Data visualization has long been used in research to gain better insight on large data sets. It is therefore, not surprisingly, an essential part of any analytics-centric business intelligence company. Aside from this type of usage, in recent years there have been a growing number of startups built around data visualizations for the mass public. Since Databoard.me is one of them, in this post I will go over some of the other data visualization startups and discuss if they will potentially compete with Databoard.me.
Daytum is probably the most similar to Databoard.me among all the existing data visualization startups. It allows users to record arbitrary data, then turn them into charts contained in ‘displays’, which can then be placed on users’ pages. It is conceived by Nicholas Felton, the designer behind those famous personal annual reports. He is also the designer behind Facebook’s timeline feature. I must admit that Databoard.me share an almost identical view on personal data with Daytum: that it can speak a lot about your identity and help you understand yourself better. The approach is also very similar, but on the execution level, there are a lot of differences to be noted:
1. Daytum’s visualization feature is very limited. It is using the Google charts API, thus they don’t have full control over the visualizations. They don’t even have multiple colors in visualizations, only different shades of the same color. This makes the visualizations much less powerful and expressive than they could be. On contrary, Databoard.me’s visualizations are powered by the D3 library, which can produce amazing, animated and interactive visualizations. The templates are also modularized so that I can easily roll out new templates.
2. Personally I think Daytum’s data-entering interface is still not simple enough, creating a motivation barrier for users to enter more data. I believe it can be easier - fewer clicks and less time spent figuring out how to use the system can result in more data recorded.
3. Daytum does not have social features, which is essential to Databoard.me. In this sense, Databoard.me is combining part of the Visual.ly features with Daytum.
4. Daytum provides little to none guidance in how to use it to its full potential. This is something Databoard.me is prepared to address by providing a visualization creation guide which is designed to be as intuitive as possible, plus examples and social exploring features.
In the big picture, Visual.ly aims to build a “platform (that) democratizes the creation and sharing of visualizations, making it possible for everyone to participate.” It started out with only the upload, share and explore functionalities, but that already caught quite some attention and has secured considerable traction. It just recently rolled out the “Create” functionality but so far it’s quite limited - all a user can do is link up a Facebook account or enter Twitter handles, and the visualizations are all pre-designed templates with little customization.
Although Databoard.me is also trying to become a platform for data visualization, but there are fundamental differences in between. First, Visual.ly is so far still mostly a place for users to upload data visualizations they found elsewhere. It’s not their data, not their story, not personal at all. Second, judging from Visual.ly’s list of big-name partners (The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, AskMen, CNNMoney, GOOD, The Economist, NASDAQ, Skype, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal), their business model seems to point to business-oriented direction (which is still kind of blurry to me). On the other hand, Databoard.me is a straightforward product built to provide value to revenue generating individual users.
TicTrac is also a personal data hub which integrates a great number of third party data APIs. It seems to provide very well designed personal data aggregation and presentation, and will definitely be (at least partially) competing with Databoard.me. However since it’s still in closed beta, I can’t get a hand on it to see if there are more overlapping areas.
Vizualize.me has a very simple concept: create better resumes by automatically visualizing your LinkedIn data. Visualized resume is a great concept, but personally I think there are two problems with this company: 1. They are too dependent on and limited by a single data source. I’m not sure if they have any plans on dealing with that; 2. The quality of the produced visualizations are somewhat mediocre and repetitive. I hope they are working on improving and providing more templates, otherwise I don’t see it going too far.
Geckoboard focuses on providing a real time analytics board for companies or websites. What resembles Databoard.me here is its presentation and aesthetics - a board that shows your visualized data. Obviously they target completely different markets and serve different purposes, but one important thing I learnt from them is looking at the components of the board as widgets - they should be modularized so that they can be added, removed and developed with ease.
This is not a startup, but is a very important precedence so I want to mention it here too. It is one of the first website that provides the users the tools to create visualizations from data through relatively simple interactions. It guides the user through a step by step process to point them to the right graph to use. It is dated and of course has its drawbacks, which is the reason why I am building Databoard.me, but its methodology in creating visualizations are extremely helpful.