June 14, 2011
From across the nation, local, regional and state data partners have collaborated with a team of 20 faculty and graduate students at one of the world’s top data visualization labs in the Open Indicators Consortium to create Weave (Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment), a high performance web-based open source software platform. Weave allows users to explore, analyze, visualize and disseminate data online from any location at any time.
The Open Indicator Consortium’s goal is to transform publicly available data into visually compelling and actionable indicators to inform public policy and community-based decision makers. Since 2008, the Open Indicators Consortium (OIC) has brought together technical and academic experts, data providers and data users. With its technical lead and partner the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Institute for Visualization and Perception Research, the OIC is soft-launching Weave 1.0 BETA in preparation for the official release of Weave 1.0 in the mid-fall.
The Weave core code is being released under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3), and the Weave API under the Mozilla Public License (MPL v 1.1).
Full documentation is available through www.oicweave.org. The code is available for download now at http://ivpr.github.com/Weave/. These releases provide all that is needed to implement Weave.
Founding and primary partners in the Open Indicators Consortium (OIC) include: Metro Atlanta – the Atlanta Community Foundation, Atlanta United Way, Atlanta Regional Commission and Emory University; Metro Boston/Massachusetts – the Boston Indicators Project at the Boston Foundation, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care; Metro Chicago – the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Association (CMAP); Mid-Ohio – Community Research Partners and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in Columbus; Metro Seattle – Public Health - Seattle & King County; Arizona - Arizona Indicators, a project managed by Morrison Institute for Public Policy with major support from Arizona State University and the Arizona Community Foundation; Connecticut – Connecticut Data Collaborative, a project managed by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center; and Rhode Island – the Rhode Island Department of Education and Providence Plan. Additional partners are on board to join soon. For information on joining OIC, go to www.oicweave.org.
The partners raised a mix of local, state and federal public and private grant funds to support the shared development effort. They represent a variety of scales, preferences and technical capacities, which allowed the University of Massachusetts Lowell development team to build on years of work in the related fields of data democratization, community indicators and government performance measurement and analysis and visualization for regional and neighborhood planning, community decision-making and public policy formulation. Together, the founding and new primary partners govern the Consortium, support and shape design priorities and provide continuous testing and feedback to advance the software’s development.
The Weave platform was developed by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Institute for Visualization and Perception Research directed by Professor of Computer Science Georges Grinstein, a world class expert with decades of government and commercial software experience. With a team of twenty talented and deeply committed masters and doctoral students from around the world—and in collaboration with the university’s Center for Industrial Competitiveness--Grinstein worked closely with OIC members over two and a half years to develop Weave’s cutting-edge features and functions.
As a result of this uniquely participatory, collaborative and ―agile‖ development process, Weave is a highly flexible and robust application development platform designed to support multiple levels of user proficiency – from novice to advanced. Weave also offers the capacity to integrate, visualize and disseminate data at nested levels of geography.
The OIC and University of Massachusetts Lowell encourage interested developers and users of data visualization tools to join us in testing and further developing this innovative open source data analysis and visualization platform.
Key features of Weave are its high performance, high-speed interaction and ease of use. Current architectural features and new applications will advance identified and still-to-be-finalized priorities for version 2.0, to be released in 2012, and version 3.0, slated for release in 2013. Professor Grinstein explains that, ―the differentiating aspects of Weave – rarely available in web-based visualizations – are its capacity for performance, interaction, and the use of session states to control visualization. These establish the architecture for future developments related to session history and collaboration. A key goal was to read data rapidly, draw data quickly, and respond to user interactions within a few seconds (ideally less than one). These distinctive interactions and rapid-response aspects are combined with innovative features such as Session State and API, Incremental Compression of Shape Files, Continuous Zoom, and Visualization Flexibility that are included in the open source release.
Data Access and Upload
Weave supports site administrator and user control over degrees of data accessibility. Features include constraints and controls for uploading and viewing data. Version 1.0 supports access of client data, data transport via the web and data display.
Weave allows the user to upload data from a server-based MySQL or Postgres database or locally stored spreadsheets in CSV or Excel formats. By using the administration console, the user is walked through the process of selecting visualizations and default settings. If data and shape files are available, data can be displayed at any level of granularity – from point data such as a lot level to Census Tract data, municipal, county, state and national data at the global scale.
Weave visualizations are linked. An action on any visualization highlights related areas on other displayed visualizations. For example, if the user interacts with particular data points on the scatterplot, related areas such as a map or histogram are also highlighted.
Links to Other Open Source Resources
Importantly for researchers, Weave links to other peer interfaces including the open source statistical platform ―R‖ for advanced analyses and research. Many OIC member sites are integrating Weave within web sites based on Django and Mediawiki and using GeoNode for management of geographic data.
Features in Development
Features still under development include collaboration across users, exposing the session history, automated reporting, the capacity for multiple color maps per visualization, ontology comparisons, and nested aggregations.
Engaging a Global Learning Community
Weave is designed to inform public discourse and policymaking, to stimulate innovation by programmers and developers everywhere, and to support community decision-making and government transparency and accountability. Once it is fully developed, Weave will enable policy makers, leaders, advocates, researchers, media professionals and the general public to end the cycle of being ―data rich but insight poor‖ as its community of users explore and communicate current conditions and trends, make local, regional, national and global comparisons, employ visualizations in old and new media and engage in real-time training and collaboration. To accelerate this work, the OIC is building a global learning community, beginning with current OIC members. The OIC welcomes new members and code contributors at various levels of effort and commitment. To learn how to participate in this collaborative effort, go to www.oicweave.org.
Contact: Georges Grinstein, University of Massachusetts Lowell, at firstname.lastname@example.org.