Tag Archives: Treemapping

Mapping Your Drive

I’m a big fan of treemaps, and a big fan of anything that keeps your hard drive organised (or any kind of media, really.) So treemap software that create a map of your hard drive are hard to resist, which is why I’ve written about them a fair deal. (For an attempt at an exhaustive list of treemapping software, check out this page.) Here’s a new version of SpaceMonger, one of my favorites, which is now officially out. Just to confuse you, it’s version 2.1, but that’s only because version 2.0 was never released.

Basically, treemaps create a box-like map of whatever it is you’re mapping — in this case, your hard drive. In the illustration above, you can see the bigger rectangles as folders, with the subfolders inside them. What’s the point? You can see at a glance how much space you’ve got left (the grey bit) and which folders, even which files, are taking up space. You can even use it as a file manager, since by clicking on a folder that zooms into the folder in question, and by clicking on a file you can launch it. Right clicking allows you to do things to the file, including delete it. It’s all pretty intuitive stuff.

SpaceMonger isn’t the only one out there doing this, but I like the way it does things.

 

A Directory of Visualizing Tools

Update Feb 2007: Just came across some cool stuff from digg labs (the guys behind digg) who haev some coold stuff I’ve added below.

In this week’s WSJ.com column I wrote (subscription only, I’m afraid) about treemaps, tools which allow you to look at data differently:

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.

A treemap “is a bunch of squares, arranged to form a mosaic. The size and color of each block mean something”. It’s probably easier to show it than to explain it:

Treemap
(from RoomforMilk, see below)

The size of blocks indicate, in this case, the popularity of each subject, shades and color indicate how recent the topic has been updated. Click on one and more information appears. Best is to check them out: they’re intuitive and fun to use. Really.

Here’s some links (yes I know this should be in the form of a treemap, but I’m not that clever) from the column and some stuff I wasn’t able to put in for reasons of space (Yes, I am aware of the irony. Yell at my editor): 

  • stack a vertical bar chart of activity, with the stories themselves moving way too fast down the screen (from digg labs)
  • digg’s bigspy an impressive scrolling list of stories, size dictated by the number of diggs.
  • swarm another digg offering. not sure what this does, actually, but it looks cute.
  • Panopticon a leading supplier of professional Visual Business Intelligence to the financial services industry as well as other fields of business. Download their free Panopticon Explorer .NET Learning Edition which lets you view treemaps of files, processes, event logs and spreadsheets.
  • Marcus Weskamp’s excellent newsmap
  • Peet’s Coffee Selector good example of a treemap at work for consumers
  • RoomforMilk lovely looking treemap of Slashdot headlines, or as the website puts it — “RoomforMilk.com is a news feed pasteurizer and homogenizer featuring Slashdot News Headlines. RoomforMilk is not even 2% affiliated with Slashdot.org.” Colors and shades indicate new/old (fresh/stale) stories, blocks indicate keywords.
  • del.icio.us most popular treemap from codecubed very cool-looking map of the most popular links from social bookmarking tool del.ico.us, by derek gottfrid.
  • Microsoft Treemapper with Excel Add-In. Simple tool “to view hierarchical data conveniently from an Excel file.”
  • Wikipedia World Population in a treemap by The Hive Group, as a demonstration of their Honeycomb technology. Very absorbing. Check out their views of iTunes’ Top 100 and Amazon.
  • NewsIsFree also uses Honeycomb.
  • CNET News’ Hot page.
  • Great recent piece by Ben Shneiderman, inventor of the treemap. Didn’t get to talk to him but I hope to at some point.
  • Wikipedia entry on Treemapping.
  • Grokker search, a kind of treemap. (Thanks to a reader of the column for that.)
  • WSJ’s Map of the Market, from SmartMoney. Uses Java, but pretty cool.

And, some software to visualize your hard drive (Windows, unless stated)

  • FolderSizes strictly speaking not really a treemap, but a good way to visualize your drives via pie charts. “It can quickly isolate large, old, temporary, and duplicate files, or even show file distribution by type, attributes, or owner. All with multiple export formats, command-line support, shell context menu integration, and much more.” $40, free trial.
  • SizeExplorer Features include folder size, graphical charts, file distribution statistics and reports (by size, extension, type, owner, date, etc.), biggest files, network support, snapshots, file management, printing of file listing, compress into ZIP file, exports to Excel, html, xml and text files, etc. $16-45
  • DiskView another pie chart approach, but useful. DiskView integrates into your Windows Explorer, pretty well. New version also indicates how fragmented files are , and, if your hard disk supports it, its health
  • SpaceMonger my favorite space-hogger hunter. Does a great job of mapping your hard drives and showing you what is taking up space. New version out soon, I’m told.
  • DiskAnalyzer Similar to FolderSizes, though not as pretty. Free tho.
  • WinDirStat free program which will create a treemap of your drive(s), based on the KDirStat for the K Desktop Environment, an interface for UNIX.
  • DiskInventory X similar to WinDirStat/KDirStat, for Macs
  • SequoiaView similar to the above. Linked to the company MagnaView, which sells commercial versions of its treemapping software “take input from virtually any information system, file or database, and support the development of an impressive range of visualizations”. (thanks, Michael.)

