Data is mind-altering. It's the new oil. No, it's the new soil.

I just watched a terrific TED Talk by David McCandless called "The Beauty of Data Visualization." David McCandless is a writer, designer, and author of the book, "The Visual Miscellaneum." (You can follow him on Twitter here.) This video is dated August, 2010.


In this video, McCandless uses visualizations to draw some very interesting conclusions about billion-dollar spending (in his "Billion Dollar-o-Gram"); Americans' fears as indicated by mentions in the media (his "Mountains Out of Molehills" chart); peak breakup times during the year (as indicated by Facebook status updates); and the evidence for nutritional supplements (his "Snake Oil?" graphic).

Some of the points McCandless makes about the importance and power of data visualization are perfectly relevant to QlikView's place in the world. My favorites:

  • Data is the new soil. McCandless talked about a phrase he hears a lot: "Data is the new oil." The phrase is supposed to mean that data is a ubiquitous resource we can shape to provide new innovations and new insights . . . that it's all around us and can be mined very easily. This phrase is a little out of date, so McCandless has a new adaptation: "Data is the new soil." Data a fertile, creative medium. Visualizations and infographics are the flowers blooming from this medium.
  • Data experimentation and connections lead to new insights. If you start working with visualizations, and playing with data, interesting patterns can be revealed. If you ask the right kind of question or work it in the right way, interesting things can emerge. Absolute figures in a connected world don't show you the whole picture. They're not as true as they could be. We need relative figures, connected to other data. This that can lead to us changing our perspective.
  • Visualization is the answer to information overload. The solution to "data glut" is using our eyes more. It is visualizing information so we can see the patterns and connections that matter. And designing visualizations so they make more sense, or tell a story, or allow us to share only the information that's important. The eye is exquisitely sensitive to patterns and shapes. By combining the language of the eye (visualization) with the language of the mind (words and numbers), you get two languages working at the same time, each enhancing the other. We can use this new kind of language to alter our perspective and change our views.

If you get a chance to watch this video, let me know what you think!