The Evolution of Hubscope
This isn’t my first venture into visualisation. Back in 2005, I formed a company called Centruflow which had some commercial success but was essentially overly ambitious as it tried to solve the whole problem with a soup to nuts approach rather than focusing on a part of the visualisation challenge.
Trying to build visualisation from the ground up is a challenge. In 2005, there wasn’t any talk of graph databases either, so all data was held in a structured relational database. Converting large datasets from SQL structures to RDF graph structures was complex and slow, which limited the size any visualised graph could be.
Hubscope has picked up from where Centruflow left off and while the user experience is similar, the underlying architecture is completely different. In fact, not a single line of code from Centruflow is used in Hubscope, but many of the same concepts remain. Hubscope is built on the shoulders of a relative giant in this space, Tom Sawyer Software (TSS). TSS was selected after prototyping across several alternatives. They came out streets ahead in terms of maturity, technical competence and their commitment to support. Hubscope Team Edition is our flagship product which contains all of the intelligent auto-layout power of the Tom Sawyer visualisation engine but doesn’t need any sophisticated databases as we just use Microsoft Excel to store the data.
Storing in Excel adds some additional file management responsibilities for the user but it has the added bonus that most people have Excel so can edit and share the data directly in the spreadsheet as needed. Multiple hubdata spreadsheets can be loaded into the Hubscope application at one time, a feature which we call overloading, to combine several graphs as needed. This feature means that different teams can work in isolation and then be brought together to ‘join the dots’. Team edition is initially offered as a desktop application and has a very generic data structure by-design to make it flexible and adaptable to many different kinds of project and use cases.
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