You can also see a bunch of posts I’ve done on different kinds of newsmaps, including some interviews with folk like Marcus Weskamp and Craig Mod, creator of Buzztracker, here. I’m sure I’ve missed lots; please do let me know either by email or comments.

 
 

NewsIsFree’s NewsMap

Another cool NewsMap, this one in the form of a treemap from NewsIsFree:

NewsKnowledge and The Hive Group have joined forces to bring you News Maps, visual maps of the NewsIsFree headline database. News Maps allow you to quickly scan dozens of news articles and instantly understand what’s being reported all over the world.

Each square in the News Map is an article. You can obtain additional detail on each article by moving your mouse over it. You can read an article by clicking on it.

The Hive Group’s Honeycomb algorithm organizes news headlines by source. Size and Color information indicate article age and popularity (described below). You can easily filter and rearrange you results to view articles that meet certain criteria, or that contain certain text.

We hope you enjoy our News Maps and encourage you to explore these new tools. We hope that News Maps will allow you to access news more quickly and comprehensively than you ever thought possible.

Not the most beautiful example of the genre (my own favourite is still newsmap) but still good to see people experimenting with different representations of news. 

The Blogosphere (Tree)mapped

I was intrigued by this effort to count the number of blogs around the world and offer a break down by region, if not country. The results, though very rough, and which include large slabs of the world (like South America), offer up some interesting conclusions, particularly for Asia. Bottom line is that there is a huge chunk of the world blogging outside the English language.

Here, just the hell of it, is a rough treemap I put together of the data provided by The Blog Herald’s Duncan:

Blogs5

The overall total is in the 60 million mark (and of course this figure is open to questioning, as it was by my colleague at WSJ.com, Carl the numbers guy). The pink covers the very broad figure of those U.S-based blog hosters, and includes speculative figures for the UK, Australasia etc. Light blue is Asia — the bits too small to have their labels visible are for South and South East Asia, both roughly host to 1 million bloggers each, and the much smaller, redder boxes cover Russia, Africa and the Middle East. The darker blue box is France.)

Even if the South Korean figure is off, there’s still a striking element to all this, which I think sometimes gets lost in the blogosphere noise: Asians are blogging in their own languages in huge numbers, roughly equal to the ‘Anglophone’ world, and yet there’s very little crossover between these groups, or even among them. Worthy of a closer look, methinks.

On News Visualization, Part III

This week’s Loose Wire column in WSJ is about visualizing news. Researching the column I had a chance to interview Marcos Weskamp, the guy behind the very cool newsmap, who is setting up a studio specializing in interface design and information visualization for the web called B2 inc (no website available yet).

Here’s an edited transcript of our chat:

Jeremy: what are you doing in japan at the moment?
marcos weskamp: well Ive just moved back here. I’m setting up a small interaction design office.
Jeremy: i see… why japan?
marcos weskamp: I had been living here for around 7 years before. I’m originally from argentina, I came under a scholarhip from the japanese government to study graphic design. When I finished I stayed working and so I was until november last year when I moved to italy to do a graduate program in interaction design.
Jeremy: ah i see. could you quickly update me on newsmap? why you did it, what you think it offers over other interfaces, whether you have plans to develop it further, etc?
marcos weskamp: sure
marcos weskamp: newsmap was basically born after I saw googlenews. Again, I’m from argentina, so my mother tongue is spanish, I speak english since I was 5 and I’ve learned to read and write japanese when I moved here.
marcos weskamp: so when it comes to reading the news, the web is my main source of information and I often read online newspapers in spanish, english or japanese, sometimes reading about the same story in several languages, trying to find what are the nuances that differ from each point of view
marcos weskamp: when googlenews came up I was dazzled, it was impressive. not only they agregated news from thousands of newspapers online, but also – this is the most impressive part – whenever they find the same story in several newspapers, no matter how different the actual text that makes the story is, they group them all under one single cluster
marcos weskamp: so if there’s 300 newspapers reporting about, say “Insurgent attacks in Irak” they’ll file them all under one group and tell you: theres 1357 articles related to this story now
marcos weskamp: now that particular number was what most interested me. that means if I sumed up the total number of articles, and started making percentages, I could somehow see, which stories where the ones that the media was mostly paying attention to
marcos weskamp: now, in googlenews, today you have a total of 22 countries
marcos weskamp: inside each of them  you’ll find 7 categories: world, national, business, sci/tech, sports, enternatinment and health
marcos weskamp: so when I thought about visualizaing all of the articles inside googlenews, I came into treemaps
marcos weskamp: treemaps is a visual layout algorithm developed by Proffessor Ben Shneiderman from the University  of Maryland
marcos weskamp: Treemaps are used to create space constrained visualizations of quantitative hyerarchical data. Shneiderman originally thought about treemaps to visualize the content of his hard disk. If you think about it In your hard disk you have folders that have folders that have folders that have files
marcos weskamp: that structure is hyerarchical, and those files have a quantitative value; the k size of each of them
marcos weskamp: through a treemap then he could easilly find which where the files or folders that where taking the most space in is hard disk
Jeremy: (i’ve played with a couple such programs, like spacemonger…)
marcos weskamp: in the same way, in googlenews you have countries, that have sections, that have articles. the quantitative value is the ammount of related articles for each news story
marcos weskamp: so I then thought about visualizing the all the content of googlenews in one screen, using a treemap.
marcos weskamp: though I never thought newsmap would replace google news, I simply made it so that I could see, in a quick glance, which where the most important stories at the moment, and also be able then to compare how much attention media in each country gives to each news story
marcos weskamp: what I also found later was well how do different countries look at news. for example if you go to the US, you’ll see that most of the times, the US gives more importance to national news than international news
marcos weskamp: all other countries mostly report about international news
marcos weskamp: except italy where you’ll find that sports news always takes the most space;)
Jeremy: naturally!
marcos weskamp: in a way you can see how much we are all Biased through US centric media

