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Making Sense of Mountains of Data

By Technology Review

February 25, 2010

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"How do you take a big collection of things and make sense out of it?" asks Gary Flake, founder and director of Microsoft Live Labs, a division of the software giant that designs experimental Web tools. The problem is becoming more common, even for the average user, because the Web makes huge quantities of information readily available.

Flake's lab's answer to this question is Pivot, a tool released to the public earlier this month in conjunction with a demonstration Flake gave at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA.

Pivot presents data in the form of a collection of images accompanied by textual data. Sorting through data collated from Wikipedia, for example, means creating thumbnail images to accompany that information. The user can zoom into this collage of images to see individual pieces of data more closely, or zoom out to see items grouped according to various criteria. Though other tools can be used to organize data in various configurations, Flake hopes that Pivot's simple and intuitive graphical interface will help insights about the data to pop out visually.

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