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Miso Project Offers Open Source Tools for Data Visualization

The Guardian announced the release of the first part of the Miso project, an open source toolkit for creating data visualization content.

In a blog post on The Guardian site last week, developer Alex Graul explained that part one of the Miso project is a JavaScript library called Dataset:

One of the most common patterns we've found while building JavaScript-based interactive content is the need to handle a variety of data sources such as JSON files, CSVs, remote APIs and Google Spreadsheets. Dataset simplifies this part of the process by providing a set of powerful tools to import those sources and work with the data. Once data is in a Dataset, it becomes simple to select, group, and calculate properties of, the data. Additionally, Dataset makes it easy to work with real-time and changing data, which pose one of the more complex challenges to data visualization work.

Graul says that the Miso project was funded by the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation in collaboration with Bocoup, an open web technology company.

The Dataset page on the project site shows examples of the visualizations, such as UK Government Cabinet Office spending in the 2010/2011 financial year.

The government spending example uses d3 and backbone.js to build an interactive treemap and illustrates grouping and selecting data and remote data files.

And if this example is along the lines of what you need to do your own visualization project, you can just hop over to its github page and fork the code.

Another example shows how you could query Twitter for a specific URL, such as the term "javascript," and then plot a stacked bar chart with Rickshaw, a JavaScript toolkit for creating interactive real-time graphs:

The data is then manipulated slightly to keep track of how many different types of punctuations are used. On the first request, a new derived group by dataset is created that only contains counts for the punctuations available. As new data comes into the original dataset, the group by is automaticaly updated. When the group by is updated it fires off a change event on which we render an updated chart.

"The Guardian is committed to Open Journalism and the Miso libraries are part of a process of building a truly open interactive journalism, where we not only make raw data available to the public but also open up the 'full stack' — from data processing tools and scripts to the visualisation tools used to create the final output," Graul says.

Dataset is released under a dual MIT and GPLv2 license.

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