Informavore: The Best in DataPorn

Tis’ the season for “Best of” articles and AustinStartup is no exception, in this case with data visualization tools. I was initially inspired to compile this list based on Wired’s Mark Horowitz article in Edge that says “the biggest challenge of the Petabyte Age won’t be storing all that data, it’ll be figuring out how to make sense of it.” Making sense of our growing amounts of data is critical, so I want to explore some of the more useful data visualization tools, which help us do just that.

Data visualization is a technique to graphically represent sets of data. It’s used most often with datasets that are so insanely large or abstract that only a visual aid can help you read or understand their meaning.

The data visualization landscape is fairly diverse – ranging from tools for networks, music, online communities, photos, or the entire Web itself. Before compiling this list, we considered a few criteria including – interactivity, beauty, functionality, and meaningfulness. Below is list of our personal favorite data visualization tools for a range of tasks:


Flare is all about interactivity. If you don’t get too caught up in the pretty moving charts and graphs, you can see that they support an amazing toolkit of functions – data management, visual encoding, animation, and interaction.


Part of the widget gallery, Last.forward is an open source software for analyzing and visualizing social networks.


One of my favorites – the Fidg’t desktop application lets you view your social networks habits. You can see what music they are into or even what kinds of pictures they are taking.


Opte lets you graphically map the Internet. The data represented and collected on this site is then used to: model the Internet, analyze wasted IP space, or detect the result of natural disasters, weather, and war.

Akamai Technologies

Akami’s tools are an interesting way to see the web in real time.


Helps you discover new artists based on what you already like – sort of like a visual display of your Pandora.

Want more evidence for what data visualization tools are the most useful? Or even, what kind of data could be best used to create these graphs and charts? A local company, New Media Consortium, conducted a survey based on what tools, data, and use cases are best for data visualization.

The results of their survey are pretty interesting and help bubble up some of the more specialized visualizing tools, techniques, and uses out there.


  1. This is good stuff, Royal. Thanks. It's giving me some ideas for Gelato.


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