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Live Labs Pivot: A great way to visualize massive amounts of data

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Pivot is a new technology developed by Microsoft Live Labs that makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun.

Pivot is designed to provide a much more natural way for humans to digest large amounts of information without losing their way — an idea that anyone who has analyzed giant spreadsheets may welcome.

At the heart of Pivot are "Collections." They combine large groups of similar items, so you can begin viewing the relationships between individual pieces of information in a new way. By visualizing hidden patterns, Pivot enables you to discover new insights while interacting with thousands of things at once.

In the following presentation Gary Flake demos Pivot. This will give you a pretty good idea what this technology is about:

Gary Flake: is Pivot a turning point for web exploration? Watch this video on YouTube

Pivot’s most compelling feature is its ability to smoothly and quickly arrange collections according to common characteristics and then zoom in for a closer look, by either clicking on a particular item or filtering the collection to get a subset of information.

“We found that if you make it a sudden transition, people lose their way… but if you make it very smooth and continuous, people have a mental model of how they got to where they are.”

– Gary Flake

“With Pivot you can swim through the data, taking little twists and turns,” Flake says. “If you are looking at all the information at once, the proverbial forest, you can click on any one item or filter and smoothly zoom into the trees without any interruption.”

Because Pivot works with almost any kind of data, its potential uses are practically infinite. The key elements to designing a great Pivot collection are relatively simple: pick a subject matter with great images and interesting details, choose a small number of properties to filter on, and add links to related content.

The image content for a Pivot collection consists of a Deep Zoom Collection of individual Deep Zoom images, all based on Microsoft Seadragon technology.

Live Examples & Demos

Live Labs now also provides a Silverlight Pivot Viewer. This makes it possible to integrate Pivot into your own site and visualize Pivot collections without installation any additionally software (except the Silverlight plug-in). Here are some examples:

bSix12 – Explorer:

This site provides a Pivot view to explore all available blog posts. You can slice and sort the content by category, tag or date. Try the live version here.

Hitched Wedding Locations:

Hitched is a UK based wedding site that has thousands of wedding venues in the country. It now enables visitors to quickly browse and filter locations using PivotViewer.

Browse the site and give it a try.

Netflix Movie Collection:

It provides a nice example of how you can use PivotViewer to navigate a large set of information quickly and easily. You can use it to easily find and sort through all your favorite movies, and then navigate directly to the page on Netflix. Try it here.

If you like to create your own Pivot Collection read the developer documentation.

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