Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, May 03, 2006
HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B01

VizQL: A language for query, analysis and visualization

Chris Stolte and Jock Mackinlay
Tableau Software
About the talk:

Although databases and visual interfaces are two of the success stories of the computer revolution, their synergy to date has been modest. Structured databases contain homogeneous data that require powerful query languages such as SQL and MDX to make the subtle distinctions that many tasks require. However, these languages are often difficult for people to use. What is needed is another layer of software that contains formatting and visualization capabilities that help people work with their structured data. We fill this gap with VizQL, a formal language for describing tables, charts, graphs, maps, time series and tables of visualizations. All these visual representations are unified into one framework, lowering the overhead of switching from one visual representation to another (e.g. from a list view to a cross-tab to a chart). Unlike current charting packages and like query languages, VizQL permits an unlimited number of picture expressions. Visualizations can thus be easily customized and controlled. VizQL is a declarative language. The desired picture is described; the low-level operations needed to retrieve the results, to perform analytical calculations, to map the results to a visual representation, and to render the image are generated automatically by the query analyzer. The query analyzer compiles VizQL expressions to SQL and MDX and thus VizQL can be used with relational databases and datacubes. The current implementation supports Hyperion Essbase, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and 2005, Microsoft Analysis Services 2000 and 2005, MySQL and Oracle, as well as desktop data sources such as CVS and Excel files. VizQL enables a new generation of visual analysis tools that closely couple query, analysis and visualization.


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About the speakers:

Chris Stolte
Chris Stolte is a co-founder of Tableau Software and Vice President of Engineering. Chris has been researching the visual analysis and exploration of databases for the last eight years and his research has resulted in ten research publications and two large-scale visualization systems. Chris was also CTO and co-founder of BeeLine Systems, a visualization software company that developed a revolutionary map rendering system. BeeLine was purchased by Vicinity Corporation (NASDAQ: VCNT), and its products are currently used to generate over a million maps a day. Chris is a co-inventor on five software patents related to information visualization. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, and a B.S. in Computer Science from Simon Fraser University.

Jock Mackinlay
Jock Mackinlay received his PhD in computer science from Stanford University, where he pioneered the automatic design of graphical presentations of relational information. He joined Xerox PARC in 1986, where he collaborated with the User Interface Research Group to develop many novel applications of computer graphics for information access and to coin the term "Information Visualization". Much of the fruits of this research can be found in his book, Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (Morgan Kauffman, written and edited with Stuart K. Card and Ben Shneiderman). He holds numerous patents in user interfaces and visual analysis. He joined Tableau Software in 2004 as Director of Visual Analysis.

Contact information:

Jock Mackinlay
Tableau Software
400 N 34th Street, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 633-3400 X506
(206) 633=3004