Thursday, July 04, 2013

Interactive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray: Book review

Interactive Data Visualization for the WebInteractive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really a d3.js (Data Driven Documents) book, since the entire book is about using the d3 Javascript library for data visualization. For me, coming in with a background in data analysis but no practical Javascript background, this provided a good overview of many Javascript/web concepts required then the d3 library.

My background in data visualization is R (ggplot and lattice) and Python (Matplotlib). I find Excel too limiting and Matlab inflexible. But what I'm used to are descriptions of visualizations that are then implemented. d3 is different, it makes you specify the form of the visualization and makes you work at a very low level (which is what ggplot and Matplotlib are trying to avoid). But this provides room for great creativity, and learning how to do this is the point of this book.

This book does a good job of introducing enough of the background technologies of Javascript and the web to make d3.js useful. This was always the reason I never got around to actually using Javascript, I never learned all the things you needed to know to make it useful. For example, I now think I understand JSON well enough that I can see using it as a data store for data frames instead of CSV or SQLite or pickles (Python).

I come at this as someone who already does data analysis, but may need more ways of delivering the products of the analysis to others. And this has promise as a means of this delivery through a browser, which is already comfortable for most. And this book does a good job of working both the subject of d3.js and the web ecosystem that it is a part of to get to someplace useful.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Program

View all my reviews at Goodreads.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program
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