There were many excellent sessions at this year's ELI 2008 Conference. Among the very best was "Data Visualization: Making Meaning Out of Mountains of Data" by George Siemens and Cyprien P. Lomas.
What made the session among the best? It's rare for me that a presentation opens up an entire area for thought and exploration. It's become a cliche that we are experiencing an information explosion. But what is the solution to the "data smog" that we all live in?
To motivate the discussion Siemens and Lomas played a Ted Talk video of Hans Rosling, who beautifully demonstrates the power of data visualization. Check out the Rosling video (especially the first five minutes): the guy is a scream.
Siemens and Lomas then demonstrated a variety of tools, including gapminder, twitterblocks, xobni, quintara, and many eyes. Many Eyes seemed the most interesting of the bunch and worthy of more in depth exploration. You can set up a free account and start playing. (Note that all the data sets that you upload is public and accessible to everyone.)
In summary, the session really opened up my eyes to the power of visualization. The tools are still embryonic but becoming accessible, affordable and powerful very quickly. This will be fun area to track technology progress.
Notes: On his blog Siemens has an Elluminate recording of a similar session in early 2007.