Data visualization startup Plot.io has been making some noise lately. From what I know so far, it looks a lot like Tableau, but presumably works in the browser. This could be a potential successor to Swivel, which folded a bit over a year ago, and maybe what Verifiable was trying to do.
Their teaser video is a bit confusing, but what it shows is an interface that looks a lot like Tableau. On their Twitter feed, they also talk about marks, and they seem to be aware of what is going on in the visualization community. They’re certainly worth watching.
10 responses to “Plot.io”
Robert – First off, thank you for the kind words – we’re longtime fans! We didn’t expect all the noise and signups and tweets – we were under the impression that ours is a tiny community. I’ll try to provide some more information here.
Yes, it does work entirely in the browser, but it needs one with SVG support (we use Mike Bostock’s excellent D3 for rendering).
About the Swivel/Verifiable comparison – I would say that Plot.io is more about exploratory data analysis than purely charts and infographics. So, the user interface is geared towards rapidly working with data, seamlessly switching between alternatives/views, sensible defaults for automatically choosing the right ‘chart’ type, etc. In essense, a fast, interactive webapp to quickly load up and look at data visually (as opposed to the ‘spreadsheet way’, where one has to fight through wades of cells and dialogs to beat visualizations into submission).
Of course, you can always export individual charts, interactive reports and build dashboards with it, but these would tend towards being clear and simple information displays (some would say ‘clinical’) rather than a hodge-podge of gauges and dials. There would also be sufficient leeway to go overboard with the fanciness (like we did on most of our videos), but we’re hoping that good judgement will prevail.
And yes, we’re certainly tuned in to happenings and prior work in the infovis arena ;-)
I guess the noise is made on your behalf, not technically you yourselves – but you’re clearly effective in getting people interested in what you are doing.
Thanks for the comment, that is very interesting information! Is there a chance to learn a bit more about the people behind plot.io? Do you have any infovis researchers involved? What is your connection with the community?
You failed to directly respond to Robert’s observation that plot.io looks a lot like Tableau. You appear to have copied what Tableau does, at least superficially (colors, shelves, panels, tabular model, basic chart attributes, etc.). If you want your product to be taken seriously, you should acknowledge your respect for Tableau and your attempt to emulate what it does. Tell us how your product is different.
Seriously? Have you never heard of competition?
Your request for a bow-of-respect is comical.
Have you heard of plagiarism? If you wrote a book and someone copied most of it word for word and called it their own, would you still take this position? Being respectful of those whose work you’ve borrowed is not comical, it’s civil.
To respond to your suggestion that I oppose competition: 1) As a leader in the field of visual analytics with no ties to specific products, I would love to see more good products become available; and 2) there is a difference between the kind of real competition that this marketplace needs and the level of imitation that plot.io exhibits. A viable competitor will have its own ideas about the way things should be done and won’t simply imitate the work of others. By their own admission to me, the folks at plot.io recognize that their product cannot compete with Tableau.
I’ve spoken with Prithvi Prabhu, the primary person behind plot.io, and encouraged him to dispel potential confusion about his product by more clearly describing what it is, what it’s for, the extent to which it emulates the work of others and why, and the ways in which it is different from other products and is therefore a useful addition to the marketplace. I’ve also encouraged him to contact Tableau and other companies whose work he’s emulated to make his position clear to them before further confusion and potential conflict develops.
Does Apple going around respecting/thanking Doug Engelbart? Never hear about the guy.
Does Google thank Altavista? (altavista worked great. The fact that Google had a better algorithm is mainly PR. Google succeed because of their ad strategy.)
Does Sybase, DB2 or SQL Server thank Oracle. Far from it.
Does Oracle thank IBM?
If Plot.io is a rip off of Tableau it will fail since Tableau has the time on the turf, stability and market share. If Plot.io does something innovative the could succeed.
What is all this ire about respect?
The jury is out as no one seems to have tried it and thus is sounds a bit suspect, but time will tell. No need to raise any hackles … yet.
Tableau is cool, but I’ve stopped using it due to some constraints that I find limiting. There is room to improve over Tableau.
Heck, taking D3 to the next level could be awesome!
– Kyle Hailey
Can we please all take a deep breath? I agree with Stephen’s points, though not with the way he makes them. There are clearly similarities here, but I don’t see this as much of an issue at this point. In private conversation, Prithvi has also acknowledged Tableau’s influence, and I don’t think there’s any intention of ripping off without attribution here.
In fact, a good part of this discussion is based on a misunderstanding that I hope can be cleared up soon. But until that happens, please refrain from jumping to conclusions, things are not as clear-cut as they might seem.
I don’t believe that anyone has jumped to conclusions–at least not in any of the comments that have been posted here. To say that there are “similarities” between plot.io and Tableau is an understatement. The interface of plot.io is, on the surface at least, a nearly perfect imitation of Tableau. Prithvi knew that this fact would be recognized when he introduced his product. He knew that comparisons to Tableau would be made. The best time to acknowledge this similarity to avoid confusion and alarm was when the product was first introduced. The next best time is now. Nothing prevents him from publicly stating what he’s written to me in private, with minor exceptions.
plot.io need to understand two fundamental things: what proposition they are bringing to the market, and what their (potential) customers think their proposition is. The two are not always the same proposition. I agree with Stephen that there needs to be a clear statement of the differentiator that plot_io brings to the market. They need to do state their differentiators in terms of commercials, functionality and technical solution.
Plot_io need to be careful how to present themselves. For example, take their tweet of 31st December (which I’ve favourited at @jenstirrup) In response to @HlthAnalysis “Heyyy… A bazillion rows and Radiohead-style ‘House of Cards’ would be more original for @tableau ;-)” Whether this was intended to be inflammatory, I’m not sure. I don’t believe that this is the sort of professional business communication that they should be putting out; they need to put out their own message, and quickly. Further, plot_io and Tableau probably do need to have a mature discussion.
Technically, I can see that plot_io runs on Linux and Chrome-browser preferred. When plot_io eventually release their solution, we will be able to identify for ourselves if there are clear differentiators. Until then, the Twitter stream will continue mention plot_io and Tableau in the same 140 character breath. This will only continue, and plot_io will find it hard to gain an individual commercial identity.