data with scatterplots. The video of the system highlights the strengths of scatterplots. They use the metaphor of rolling a dice, since as they use 
animation as they transform from one visualization to the next. I wonder whether at some 
point the animation and transitions distract the user from the exploration process. In their paper,
they say that “User evaluation is difficult for such broad tasks as visual exploration” but they plan
to evaluate their techniques further. 

A Framework of Interaction Costs in Information Visualization
Heidi Lam
A great and much needed paper discussing the costs of incorporating interaction into information
visualization. The work was inspired by these wonderful books by D. A. Norman. 

D.A. Norman. The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday/Currency, 1990.
D.A. Norman. Things that Make Us Smart. Basic Books, 1993.
D.A. Norman. The Design of Future Things. Basic Books, 2007.

I have read the first two and shall definitely read the next book now. I would strongly encourage students to read these books as they serve as a good resource for thinking about visualization design. Heidi has adapted Norman’s Seven Stages of Action into the analysis. She found that one needs to take into account interaction costs when evaluating any kind of visualization. I applaud such effort and look forward to more research taking interaction into account during evaluation. 

EMDialog: Bringing Information Visualization into the Museum
Uta Hinrichs, Holly Schmidt, Sheelagh Carpendale
An extremely interesting talk about an information visualization installation being placed in a museum.
The presentation was very unique and clearly stated their experiences with the installation. The
positive and, more importantly, negative feedback they received from the visitors was clearly specified, which was great.  

Graphical Histories for Visualization: Supporting Analysis, Communication, and Evaluation
Jeffrey Heer, Jock D. Mackinlay, Chris Stolte, Maneesh Agrawala
A great talk by Jeff who discussed the implementation of seemingly simple ‘histories’ feature
for Tableau. The idea of ‘undo-as delete’ as well as ‘the undo operation is performed 12 times more 
than redo operations” was an interesting observation which seems believable to me.

Who Votes for What? A Visual Query Language for Opinion Data
Geoffrey M. Draper, Richard F. Riesenfeld
Interesting talk and demo. The paper is getting a lot of press lately [here and here].
It might be interesting to explore non-radial layouts and explore the benefits of different layouts.
The discussion about color design that followed the talk will definitely benefit their system. I look forward to some visualizations from the US 2008 presidential elections using their system. 

Visgets: Coordinated Visualizations for Web-based Information Exploration and Discovery
Marian Dörk, Sheelagh Carpendale, Christopher Collins, Carey Williamson
This was an interesting talk about coordinating visualizations for exploration of real-world data. 
Particularly since in the last post on visualization in politics, I mentioned Sheelagh Carpendale’s work for visualizing data for exploration and discovery and yesterday I had a chance to attend the exact same talk. 

Vispedia: Interactive Visual Exploration of Wikipedia Data via Search-Based Integration
Bryan Chan, Leslie Wu, Justin Talbot, Mike Cammarano, Pat Hanrahan
This talk was great at exploring knowledge within wikipedia. The aim was to obtain a database
from DBPedia ( into their system and allow users to make fast 
geographic visualizations. Bryan demonstrated how the capitals of the countries in the world
could be visualized and then how the visualization could be tweaked with parameters such as population of the city and so on. You can play around with their tools at or

The Word Tree, an Interactive Visual Concordance
Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda B. Viégas
Martin gave an excellent talk on the use of Word Trees. The visualization technique can be accessed at IBM Many Eyes [].
He showed some excellent examples that provide insight into word relationships in various literary
texts. In particular I enjoyed the “I am married but..” example which was based on a collection
of advertisements. 

Stacked Graphs – Geometry & Aesthetics
Lee Byron, Martin Wattenberg
Ben schneiderman – vertical vs horizontal stacked graphs – vertical works better according to him. He 
used listening history first which was done horizontally. Labelling worked better with the vertical 
graph as there was more real estate around it. NYtimes was only 2 yrs whereas online version was 21 yrs. Some relevant links: 
Web-based version of the NYTimes piece:
Visualizing the box office:
Visualizing listening preferences on

Cerebral: Visualizing Multiple Experimental Conditions on a Graph with Biological Context
Aaron Barsky, Tamara Munzner, Jennifer Gardy, Robert Kincaid
Presenting results and innovations with visualization researchers working with biologists. Early 
on he said something that is very true, since I’ve work with application domain experts. 
He basically said that collaborators like any kind of visualizations and think you are awesome
for having created that. You on the other hand know that they are just previously published research
which might not get you a ‘best paper’ award at a conference 🙂  He presented some real issues about the divide between the scientists and visualization researchers. 

The Shaping of Information by Visual Metaphors
Caroline Ziemkiewicz, Robert Kosara
Evaluating the visualization metaphors and their effect on our understanding of visualizations. The idea and discussions leading up to the results were very convincing. I was a bit dissapointed to see that in the results, they found that people were able to perform well even with incompatible metaphors. I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that non-visualization users (i mean researchers mostly) are not very familiar with the visualization techniques such as treemaps. I keenly look forward
to the future work from the authors. 

Geometry-Based Edge Clustering for Graph Visualization
WeiWei Cui, Hong Zhou, Huamin Qu, Pak Chung Wong, Xiaoming Li
I liked the idea of the paper but I do agree with some of the questions that were asked after the talk about how hard is it to interact with the graph, how easy it was to implement the technique etc. I strongly encourage WeiWei to upload some of the code for us to try out their techniques.

More thoughts about the terrific infovis keynote and other sessions coming soon!!

NSF Visualization Challenge winners announced

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The winners of the annual NSF Visualization challenge have been announced today. The beautiful visualizations can be seen at

New Scientist has a wonderful gallery that they have created which can be found at

I think my favorite photograph is the Squid Suckers. Its both beautiful and scary at the same time. 

I thought the Human Circulatory system illustration was really beautiful. It provides such a wonderful focus+context style visualization. A larger version of that visualization can be found here

More details regarding the challenge can be found at

The visualizations reminded me of the wonderful Capstone talk that Pat Hanrahan had given at the IEEE Visualization 2004 conference on Self Illustrating Phenomena. I strongly believe that visualization should be self-illustrating and self-explanatory. It should not require lengthy explanations and should provide insight and increased understanding. If you see any such self explanatory visualizations, feel free to enlist them in the comments section.