As a kid I loved to play video games like Defender, Battlezone and Elite. The games themselves had a lot in common – they all had blocky 8-bit graphics, involved shooting stuff, made loud explosions and used ishiness.
Coined by QlikTech’s John Teichman, ishiness means having a quality that gives people the ability to maintain an overall sense of a data set and where they are within it. (According to John the term’s a corruption of the way we use ‘ish’ as a suffix in English to denote that something’s broadly right.) Whatever it’s called it’s a fantastically helpful when looking at large or complex datasets.
Below are two examples of ishiness in the pre-release version of QlikView.Next (and of course maybe subject to change as such). The first is a video of a column chart with a grey ‘ishy’ window below it, showing which part of the overall data appears in the main visual. It’s a simple idea, but very effective, particularly when paired with interactive selection methods, like those shown in the second half of the video.
The way it works reminds me of the side-scrolling maps in old video games, which gave orientation and situational awareness clues to gamers. To put my old Gartner hat back on for a minute, I suppose you could say that ishiness is one aspect of the ongoing gamification of analytics.
The second example video shows what happens when zooming and panning a scatter plot. Note the small dots that appear and move around the borders of the chart. Without these small ishiness dots which appear around the main visual it would be all too easy for people to forget where they are in the data overall. In other words to lose the ‘information scent’ they were following and most likely the insight they’d make.
QlikTech’s been thinking about this need for orientation within data for a while now, and it could be argued that the mini charts that can be put into tables in QlikView11 show some ishiness too
Capabilities like this are important - as the datasets people want to assimilate and analyse get ever bigger the analytic software we use has to help us navigate and orient ourselves in large information spaces easily and quickly. Ishiness is one aspect of the natural analytic capabilities that do exactly that.
Oh yes, and it happens to be pretty cool too. That’s ishy, man.