Microsoft Pivot is a new data exploration\visualization tool that allows rapid interaction with enormous sets of information. The tool’s capability is impressive, but some may say inevitable with the convergence of large data volumes, powerful databases, and web technologies. What is just as interesting is that Pivot, and tools like it, will change how we navigate, explore and come to understand information (why data visualization is important).
Pivot uses the metaphor of a collection. It seems each item in the collection has attributes that can be used to filter, or to distribute (think bar chart) the items in that collection. Collection items can also be linked to one another to rapidly navigate to similar items. Words really do not do this justice and you should look at the Pivot Demo or Gary Flake’s TED Talk on Microsoft Pivot. This tool moves at the speed of thought and when you follow a hunch you get a response back quickly that lets you continue without interruption.
When a user is able to work with data without their thought process being interrupted the “tool” starts to disappear. We have all heard the cliché that a car disappears and the driver is one with the road. This happens to users and analyst working with data as well.
This is not a complete new concept. Corporate analyst have had Cubes and other Data Warehousing systems provide them with similar capabilities. In general these have been expensive and developer intensive solutions. What Pivot and tools like offer is a way to bring this to the masses.
We will all become comfortable immersing ourselves in profession and personal data. It may be how you navigate your bank transactions or choose a school for your children. Your employer may expect you to use this skill for your job, or at least to clean out your inbox.
Data exploration with the help of new technologies will become mainstream in ways we cannot imagine today.