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Inf@Vis!

The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

Data for a visualisation
(on the fourth anniversary of InfoVis.net)
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 149]

InfoVis.net celebrates four years of life in cyberspace. Today we review its origins, the current situation and future plans, gathering data to build a visualization of what this site has been during this time.

InfoVisHome.gif (143763 bytes)
Front cover Infovis net. April 2002
Source:
InfoVis.net
Click on the image to enlarge it.

The first of July marked the fourth year since the official appearance in Internet of InfoVis.net’s website, although during the previous month of June it was already available during the test period. The same day the first delivery of the newsletter was sent to a small distribution list composed by friends and acquaintances, explaining the objectives of the website and soliciting the subscription to the newsletter. Both the website and the newsletter were born in bilingual format, in a Spanish and English version. 

To my surprise, my friends and acquaintances began to subscribe and the word of mouth apparently started to work since, little by little, the number of subscriptions began to grow without any further promotional action.

Subscription evolution

Over these four years 4224 persons have subscribed. Of them 943 receive the message in English and 2826 receive it in Spanish. 455 have cancelled the subscription and a number of around 300 have either changed or cancelled their e-mail account without formally cancelling the subscription.

In the beginning the message was sent on a weekly basis but since the summer of 2002 it has been done every 10 days due to fact that the systematic inclusion of graphics made it difficult to maintain the rhythm. Beginning in 2003 it changed to a bi-weekly basis in order to maintain the quality on one hand and to ensure the survival of the one who writes it on the other hand, since InfoVis.net is created, maintained and managed by only one person (except for the proofreading of the English version, that has been made during all this time by the kindness of Karen Fordham).

Served pages

Another aspect that has also been surprising to me is the evolution of the number of requested html pages, which you can see in the graphical version of this issue. It would be interesting to know the number of unique visits to the web, but this would imply tracking each individual user, in principle by asking them to identify (login), what is out of the scope of InfoVis.net at this moment. For this reason we have chosen the number of requested html pages, a measure that, at least, allows us to compare the evolution over time.

The maximum number of html pages served in one month took place during May 2004 with 60,622 and we are currently at around 57,000. Over the four years a total of 903,991 pages have been served from which nearly 52% (468,914) were served during the last twelve months. It’s also interesting to see that the average monthly growth is 13% and that the mean of the increase of one particular month compared to the same month of the year before is 257%, although during the last year it stabilised at around 200%

Pages.gif (14817 bytes) IncreaseYB.gif (14476 bytes)
Evolution of the number of html pages served monthly. You can notice that the growth can de assimilated to an exponential curve. There are noticeable oscillations around the trend. The data has been regularised to months of 30 days to make it comparable. The firste month 1876 pages were served while the last one (june) accounted for 56594 pages. (The abbreviations of the months are those of Spanish where e stands for january and the rest is the same as in English)
Source:  Logfile Analysis of InfoVis.net server logfiles
Click on the image to enlarge it.
Anual growth of the pages monthly pages served, per months. The chart shows the ratio between the number of pages served during one month regarding those served the same month one year before. You can see that, after the logical initial oscillations it is stabilising around 200%, i.e. a particular month of the year serves around twice the amount of pages than the same month of the previous year.
Source
:  Logfile Analysis of InfoVis.net server logfiles
Click on the image to enlarge it.

It appears to me, therefore, remarkable the interest that this discipline, otherwise rather specialised, raises. This is something that I never thought would interest such a wide spectrum of people. Most of the traffic that InfoVis.net serves goes to .com and .net dominions (almost 30%) followed by Spanish speaking countries headed by Mexico, Spain, Peru, Argentina and Chile. After them come Germany, Colombia, .edu (Universities), United Kingdom, Turkey and Australia. There’s also a certain amount of traffic to Japan, Taiwan and South Africa among other countries. 

How it was born

InfoVis.net was born from the interest, or passion I would say, to comprehend how understanding is built from information through the use of perception. I’m fascinated by the extraordinary capability of our brain to detect complex patterns in data that are impossible to find looking at the data itself but that can be immediately recognised seeing a graphical representation, such as, for example, a map.

Alfons Cornella from Infonomia.com and Josep Blat from the Technology dept. of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, encouraged me to create a website to store and share what I was learning on the topic with the world through Internet.

This initiative has materialized into 149 brief articles, a short glossary, a small library  and a few outlines of relevant people and websites on the topic. Moreover it has produced a book written in Spanish. Incidentally this year I have designed and taught an on-line course on Information Visualisation within the Intercampus initiative of the Catalan Universities that I hope will be the seed of a future course to be taught through InfoVis.net once adapted and refined.

The future

Regarding the future of InfoVis.net, my goal is to convert it into a laboratory to try new and old ways of visualisation. In order to do this, I’m working with the sporadic help of some friends in transforming it into a database driven website, managed by a “home made” content management system, that will simplify the introduction and publication of contents in different formats.

InfoVis.net, as the one-man show it is, advances very slowly. Programming the content management system, updating the website, writing an illustrated article written in two languages every two weeks and balancing it with my work at the R+D lab of a private company, the lectures I give at the University and my private life has proved to be a complicated issue that basically consumes my spare time.

So we will have to be patient in order to see the news that is approaching InfoVis.net, a digital space that lives thanks to the interest of its visitors and subscribers and to whom I dare to ask for your opinions about the future of this website and about those things that could be improved or changed.

To finish, let me repeat the final paragraph of the newsletter of the second anniversary that is still full of meaning:

There are two key elements that avoid InfoVis.net resembling a black hole within a tunnel. 

  • One of them is all of you that support this intellectual endeavour by reading the newsletter and making the number of served pages of the web site increase every month. Without you what is done here would be completely useless. 

  • On the other hand, the physical support of the Institut Universitari del Audiovisual, (IUA) at the Universtitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona that hosts the web site and the newsletter, meaning that every week, every minute, during the whole year, the web can be accessible. 

Many thanks, indeed.

Links of this issue:

http://www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=1&lang=2   First issue of InfoVis.net
http://www.infonomia.com   Web site of Infonomia.com
http://www.upf.edu/dtecn/   Dept. Tecnologia Universitat Pompeu Fabra
http://www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=0&lang=2   Archive of all the previous issues of InfoVis.net
http://www.infovis.net/printRec.php?rec=glosario&lang=2   Glossary of InfoVis.net
http://www.infovis.net/printRec.php?rec=llibre&lang=2   Books in InfoVis.net
http://www.infovis.net/printRec.php?rec=llibre&lang=2#VisualizacionInformacion   Book on Information Visualisation by J.C.Dürsteler
http://www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=93&lang=2   Article on the second anniversary of InfoVis.net
http://www.iua.upf.es   Institut Universitari del Audiovisual
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