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I have a short time range tstart – tend ( ≈ 90 seconds) and a list of points in time which represent events that occurred at that point. I'm looking for a concise visualization of these occurrences which shows (a) the number of events and (b) patterns like clusters or a bias for some point.

My ideas so far:

  • a timeline with single ticks per event
  • a timeline with discrete cells, colored corresponding to event density (cf. heat map)
  • a circular timeline, like a clock; maybe even looking like a clock or stopwatch

enter image description here (Sorry for the terrible image quality)

Any comments or other ideas?

Bonus question: How to extend these ideas if events belong to a small number (<10) of different categories?

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Are you constrained to 1 dimension in the display. I'm thinking along the lines of graphing the frequency/cumulative total and labelling events. –  Brendon May 17 '13 at 15:32
How many events can occur at a single instance? What do you mean bias for a point (how is it different than clustering)? –  rk. May 17 '13 at 16:18
@Brendon: I'm not really contrained per se, but I would prefer the diagram not to be very high/big. It's displayed next to other, more important diagrams. –  Sebastian Negraszus May 17 '13 at 16:18
@rk.: I'm not sure about the number of events, yet. Requirements always changing and all that. But it might range from 0 to about 30, maybe less. –  Sebastian Negraszus May 17 '13 at 16:34
@rk.: Yes, you are right, "clusters" and "bias for a point" is essentially the same, just from a different perspective. –  Sebastian Negraszus May 17 '13 at 16:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can do a simple timeline with a histogram to achieve your end-result. The individual boxes are events and the height of the histogram tells you about clustering and peaking on individual time frames.

If your data is not discrete and is continuous, you can use a line graph or an area chart.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

I will refine the answer based on your feedback.

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Playing off rk's answers a bit, I would visually cluster the events by some piece of metadata, such as

  • category
  • duration
  • region


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

This approach will run aground with scaling issues, and is definitely more developmentally-intensive. Prioritize by the business value of such clustering.

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