I’ve been looking into various data visualization methodologies since graduating from college in 2008. I started using Processing during that course work after reading “Visualizing Data” by Ben Fry, a Java based library, to map out earthquake data pulled from the USGS web services. The library is really cool and you can do a lot of crazy stuff like integrating Arduino projects directly using the Processing API.
Nice but I wanted something a little more specific to analysis. After reading “Data Visualization” by Nathan Yau however I came across a thing called “R.” Initially I was thinking ‘oh, it’s a client side application… why not just take all the fun out of it and use Excel?” Wrong. R is an Open Source scripting language that is a lot fun to work with.
I usually fall back on USGS for personal prototyping while learning new technologies but I wanted to use R for something more personal. One of my goals this year sort of crept up on me when I kept hearing my colleagues struggling with the volume of information I send out via email. It’s my learning process. I get really excited about technology. Sort of streaming. Totally ineffective over email.
That’s when I started listening to suggestions from my team and reading up on effective ways of communicating a lot of info in small pieces. The target was fewer emails. As a fun reporting project I brought up Visual Studio 2012 and Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook. Created a data object to hold the meta-data of a sent message and stored them in an IEnumerable. Then I wrote it all out to MySQL for the period of a rolling year to date. Once there I used a simple R Plot to generate a graph to see how I was doing.
Fun thing with this was that I got to play with R a little bit more and use a little of the MS Office API… and it looks like I’m making some progress toward not burying my team in information. Score!