25 September 2011

It Ain't The Meat

Back in the 70's a married lady (but not to me) of my acquaintance had a preternatural affinity for the Maria Muldaur song, "It Ain't The Meat It's The Motion". Nothing to do with me, I'll warrant. It was the 70's, of course, and it means what you think it does. Still true today, but the context relevant to this endeavor is a bit different. Welllll, may be a whole lot different.

One of the neat aspects of R is the ability to talk to most any other application, and vice-versa. R is, justly, known for the support for graphical display of statistical data. googleVis is an R package which links R to the Google Visualization API, empowering "moving" data in an html page. I've not played with it yet, but here's a sample from a blogger who has. Yet another case where the R community builds spectacularly useful widgets for the rest of us to exploit. Who said open source is anti-American communism? For the record, at least little Darl.

A few years back, I was involved with Business Objects, building dashboards. But using BO requires building a shadow schema of the RDBMS it talks to, and runs as its own application; generally a pain in the butt. With R, and PL/R with Postgres, one can drive the data and statistical analysis applications through the database. With googleVis, one can create animated graphs into the browser. Very cool. And his talk was on my birthday. Damn, I missed it.

The advantage of moving graphics is that this is a way to display higher dimension data; using bubble charts and animation, we get four dimensions, the bubble size and the motion axis (classically, time).

There are other plotting packages, beyond the base plot() functions, but I'd be willing to say that googleVis is the least difficult of the bunch. It does mean that it's for browser applications.

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