Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I have started following a number of blogs related to visualization. Since I'm a technical person, these are primarily related to visualization of data such as Flowing Data, Pointy-Haired Dilbert, and Me, Myself, and Blissantz. Putting aside the specific area of data visualization for now, visualization in general is important in problem solving.

Do you have an overall view of whatever you are trying to deal with? If it is a piece of equipment, do you have a block diagram in mind? How much do you know about the pieces? Problem solving often requires you to isolate the cause of the problem. Without a good mental picture of the equipment, you cannot begin to determine the problem source. When I was in school, we always worked with older equipment. This was great since you could open it up and look inside and figure out what the parts did. Unfortunately much equipment is getting miniaturized and controlled entirely by external software and it is getting harder and harder to open it up and visualize what is going on inside of it. When you are faced with an entire tool on a microchip its pretty hopeless. However, I still refer back to my mental pictures of equipment that I formed 20 years ago, opening up spectrometers when dealing with equipment that has now become extremely self-contained.

If you don't have a good mental picture of what you are dealing with, you should make it a priority to develop one. Perhaps there is some old equipment in storage that you can poke around in. Perhaps some more experienced coworker can provide you a picture. Read the manual. Whatever approach you choose, striving to visualize the hardware you have is imperative.

As we move deeper and deeper into a virtual world, it pays to have your feet in the real world.

No comments: