I get a lot of email at work.
I’m on eleven team distribution lists, I run our UI community of practice, I get a slew of automated garbage, and that doesn’t include emails actually sent to me.
Back in March, I received one email that read, in part:
I wanted to get in touch and gauge your interest in speaking at the Data Visualization Summit – Boston, MA – September 25 & 26, 2014.
The event brings together data viz leaders, analysts & scientists working in various industries to discuss how high dimensional data, visual analytics & computational aesthetics for data are offering new ways for companies to better understand how to use their data & make it more efficient.
Please let me know if you are available to participate, or if you have any questions regarding the event and I can give you a call to discus this further.
I look forward to talking with you.
Reading back on it now, it seems totally innocuous. But for whatever reason, at the time, all I could think was that this was some elaborate 419 scam, and that I was a few responses away from being introduced to Nigerian royalty. Either that, or someone had found a whole slew of Orbitz UIEs on LinkedIn, and spammed the pile.
But I asked around, and nobody else at the company had received the same email. The suspicion mounted.
A few days passed, and I decided to respond to the email, but being a master sleuth, I asked the sender to set up a time to call me.
A week later, I was sitting in a conference room, dialing a real phone number that connected to a real phone with this real person at the other end. As it had turned out, the company reaching out puts on a whole slew of conferences, and at a previous one, had given out a questionnaire asking: “Who would you like to see speak at a future conference?” to which someone had responded: “Someone from Orbitz.”
“Someone from Orbitz,” for reasons I still don’t quite understand, filtered down to Bill “Hi, I’m someone from Orbitz” Hinderman.
Here’s the one problem. Apart from The Cocktail Gui.de, I don’t really know a ton about Data Visualization. My mind immediately went to the work I am starting with our Site Optimization group to distill huge portions of our web traffic for A:B testing.
For a while, I noodled on that idea, and kept feeling like I was taking the easy route.
I didn’t want to fly to Boston to just talk about my job. I wanted to be a voice for change.
I grabbed two sheets of printer paper and labeled them as:
- Data Visualization
- Things I Care About
On the former, I began writing down all the topics I could think of, related to the data visualization space. On the latter, I spewed out all the topics in web design that I had a passion for. Once I was finished, I began making phrases by picking one idea from each page.
My goals here were the following:
- Talk about something I care about
- Talk about something people haven’t talked about
- Talk about something I don’t know enough about
After a hilariously short amount of time, I had found something that hit all three points:
Responsive Data Visualization
In essence: how can responsive web design inform data visualization as we move to a multi-device internet? RWD has change the way we think of our content’s containers, but we’re still skipping the problem of cramming too much data into a container that just doesn’t scale.
So that’s where we are. I care about it. Virtually nothing has been written on the subject. And (because of the last sentence), I’m learning as I create.
See you in September, Boston.