Visualizing in Space

One of the really interesting things that we are able to do as developers and DBAs is help find ways to analyze data for our clients and customers. Many of us might not have expertise in the actual areas that are represented by our data, the industry specific knowlege, but those of us that will be the most successful in the future at our jobs will be able to work with the people that have that specific knowledge and need help to implement the analysis.

That will take some practice. I’d encourage many of you to start playing with some sort of data that you are interested in and try to perform some analysis. Whether it’s useful or just for fun, you will be gaining some skills in both analysis and presentation that will serve you at some point.

There are so many sets of data available for practice that you can probably find something in an area that’s interesting to you. I don’t know if you could get the cool spatial data set seen in this talk, but there are certainly sports sets available, open data sets from government, movies, entertainment, and more.

Working with a set of data that intrigues you is a way to enhance the very skills that you’ll want to have to help your employer. Building reports, visualizations, and more is a technique to show value to your current employer. It’s also a great way to showcase your talents on a blog that might just get you an inquiry or interview for an amazing next job.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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Presenting Data

Many of us that develop or manage database systems are concerned with the actual bits and bytes that compromise data. However our clients and customers are more interested in the information, in gaining knowledge from the numbers, strings, and dates that are kept in our database tables.

I really think that one of those things that can truly allow a developer or DBA to show their employer they are valuable to the organization. Employees prove this when they can retrieve information in a way that clients find valuable. Not that we, as the technical people value, but in the ways that clients find valuable.

This doesn’t mean you need to learn PowerBI or PowerPivot or any other Power tools, but that you learn how to present the data you work with in the best way you can. Whether that’s in an SSRS report, an Excel worksheet you email around, or a complex visualization, all of these formats have one thing in common: a query. One of the best things you can do as a developer or DBA is ensure you can write efficient queries that assemble data from a variety of tables in different formats. Queries that retrieve data that can answer a question or reveal a pattern.

Learning how to build a fancy visualization is great, but be flexible. If you get the opportunity, work with a new technology and develop some comfort, take it. However make sure that above everything else you can get the data sets to the end user. Clients can always use their own tools, but the efficiency and performance they experience will often come down to your query writing skills.

Make sure you are constantly improving those skills.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.0MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.


A few years ago I went to a seminar from Edward Tufte that talked about information and how we can better present it to people to convey information and help make better decisions. I was fascinated by the talk, loved many of the examples, and then didn’t get to do much with it. I found that it was hard to come up with ways to convey lots of information, and more importantly, it was time consuming to try and build incredibly dense visualizations.

I thought this graphic of Napoleon’s army and this one of the Salyut 6 flight were interesting, but I wasn’t sure how they’d translate to any of the business world’s I’d worked in. However, I know I’ve seen some very helpful infographics and visualizations over the years, and I’m sure you have as well. This week, I’m wondering:

What is an infographic (or visualization) that you found to be both visually pleasing and very useful?

It could be an animation, a static image, or something else. I know a couple of the videos I’ve seen were amazing. One of Europe’s borders and another of nuclear detonations presented a lot of information in a very eye-catching way. I also enjoyed this one on traffic.

Let us know which ways of presenting information or visualizing data have been most noticeable by you.

Steve Jones

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Cool Data Visualization

I attended a course from Edward Tufte a few years ago on Data Visualization, and while I learned some neat things, I never was able to implement them well. I think part of it is a complete lack of an art gene in my person, but I do keep it in mind sometimes and would like to actually implement some of the ideas in his books.

Today someone at Red Gate posted a link to this very cool data visualization on wind. It shows the wind speeds on days for the entire US, but in a very visual way. This is what it looks like, but if you go to the site, you’ll see it animated.


There’s also a gallery of some days in the past to view.

It’s neat because unlike a chart, or a static picture, you can easily see where wind is flowing, and the intensity for a large area. You can zoom in to see what the speeds are in a particular area.