Tool Review of Open Heat Map Google Fusion Tables
Tool Name: Google Fusion Tables
Version Number/Release Date: It is in its 7th version and was released June 9, 2009.
Developer Website: https://support.google.com/fusiontables/answer/2571232
Reviewed by: Matt Smith
Review Date: February 5, 2015
Tags or Keywords: heat map, network diagrams, host online data, publish on Google Drive, embed on YouTube, data entry, metadata, enhancement of geographical data, spatial queries.
General Purpose of Tool: The tool is designed for two primary reasons: to manipulate data on maps and generate network diagrams. The user can manipulate data on heat maps, intensity maps, charted maps, and many more. The second use is the gathering, visualizing, and sharing of data tables in either excel or Google docs. The software allows you to upload and manage map date and manipulate them by creating map points, pushpins, intensity, and other visualizations of the user’s data. This can be embedded in personal websites or social media so that sharing and collaborating with others is user-friendly.
Review: The tool is excellently manufactured. It has no bugs and works exactly as Google promises on their website, and if the many ‘Help’ and ‘FAQ’ sections do not suffice, there is a contact sub-menu for obtaining help from Google staff. The help menus and learning menus are aimed at people with a pre-existing capability in Excel and Google Maps, but there are innumerable sub-menus that eventually lead to sections that provide adequate help for those who were born in the wrong century. While it does not have a mobile-app version, it can be read from one’s mobile device through Google Drive or Docs. The data may be stored on anything from e-mail, to USB, to Google Drive. The tool would be an invaluable asset to those working on networks, maps, and any large data visualization. You do not have to download (web-based interface), subscribe, or pay and the user is able to publish and embed data easily. The tool is incredibly adaptable; the site boasts positive reviews from tech magazines to Merrill Lynch, but it is equally as useful to students or professionals in any field that would need to visualize data. For those in the English field, the tool can be used to generate a network diagram of authors, a table showing the time periods of those authors, and a heat map of the author’s geographic locations on the same tool. Because tables, charts, diagrams, networks, and maps are all united under the same tool, it would be an easy way to present data at a conference without having to alternate between tools. One of the most significant functions is the ability to merge tables, charts, etc. with other collaborators. Because digital humanities is reliant upon collaboration, scholars development a project would be able to communicate quickly and manipulate or edit each other’s data sets. Professional academics can use this tool to manipulate, visualize, and share data, and because it is user-friendly and versatile, it could serve as a pedagogical aid. An instructor could either use the tool for interactive presentations, or she could ask students to split into groups and each group would be responsible to manipulate the data into a map, a chart, or a network.
I generated two tables, one of Early Modern authors and the second of London theatre openings:
Ease of Use: The primary user would most likely be in business, finance, management, or accounting. But for secondary users, the recent addition of map manipulation makes the software useful for a wide variety of user. Students exploring the intensity of a certain phenomenon in a certain area or a geologist studying the degradation of a certain mineral in various regions of Southern California could benefit from its near-universal application. If the user is familiar with Excel it is rather easy; like many programs its sophisticatedness is in direct proportion to the user’s abilities.
Requirements: Fusion Tables runs on Windows and Macs, but the ‘About’ section does not specify if it works on Linux. Like most Google functions, it works on almost any browser. I ran it on Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Only Chrome did not require a plugin. The tool works on my iPhone and iPad, but I used my Windows laptop to conduct the majority of my research.
Rival or Comparable Tools: I looked into http://www.openheatmap.com/ initially, but I was not impressed by the user-friendliness of the product. It was free and did not require a download, but the program was developed and is still maintained by one person. I looked at several tutorial videos on his program and it seemed interesting, it offered many of the same functions (a better heat map), but it was not as customizable as Google’s obviously better produced, funded, and maintained version. Also, I spent about an hour with the Open Heat Map and did not get nearly as far as I did in an hour with Google’s version.
Other Reviews: http://www.sco.wisc.edu/images/stories/publications/SCO_quick_and_easy_web_maps_v1.1.pdf