The Decision Board Project


In 1997 I completed a PhD on interactive visualisation of data and statistical models. At that time I was really interested in how to support the sharing of decision making via visual representations. It was clear to me that having an external representation of a problem on a computer allowed it to be shared with and played with my groups of people who may well have difficulty communicating in other situations.

My example scenarios were real ones taken from interviews I carried out with engineers and statistical analysts at Philips in Eindhoven. They explained how they often found it hard to communicate mathematical analysis to the managers. The visualisation tools I subsequently developed aimed to bridge this gap and allow the flexible exploring of What-if scenarios.

At the time I thought that such tools were just around the corner. Over the years I have come across many other situations where an interactive problem based representation would prove invaluable as a vehicle for communication. I labelled these tools Decision Boards (as opposed to dash boards, monitoring boards or analysis boards (see my discussion on the Perceptual Edge Forum – I have copied the comment below)).

Current Situation

Since 1997 the situation has changed – technology is much faster and more accessible. The web has made sharing and communicating more and more possible. Yet my vision of these decision boards has not materialized. Why is this?

Perhaps I just haven’t looked hard enough? Perhaps they do exist but are hidden within large organizations. Perhaps no-one has bothered to try.

I am actively seeking collaborators to develop a few example decision boards with me. I am interested in talking to anyone with relevent problems or programming skills who would like to be involved.

Any thoughts on any of this please comment below.

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2 responses to “The Decision Board Project”

  1. ltweedie says :

    Had a very positive meeting with LogiXML today on the issue of decision boards. They have some great technology which i think is moving us towards Visualisation 2.0 .

    Also some potential synergy between contacts at Bath and dunnhumby. So things feeling rather upbeat.

    To do list – make contact with Tableau and other BI best of breed tool builders. Get back in touch with Trendstream.

  2. ltweedie says :

    This is the text of the post I made in 2007 on Stephen Fews website regarding the term decision board:

    Perceptual Edge > Forums > New topic proposals > Nomenclature for visualization, dashboards, analytic tools, etc.

    06/26/07 Reply with quote #13


    I gave a presentation to some technical clients yesterday based upon dividing the market into what I call activity boards e.g.:
    monitor boards
    decision boards (or scenario boards)
    analysis boards
    (see earlier post in this thread).

    My audience seemed to particularly like it because it simplified the design space for them and enabled me to focus on the design principles for each one.

    I was very easily able to talk about what the design issues and constraints for each type were because each focused around a particular human activitity. This activity might be used in a wide variety of contexts (in terms of the problem and technology) and with a variety of users. The point was that the activity was very much what set the constraints of the design space.

    It also lead me to thinking what other sorts of acitivity boards might there be – and what would the design issues be here?
    exploration boards
    idea generation boards
    communication boards

    Even sub distinctions might be useful to identify further focused design principles: e.g a sub division for analysis boards like:
    exploratory data analysis boards
    confirmatiory data analysis boards

    For me defining the terms in this way has lead to lots of new thinking about what activity boards are and how they should be designed. This is the whole point about carefully defining our terms.

    I also like them because they firmly put the focus on both the user (Activity) and the computer (board) and their interaction rather than on the technolgy. A term like spreadplot or dashboard is focused on the technical end.

    Having said this one could also consider design principles for Novice boards as opposed to Expert Boards i.e. different types of users. Online boards as opposed to Offline boards i.e. different types of technology. Live boards as opposed to Data boards or Modelling boards i.e. different data sources. Etc.

    In this very technical world of software development we are constantly creating new things. The important thing is that we define and agree terms so that we can clearly communicate about them and find common ground.

    One member of my audience yesterday was excited by the activity board terms I used and asked who was using these terms. He was then disappointed when I said – well I just made them up based on Stephen Fews distinction between Analysis and Monitoring. Then I pointed out that within their company they can define there own terms and since most of the technical team were there the concept of Activity boards had provided them with a common language to talk about them. Common language builds common ground. I felt like we started to do that for that team yesterday – it was a good feeling.

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