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New Data App Helps Reporters Make Sense of Time

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, July 30 2010

This is a little more process-oriented than our normal fare, but it's intriguing stuff. TimeFlow is a new analytical timeline tool aimed at reporters as a way of extracting journalistic meaning from giant caches of data by plotting against time, which can of course be critically important. (Can't help but wonder what this would mean when applied to the Wikileaks data dump.) The team behind TimeFlow is Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, who co-created Many Eyes while at IBM, and Sarah Cohen, a former Washington Post reporter now teaching at Duke:

The motivation behind TimeFlow comes from Sarah’s realization that visual analytical tools for reporters are rare. There are good visual presentation tools out there, but those that allow journalists to mull over hundreds and thousands of data points, slicing and dicing the information as they go along are harder to come by. Given this mandate, we set out to rethink timelines, striving to always show as much textual detail about the data as possible (a goal dear to reporters that, interestingly, goes against the visualization impulse to always aggregate).

TimeFlow is an open-source Java desktop application, still in alpha, but you can download it here.