Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Data Visualization and Mashups: Tag Galaxy

Data visualization and mashups are both hot technology topics, and we might encounter and use them frequently without even recognizing them. Data visualization is simply the representation of data in visual form. Mashups may be defined very generally to mean the combination of elements to create new entities and services. Among other things, mashups might occur in Web applications, music, or videos. A good example of a Web application that embodies both data visualization and mashup technology is Tag Galaxy. It is one of many Web applications that take advantage of Flickr's open API (Application Program Interface), which allows third parties to access and manipulate images and data within Flickr to create new applications with novel functionality (i.e., mashups). Tag Galaxy invites you to search for a Flickr tag (a keyword that a Flickr user has assigned), and renders the search results of matching Flickr tags and related tags visually like a solar system (i.e., data visualization). This allows a user to observe the relationships among Flickr tags (and their associated images) in a novel and visually compelling way. This might prompt new image searches with previously unanticipated keyword combinations, which may in turn yield unexpected yet valuable search results.

The thumbnails shown here are from a search I conducted in Tag Galaxy with an initial tag query of ruins. The constellation of tag results include the terms temple, Rome, Italy, Mexico, castle, ancient, abandoned, and architecture (first image above). I selected temple, and in the next set of results chose angkorwat. On the following results (second image) I double clicked on the sun-like object representing the combination of tags I had followed, ruins+temple+angkorwat, and arrived at a "planet" comprised of images with these matching tags, which I can rotate with my mouse to observe in its entirety (third image). To see more search results I can scroll through more batches rendered in this "planet" form. I can click on any of the individual images to see a larger version and its title, with a link that take me to its home within Flickr.

Tag Galaxy and Cooliris (which I recently discussed here) are just two applications that use Flickr's API to search and display Flickr data in new ways. Some other useful tools are highlighted in the recent article by Ben Parr over at Mashable, titled 7 Totally Unique Flickr Search Tools.

No comments: