- March 26th, 2010
- Write comment
Archive for March, 2010
Last year, we released a public data search feature that enables people to quickly find useful statistics in search. More recently, we expanded this service to include information from the World Bank, such as population data for every region in the world. More and more public agencies, non-profits and other organizations are looking for ways to open up their data and expand global access to this kind of information. We want to help keep that momentum going, so today we’re sharing a snapshot of some of the most popular public data search topics on Google. We’re also launching the Google Public Data Explorer, an experimental visualization tool in Google Labs.
Popular public data topics on Google
We know people want to be able to find reliable data and statistics on a variety of subjects. But what kind of statistics are they looking for most? To help us better prioritize which data sets to include in our public data search feature, we’ve analyzed anonymous search logs to find patterns in the kinds of searches people are doing, similar to the patterns you can find on Google Trends and Insights for Search. Some public data providers have asked us to share what we’ve learned, so we decided to put together an approximate list of the 80 most popular data and statistics search topics.
Despite the recent explosion of web based cartography tools, making effective maps for data visualization remains a challenge. While tools like Google Maps are great for helping navigate the world they are often poorly suited for thematic mapping, as many features like roads and cities only get in the way of telling compelling stories with data. In fact, even the distance between places can be a distraction – who cares how far away Alaska is when the goal is to make a simple comparison between US states?
To help overcome some of the limitations with existing mapping tools Sunlight Lab is releasing ClearMaps, an ActionScript framework for interactive cartographic visualization. In addition to giving designers and developers more control over presentation the project aims to address some of the common technical challenges faced when building interactive, data driven maps for the web. ClearMaps is designed as a lightweight, flexible set of tools for building complex data visualizations. It is a framework not a plug-and-play component (though it could be a starting point for those wishing to make reusable tools).
We’ve been dying to know more about Microsoft’s Courier tablet / e-book device ever since we first caught wind of it last September, and while our entreaties to Mr. Ballmer went unanswered, we just learned some very interesting information from an extremely trusted source. We’re told Courier will function as a “digital journal,” and it’s designed to be seriously portable: it’s under an inch thick, weighs a little over a pound, and isn’t much bigger than a 5×7 photo when closed. That’s a lot smaller than we expected — this new picture really puts it into perspective — and the internals apparently reflect that emphasis on mobility: rather than Windows 7, we’re told the Courier is built on Tegra 2 and runs on the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows Mobile 7 Series, which we’re taking to mean Windows CE 6.
As we’ve heard, the interface appears to be pen-based and centered around drawing and writing, with built-in handwriting recognition and a corresponding web site that allows access to everything entered into the device in a blog-like format complete with comments. We’re also hearing that there will be a built-in camera, and there’s a headphone jack for media playback. Most interestingly, it looks like the Courier will also serve as Microsoft’s e-book device, with a dedicated ecosystem centered around reading. It all sounds spectacular, but all we have for a launch date is “Q3 / Q4″, and we have no idea how much it’s going to cost, so we’re trying to maintain a healthy skepticism until any of this gets official — call us any time, Microsoft. One more pic showing the interface after the break.
Here at Live Labs we’re all about experiments, and Pivot is our most ambitious to date. Pivot makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. We tried to step back and design an interaction model that accommodates the complexity and scale of information rather than the traditional structure of the Web.
Terrible charts seem to be in season. Rarely have I come across so many incredibly bad charts in such a short time: information graphics that don’t actually depict data, distorted representations, useless color schemes, and the worst pie chart ever.