Jeremy: do you plan to develop it further?
marcos weskamp: yes, definitivelly. I’m working on it:)
Jeremy: what kind of plans do you have?
marcos weskamp: well, I have to add all countries now present in the agreggator. from a data perspective that’s no problem. it only means there’s more html to process (I’m  not using the google api)
marcos weskamp: but in the front end I need to change the interface a little bit, and also it’s tough to display asian characters cleanly in flash without a hughe download. I’m looking into alternatives now. there will be other features like being able to reverse the treemap, so that you can find which stories where burried by the big news.
marcos weskamp: there’s also a java version in the works which allows me to display the actual shift of the news throughout the whole week. but well I hope you’ll see it when I publish it sometime later

Jeremy: do you see this kind of thing hitting the big time? replacing the way people view their news online ?
marcos weskamp: not really. again I never pretended to replace the aggregator. this is simply a visualization that gives you a different perspective of what’s inside googlenews.
marcos weskamp: I like to think about it as a complement to googlenews;)

Thanks, Marcos.

Mapping The News

I’m a recent convert to treemaps — a way of presenting information in block form, where the block denote areas of information which can then be drilled through to reach the underlying text, pictures or whatever. It’s best explained by seeing an example.

Anyway, here’s a great example of a treemap, applied to news (thanks Marc’s Outlook on Productivity, in turn from Ole’s Critical Section). Created by Marcos Weskamp, the newsmap draws on Google’s news aggregator to take the treemap concept a stage further “and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.”

I’m still hunting for software that can take all the documents on my hard-drive and turn them into a treemap. The closest I’ve found is the excellent SpaceMonger from Sean Werkema, which does a wonderful job of allowing you to see what’s taking up space on your disks, hard and otherwise.

Is Thinking Small The Future Of Software?

Is there a future for small, niche software?

Clay Shirky thinks so, based on his work at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he found that students were ignoring the idea of writing big, scaleable, software for the world (the ‘Web School’) they were developing small, very specific programs — ‘situated software’, as Clay calls it — which is ”designed for use by a specific social group, rather than for a generic set of ‘users’.”

Among the programs they wrote: one to describe and rate professors, one to coordinate group restaurant orders, another to coordinate group purchases of items where discounts could be obtained for bulk orders. Sounds parochial? You bet. That’s the idea.

“This, strangely, is a kind of progress, not because situated software will replace other kinds of applications, but because it mostly won’t. For all the value we get out of the current software ecosystem, it doesn’t include getting an application built for a handful of users to use for a few months. Now, though, I think we’re starting to see a new software niche, where communities get form-fit tools for very particular needs, tools that fail most previous test of design quality or success, but which nevertheless function well, because they are so well situated in the community that uses them.”

I don’t know enough to be able to say whether this is a broader trend, but I’d like to think it is. There’s a dozen things I wish my computer could do, from building chronologies to providing a ‘treemap’-style zoomworld of all the data I’ve collected over the years — which I’m sure very few other people would be interested in, but which would be of great use to a narrow few into that kind of thing. In the future, I’m sure, someone in my position would just sit down and code such programs myself in the evenings, maybe selling a few copies, maybe giving away a few.

Sadly I’m not smart enough to do that, but perhaps the future, as Clay suggests, will be a world full of people who program, rather than programmers, and the software ecosystem will be far, far more diverse than it is now. I hope so.