Are We Beauty Obsessed Even in Visualizing Data?

5 Kitties Need Homes, 4 Cute, 1 Ugly. Who went home first?

I found this picture on on flickr by Bethany King and couldn't resist. I would probably pick the ugly one and give it all the catnip it wanted but we all know that the cute ones are probably the ones that in the long run got the most treats.

Showing live 'clickable' examples of something that i am trying to explain is usually the way to go - especially if I am not sitting around a conference room with the 'all powering' whiteboard around to draw pretty pictures (i am actually a horrible artist but that's a whole other conversation!). During those meetings if the examples are 'pretty' and demonstrate the point i am trying to make - then even better because who doesn't like 'cute and pretty'?

A typical meeting with a prospect who is trying to fully grasp the benefits of a taxonomy might lead to a conversation about some of the benefits of taxonomy in search. At this point I might discuss the following four items, proving specific examples for each :

  • Search Relevancy
  • Search Completeness
  • Search Federation
  • Search Visualization

When i get to the last item on the list I usually start discussing some of the differences when a searcher 'knows that they are looking for' versus when they are more interested in finding what they need through 'serendipitous discovery' and that visualization of search results is a great way to present large data sets that the users can quickly browse through to find the information they need because visualization technologies allow searchers to:
* spot a trend
* look for patterns and relationships
* quickly & efficiently synthesize data

So right about now you are reading this and asking what the heck has this to do with cute and ugly kittens? not much really, i just got a kick out of the picture as i began to think about our obsessions with beauty even when visualizing data.

Well it is right about now in the conversation that i have to show them something 'pretty' that demonstrates that having a robust scalable Taxonomy can enable search visualization. To do that, instead of drawing it up on the whiteboard with my childish boxes and arrows i pull up Factiva Search 2.0 one of the Dow Jones destination products that beautifully demonstrates the value that having a fully vetted taxonomy commonly applied across 10,000 sources in 22 languages can provide.

Here is a quick video as a run a search on 'beer' and show how the taxonomy assigned to the 60,000 plus search results allows me to quickly discover with one news search who the top companies, top industries and news subjects are in the world related to this topic in the news. [view in full view]