Thursday, October 4, 2007

Not An All Or None Situation

Document-driven visualization represents a disruptively powerful innovation for visualization interoperability. It means that we can treat visualization in the same way that we treat the clear majority of data on the web.

But I'm having a mini-reawakening to the bigger picture in which we see the value in APIs and ultra-lean (and more secure) data transfer. When we tie into simulators we still use XML to configure the system, but in a way that tells it to use the API to connect to values directly as they come off a TCP/IP socket connection. The same is true for online collaboration. The object in these cases is to move data efficiently and reliably. There's no need to pull in all the DOM overhead and seldom any need to perform transformation of the data. (But even complex rules for converting Attribute types can be encoded into Objects that are then configurable through Reflection, Serialization, and ultimately XML. We call them "AttributeConverters.") The other network protocols (TCP/IP, UDP...not really FTP) contribute by giving us a lot more flexibility in terms of quality of service. Again, OO fundamentals are key. Object Reflection means we can get and set any attribute value in a standard the API. Any integration more complicated than that usually indicates that our core visualization capability is missing something. Ultimately we want to move closer to the GPU...I think...dual core processors also represent a new (finally stable) option for better performance laptops and PCs.

I digress. Document-driven viz is super neat, but it isn't everything. I suppose I'm just echoing a common theme in life. Not a Panacea. Not a Silverbullet. Not A Cure for World Hunger. Just the best thing I've seen in my brief career.

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