Visual and Interactive Data via Keshif

Keshif is an open source tool that allows you to embed interactive ways of exploring large datasets in a variety of way. I got turned on to this tool a few months ago by Tom Woodward at Virginia Commonwealth University’s ALT Lab while I was visiting as he was looking at ways to show faceted data in different ways for the web. Keshif simultaneously offers a consistent approach to visualizing data while offering up a large amount of flexibility for various facet types, ingestion methods, and display types. An easy way to view the various options provided by Keshif is to play with their own browser on their homepage which offers a meta view of a variety of demo pages as its own dataset.

Filtering the current view is done by clicking and interacting with any of the various facets along the sidebars. As options are turned on and off the resultant display is adjusted in the main window in the middle. In looking at some of the example datasets they provide visualizations for you can see how this could function for a variety of different scenarios. In their Flag Demo you are given a visual representation of flags for 193 different countries and as options from language to flag color are selected the resultant number of flags is filtered. In their demo exploring Buffy The Vampire Slayer they have taken every second of the first 12 episodes from Season 1 and analyzed character sequences across location and time.

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While I don’t typically work with data like this I’ve found myself recommending it on more than one occasion to educators that are taking a fresh look at how they might visualize collections in interesting ways. With the potential to pull data sources form Google Docs, XML, CSV, JSON, and a few others you’re sure to find an export method for your data that could be ingested here. Keshif is embeddable using Javascript making it accessible on a range of devices as well. There are definitely more advanced options for displaying a unique visualization or telling a story based on your data using something like D3 but for novices and pros alike that want to put the ability to mix, match, and filter in the hands of the viewer I feel like Keshif is a great option.

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