30 May 2011

Roundup: New Data Tools

As much as I love all of the new data tools and interest in visualization, I have to admit that I am a babe in the woods where all of it is concerned. A fan of the game...maybe even a minor league player/benchwarmer, at best. But for me, all these bright shiny tools I see are inspiring. They are like a workshop full of possibilities. I just need to figure out what those are. Perhaps you have some ideas, too?

Not long ago, Google Trends allowed you to examine how various search terms have emerged and are being used. You might also have seen people playing with Google Ngram Viewer, a way to see how certain words have been used in published works in various languages over time. And now, we have Google Correlate which is described as "Google Trends in reverse," but is really just Trends Squared. You give it a term and Google finds others with a similar pattern. This can lead to some rather interesting pairings, as Bug Girl discovered (e.g. "honey bee" and "raptor cam"), but it also makes me wonder how to better tune into the signal vs. the noise. Maybe we need to look for things that don't match---or where misinformation is most easily disseminated.

Speaking of all things Google, you may have seen or used Google Refine to clean your data, but there is a new kid on the block: Data Wrangler. I haven't used it yet, but I might give it a whirl. Our state puts out any number of spreadsheets with data about schools, but only annual snapshots. There is no way to look at data over time and I have long wished for One Spreadsheet to Rule Them All. (*insert maniacal laugh here*) Okay, so maybe I need to get a life, but in the meantime, a girl's gotta dream what a girl's gotta dream.

Another intriguing tool to play with is Zanran, a search engine for graphs, charts, and tables. How cool is that?

For me, data visualization and all of these tools are a natural outgrowth of the Internet age. They are attempts to corral the volume of information we have access to and translate it into something manageable. They are how we eat the proverbial elephant. I'm sure that in a few months, I'll be back with another post containing more recipes. Until then, please feel free to share your favourite new discoveries in the comments.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Although it comes from a different place (originally designed for students in Grades 4 to 8), TinkerPlots remains the top of my list when it comes to data visualization. You can interact with data by up to four distinct variables (i.e. race, gender, disability status, enrollment date) and as each data set is organized around one organizing center (i.e. a student), it makes it that much easier to keep track of individual students when looking at large data sets or data over time. It serves as a fantastic supplement to Excel or Numbers.