I often get asked the process behind data visualization. Specifically people are curious to know about the tools used. While I’m a big fan of tools, I am a sucker for good old ways of ‘power of thinking’ and ‘power of dreaming’. So, here goes the detailed process behind data visualization.
It starts with a blank sheet of paper, a pencil, an eraser and a calm mind.
Pencil, eraser and paper are easy to find and get; however, a calm mind is very difficult! You can neither buy it nor find it at will. One can only thrive at the right environment and general work culture that enables calm mind. The outcome of a calm mind is the ability to think from first principles and to make fresh cross subject connections.
When it comes to data, this means:
- To think about the origin of data.
- Can different data sets be generated from the source?
- Is this basic data or derived data.
Once that thought is processed, next thought experiment is:
- Dive into the role of end-user of these data visualization. What information will he die for?
- Then dream up crazy and fun data twists.
- Now pick (or condense) only one of the thought that excites you personally.
Once the thought experiment is done, look down at the blank sheet paper and start doodling with the pencil.
No, you will not get it the first time.
Nor the second! Not even the third. Keep trying till you do.
Voila, finally you will get it.
After this you can pick your favourite tool. We at Report Bee use R, Python, Rails and JS Visualization library.
They say that between reality and dreams, lies a void. It is a place of peace, where you only exist as a presence, forced to sense the emptiness around you, but not to see, to hear or to breathe. Seems like fiction? That is how it feels when you get blacked out after intoxication. On a Monday night in November, I was experiencing the void with my friend. There was a twinging sensation just above my right knee. As the annoyance rose, I tried figuring out what was happening. Suddenly, it hit me. No no, not truth. Truth generally punches you squarely in the middle of your face. This was different. Just moments before I looked down, the golden streaks of Athena struck me. I realized that it was my phone. Picking up the call, I heard a familiar voice. It was Vinod instructing me to join as an intern by the next day. The reminiscence of the times I had planning with my friend to chill out struck me hard.
Coming to the internship phase, a few minutes of talk with Ananth and Boom! I instantly knew that I would be spending the next month with an inspiring team. Few days of boring Happiness Factor exercises and SAT videos made me lose interest. Before we go any further, let me tell more about myself. I am pursuing Production Engineering in National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli. Though my course work is towards the manufacturing side, I always wanted to learn coding. Then why did I choose Production Engineering? Well, in NIT there is a famous saying I would like to quote here: “you don’t get to choose the department in NIT. The department chooses you”. On Week 2, Bala with his monotonous voice tells me that my project will be to build an app called the Happiness Monitor. After discussing with him, he suggested me to work with ‘R’. I was still sceptical, but this is what I always wanted to do.
“When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it”.
The above quote made perfect sense to me. After a few weeks and a lot of learning I did get something to boast about to Bala. It’s that time of the year when everything seems to come to a standstill except what you have always wanted to. Time.
Reflecting upon those brilliant days as an intern, there is one thing I have certainly learnt. It may sound clichéd but it is a fact. Report Bee is the perfect concoction of fun and learning for an intern.
It’s time for me to tell the word. It is, after all, only a word. A construct, created of seven letters. The word may be artificial, but what it represents is as realistic as the mind that reads these letters. Goodbye. It’s time for me to go back to Trichy where the grass is greener. What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us, live life to the fullest.
(Taken from Sivapakasam’s mail to Report Bee Team.)