Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tapping the Power of Iraq Readily Reusable Data

In the previous post, we showed how the tabular data from Michael O'Hanlon's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could be converted to a Readily Reusable (RR) format as a CSV file ( ohanlon-key-factors.csv ) and how the RR format then made it relatively straightforward and inexpensive to actually look at the visualization of all thirty of the reported trends, one by one as shown in vizualizing-trends-ohanlon-testimony.pdf.

We have found that when using RR data and TLViz, the time savings we achieve make it possible to look at hundreds of trends, one after the other, in a very short time so as to gain a gestalt sense of all the reported factors at work. Typically, moving from tabular form to RR form gives a productivity saving factor of at least 10 to 1. Frequently, the productivity increase is 50 to 1 or more.

After having reviewed each of the 30 reported trend factors from Michael O'Hanlon's testimony, it became apparent that there were some other interesting trends hiding amongst the original data that could be computed with simple calculations from the original data. This is readily achievable by opening the RR csv file with a tool such as Microsoft Excel.

For example, with Excel we could create a new column of data and combine US troop strength and troop strength of other non-US coalition forces and then calculate the percentage of coalitions forces that were non-US. Similarly, we could use the original data to calculate the percentage of US troops that had been killed in that month by IEDs. We could also take factors such as the cumulative number of refugees and convert them into year over year trend data.

Below, we show you the three new trend charts that bring some previously invisible trends into the light of day where we can all see them. (please click on trend graphic for full size image.)

Bottom line. Once the trend data is in RR format, all sorts of new possibilities of understanding open up that can help us better understand what is really going on.

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