Writing

Flash file formats opened?

Via Slashdot, word that Adobe is opening the SWF and FLV file formats through the Open Screen Project. On first read this seemed great—Adobe essentially re-opening the SWF spec. It was released under a less onerous license by Macromedia ca. 1998, but then closed back up again once it became clear that the other vector graphics for the web proposals from Microsoft and others would not be an actual competitor. At the time, Microsoft had submitted a binary format called VML to the W3C, and the predecessor to SVG (called PGML) had also been proposed by then-rival Adobe and friends.

On second read it looks like they’re trying to kill Android before it has a chance to get rolling. So history rhymes ten years later. (Shannon informs me that this may qualify as a pantoum).

But to their credit (I’m shocked, actually), both specs are online already:

The SWF (Flash file format) specification

The FLV (Flash video file format) specification

….and more important, without any sort of click-through license. (“By clicking this button you pledge your allegiance to Adobe Systems and disavow your right to develop for products and platforms not controlled or approved by Adobe or its partners. The aforementioned transferral of rights also applies to your next of kin as well as your extended network of business partners and/or (at Adobe’s discretion) lunch dates.”)

I’ve never been nuts about using “open” as prefix for projects, especially as it relates to big companies hyping what do-gooders they are. It makes me think of the phrase “compassionate conservatism”. The fact that “compassionate” has to be added is more telling than anything else. They doth protest too much.

Thursday, May 1, 2008 | parse  
Book

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.

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