Visual Phone Bills

matrix visualisation cutout
Usually, your phone bill is a vast amount of numbers that nobody ever reads actually (secret services left aside). It gives you some interesting details if you search for something particular but it’s hard to get an easy overview over what was happening the last month. Now, this has changed! After some weeks of tinkering with code (mySQL, PHP, HTML and some JavaScript) some visual tools have rolled out of my workshop.

simple visualisation for phone bill
The first simple step sums up all of your time spent calling someone on the phone. Different colours for working hours and leisure time (and for the month under focus) are added for further pattern recognition like collegue/friend identification. First evaluations revealed already that some patterns are really characteristic for particular events in the past. That way, the visual attractiveness of certain patterns leads us to remembering interesting stories attached to these dates (that sometimes have been forgotten already). As a nice Extra the whole plot seems to be somehow related to a powerlaw.

histogram of phonbill
A second graph is more oriented towards science and theory. One of the background-chapters in my Master-Thesis focuses on the (mathematical) structure underlying our social networks. Some (Barabási) say all networks of free choice are governed by powerlaws, others (Watts) think that our network of friends is described better by a bell-curve. Maybe I can deduce in reverse from the pictures I get what type of network is contained in a phone bill. It looks as if we talk a lot to non-friends, so far.

month-hour matrix from phonebill
A third (not yet fully matured) version will focus on temporal patterns and therefore plots the month of the year against the hour of the day to locate each call. With this method I want to look for “hot” times with a lot of traffic, usually calm zones and possible dissenters.

The work on this graphic as well as the others shows that rather simple data from a phone bill can generate some complexity when it comes to meaningful visualisation. In order to manage this abundance of information I want to add more options to select and filter the dataset. I also need some means to enlarge the “resolution” (i.e. less information per area) for those points in the graphic that are currently examined by the user.

3 Responses to Visual Phone Bills

  1. larissa:

    wow, cool!

  2. Arno:

    wo kann man sich anmelden? 🙂

  3. Hannes:

    anmelden ist ganz einfach: du übergibst die Einzelverbindungs- nachweise der letzten 12 oder 24 Monate an meine vertrauensvollen Hände (vertrau mir…!) und schuwupps, schon gibts die Grafik. Und ab nächster Woche wird das dann sogar richtig interaktiv.

    Du kannst auch deine Telefonfirma nach den Daten fragen, die müssen ja seit dem 1.1. eh alle Einzelheiten mitspeichern…