How a technical conference should be / representing data

This last week I attended “Information Making Sense of the Deluge” hosted by The Economist (on my own dime and time).


First, this was the best conference that I have attended in at least 20 years…

  • They had a strict “No Death by PowerPoint” policy.
  • Less than 300 participants and 60 speakers.
  • Talks and panel discussions were typically just 10 – 20 minutes each.
  • A massive number of awesome speakers.

Since we often present data, I should point folks to the works of Edward Tufte a Yale Emeritus Professor who is renowned for his data visualization and information design (see -- he is giving one-day courses in Seattle on the 20th and 21st of June). He has written publications on some of the problems with PowerPoints. These URLs will show some of his data visualizations:

Second, one presentation left me (the old statistician) drooling for the software. It was presented by JoAnn Kuchera-Morin of AlloSphere.


The presentation totally awed the audience (and this was a tough audience – Tim O’Reilly [O’Reilly Media], P.Warrior [CTO, Cisco], Vogel [CEO,Amazon], JP Rangaswami [Chief Scientist, SalesForce] etc etc etc].


A variety of data (from nuclear physics to the mind ) was shown as:

  • Three-D fly through changing with time [4 dimensions]
  • Surfaces were color coded by other values [5 dimensions]
  • Based on your location, still more data was heard as sound (data transform by Fournier into the audio range) – [6 dimensions]

I would strongly urge you to view some of results at

The item that jumped into my mind was “This would be a sweet way to do SQL Server performance analysis!”. Often analysis is currently done as 2D-charts via Excel. Microsoft has the technology to improve this greatly (and has had it since 1996) – my wife was a co-author on an Introduction Book to Active X and wrote the chapter on the what became DirectX). If someone is looking for a start up idea – look at commercializing their research for specific market segments.


There are better ways to present data then with an Excel X-Y plot


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