When I first discovered Swivel.com, I was encouraged that a website was providing a venue for the presenting, discussing, and collaborating around important data, despite its problems. When the folks there responded positively to my recommendations, I was hopeful that the site might evolve into something useful. One of the latest features, which they proudly refer to as the ability to “bling your graph,” however, has put an end to these hopes. What a shame.
Here’s their explanation of the new feature:
In this world of customization, individualization, tricking trucks, pimping rides, and extreme makeovers, we here at Swivel wanted to allow users to further express themselves in their graphs…What does it mean to bling a graph? It means you can add a photo as the background image of your graph. Just click on the Bling button.
Swivel has joined the swelling ranks of those who believe that important information can be enhanced by sprucing it up with gratuitous decoration. This might be appropriate for advertising, but it is the death of data. Blinging your graph is to graphical presentation what a lobotomy is to brain function. At least they’ve given this feature a name that accurately describes its purpose. If you want your data to impress those who prefer superficial sparkle to the substance of important information communicated clearly, Swivel is the site for you. There are so many ways that the ability to share data and worthwhile findings could be improved on Swivel. What a travesty that a feature that is not only useless but also undermines the purpose of the site occupied their attention and efforts. If you want to make sense of data and share what you’ve discovered with others, you would do better to try out Many Eyes.