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Irene Ros @PulsoConf: There is a strong need to visualize the data we are collecting on the web

The impending PulsoConf won’t only be a space for entrepreneurs and investors – it will also bring together developers and engineers, the true bread and butter of the technology ecosystem. In the context of PulsoConf, BogotaConf will serve as a forum for the technical experts of the community, including Irene Ros.

Ros is an open source JavaScript developer focused on the creation of data-driven interfaces and visualizations. She worked for a number of years at IBM, the highlight of her experience there being work at the Visual Communication Lab at IBM research. Today, Ros is part of a programming team at Bocoup, a Boston-based open web technology company.

With PulsoConf on the horizon, we reached out to Ros and discussed her take on data visualization, past accomplishments as a programmer, and what’s to come in technological trends. She also told us a bit about what she plans to discuss in Bogota next week, which will mark her first trip to Latin America.

Emily Stewart: On your website, you mention that you were greatly influenced by your work at the Visual Communication Lab at IBM Research in terms of visualizations. What about this area calls to you specifically? How does the element of visualization interact and fit in with data and programming overall?

Irene Ros: Data visualization has always been a wonderful medium for conveying large amounts of (often complex) information in a digestible way. It’s a vehicle for storytelling that I find particularly expressive, and as such, very powerful. I am excited about data visualization becoming an integral part of the web ecosystem and feel lucky to be able to work in this space. One key ingredient to data visualization, on the web or anywhere, is the processing of data. From cleanup to computation and filtering, wrangling data is often a major challenge to finding the story and appropriate visual method. One of my goals is to simplify this process on the web.

ES: You have completed numerous development and design projects in the past. Of all of them, what has stood out to you most, and why?

IR: I would say one of my favorite past projects was Many Bills, a Visual Explorer of Congressional Legislation. While it came with a set of tremendous performance challenges and allowed me to dive deep into natural language processing, it was also made complex by the underlying political system. It served as a reminder for the importance of context and narrative when visualizing data.

ES: In your current work at Bocoup, what trends are you noticing among up-and-coming developers? How has the community evolved?

IR: I think there is a strong push and even stronger need to visualize the data we are collecting on the web. We have been building CRUD applications for years that collect valuable data, but our methods of displaying that data back to the user and gleaning meaningful insight are rudimentary at best. There is room to refine the tools, to push the standards forward that will enable us to build the kinds of visualizations we want, and to bring development practices to a wider audience. This community is growing incredibly fast.

ES: What do you think will be the biggest trends over the next five years in terms of products, platforms and web applications?

IR: I believe that the ecosystem of open source tools is growing incredibly fast. Libraries like d3 are changing the way in which we integrate data visualization into our applications. The next few years will position data visualization as a key component of the web, the way video has become. Thanks to cloud computing, as we become more capable of wrangling big data, we will build better tools for understanding our data. Hopefully we will step away from tools that enable us to make rash decisions based on “real time” data and find ways to integrate it into our decision making processes and into the way we consume information.

ES: You’ll be speaking at PulsoConf. What theme will you be discussing?

IR: I will be discussing integrating data processing in the browser. As our browsers become more powerful, we have an unprecedented opportunity to take some of the load off our servers while offering new kinds of data-aware interfaces to our users. I will discuss several libraries (including Miso Dataset) and approaches one can think about when deciding to take their web application to the next level. This will be a technical talk and all the libraries will be JavaScript libraries, so prior knowledge and comfort with the language is important.

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