The joy of data


I wanted to share a bit about what I’m working on right now. (Other than my thesis and imaginative writing project, the things I’m supposed to be doing.) I’ve discovered two wonderful tools for data exploration. First is Google Public Data Explorer, which has been around for a while. It’s really cool and has some nice data sets. I wish it had a better map visualization, though. If I want to compare, say STD rates by state, I’d rather shade the states than have different colored dots on them. Normally, you can embed your graphics, but WordPress is picky about embedding anything so I can’t, and have to settle for a permalink to a graph showing that the number of students in California whose parents did not graduate high school has decreased dramatically since 2005.

The other tool, and I think the better, is IBM’s Many Eyes. For one thing, you can upload your own data. For another, you can get image files of your visualizations. This is nice for people like me, who can’t edit their blog’s html, but still want to show you a map of “bigfoot” “sightings” since 1870.

A map of "bigfoot" "sightings." Apparently people like to drink in the woods on the West Coast.

Why am I playing with these tools when I could be getting drunk on Southern Comfort, cinnamon whiskey, and Kahlua? Well, for one I like data better than hangovers. But I’m also working on a post about secession and the many cultural and political divides in the US. Data is necessary for any argument, but to convince anyone it must be presented clearly, accurately, and in an interesting manner.

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