Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ola Rosling presentation of Gapminder at Google Headquarters

Here's another excellent Gapminder presentation -- this time by Ola Rosling speaking at Google Headquarters back on March 7th, 2006. It runs approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.

After seeing several examples of Prof. Hans Rosling taking the Gapminder tool through its paces, it's worth watching to see how the same tool in a different person's hands can produce a different and yet completely worthwhile storyline to help explain the data and bring out new details that no one has ever seen or noticed before.

The talk includes some nice examples of why the log scale is important as well as several sections that make the case for why being able to disaggregate turns out to be so important for understanding.

Along with many others who have checked out Gapminder, I personally am looking forward to the time when a new version will be available - ideally with access to a ton more of built in data as well as the possibility to allow the loading of new data sets.

Having experimented with the Gapminder World 2006 version, it is clear the possibilities of this approach are going to make a huge contribution to analysis of trend data and the creation of powerful narratives that weave those findings together. Because of its interactive nature, I am also certain that this tool will also prove to be a spring board for collaboration, for merging the best findings and story lines from many different analysts, each bringing their own unique perspective to bear on the data.

I think it is also highly likely that the next generation of Gapminder will also prove to be a tool that non-expert ordinary citizens will be able to use themselves to make sense of the world and to allow them to personally sanity check and validate the story lines of "the experts."

Some additional Gapminder tools for download are available at the Gapminder.org web site.

You won't be disappointed if you give Gapminder World 2006 a trial run. One nice feature of the tool is that as you make adjustments to what you are seeing on the screen by clicking on various options, these changes are reflected in current URL link value. If you create a situation that you personally find interesting, when you publish the URL, others will be able to begin their look at Gapminder with the way you had last set up its parameter options.

For example, check out this link to a customized Gapminder result (I recommend you do this in a new Tab or in a new browser window) where 4 countries have been selected, trailing tails have been added, the X and Y axis have been changed to represent Urban Population (linear scale) and Life Expectancy (linear scale) . We have reduced the size of each circle and zoomed in on both the X and Y axis to just contain the tracks of the 4 selected countries. We also slowed down the speed at which the trends will progress and adjusted the opacity setting for the countries not selected to a dimmer value.

The beauty of this is that when we share such a link, the recipient can actually see the last thing that we saw - what we thought important enough to capture.

They can then take that as their starting point to checkout any combination of other options - adding or removing countries, adjusting the speed, removing tails, changing to log scale on the X or Y axis, adjusting the opacity of the non-selected countries, zooming back out to a one hundred percent view of the data, or selecting new performance indicators for the x and y axis.

We recommend starting a new broswer tab or window because each time you select a new option, it is as if you had linked to a new web page, so if you make many changes, you will have to hit the back button many times to get back to your original launch page. Of course, this is also a feature as it lets you go back to previous version of option settings very easily.

Friday, July 20, 2007

S&P 500 - Comparing nominal vs inflation adjusted performance

Hat tip again to Barry Ritholtz for this nice chart.

It's kind of interesting that almost all other economic metrics get adjusted (normalized) for inflation (e.g. GDP and hourly wages) but that we don't apply the same scaling adjustment to our stock market indices.

The long time scale for this chart makes it even more interesting. Note the devastation of the 1970s and how the inflation adjusted value has not yet recovered to its year 2000 peak.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Unveiling the Beauty of Statistics

Jesse Robbins' excellent blog post - Unveiling the Beauty of Statistics - at O'Reilly Radar points us to another recent and Rosling video presentation - this time from the OECD World Forum in Istanbul. Unfortunately, the camera work is only a fraction as good as with the TED presentations and weather channel type presentation showing only Rosling speaking or showing a long view of the whole auditorium. In neither case is the exciting data that Rosling is talking about visible to the video viewer.

However, Rosling's message in this talk is still exactly on the money - a continued call
for more open and available data,
for better tools for visualizing it, and
for making it available to ordinary citizens around the world.

The chorus of voices echoing this message is rising. Web sites with visual tools such as Gapminder, Swivel and ManyEyes are leading the charge and changing the way we think about data.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hans Rosling: GapCast #1 Health, Money & Sex in Sweden.

Here's the latest from Hans Rosling's blog. His use of weather channel type technology for this video leads to much more vivid looking demonstrations.

This permits much more interaction between Rosling and the data as it changes over time and permits both Rosling and the data to be visible at all times. Compare it with the video capture difficulties that show up even in the very professionally cone TED talks where the camera switches back and forth between Rosling and the screen and where Rosling is not brightly lighted for fear of washing out the projection screen.

With the weather channel technology approach, both Rosling and the data are brilliant and vivid.

Definitely worth a look.

Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty and life around the world (video)

Here's Hans Rosling's talk from TED 2007. Another home run from the man who brought you GapMinder.

Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths

Don't miss this GapMinder talk by Hans Rosling at TED 2006.

20 minutes and well worth every minute you spend. GapMinder is a great interactive tool for looking and change over time. In the skilled hands of Professor Rosling, its richness and power come into full view. Don't miss it.

TED Talks Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen (video)

Graph Showing Public Opinion During World War II

Hat tip to Josh Marshall over at TPM for his blog post with the link to this excellent, easy to read, hand drawn trend graphic showing public opinion during World War II.

This chart shows the complete time range and multiple relevant factors in enough detail that the trends for each factor can be readily discerned. The use of event labeling on the Top X axis adds to the value and usefulness of this chart.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

White House Economic Statistics Briefing Room

Here's a link to the White House Economic Statistics Briefing Room

Their purpose is to provide easy access to current Federal economic indicators drawn from a a number of different Federal agencies. Categories of data include:
This is a nice idea but the navigation, the selection of key performance indicators, and some of the presentational choices made for each chart leaves some room for improvement.

Navigation: For example the Employment link provides access to 8 metrics and one might imagine that someone interested getting a sense of how things are going with regard to employment might actually want to look at all 8.

To accomplish you click on the employment link which brings up a web page that lists the 8 factors but due to the layout of the page, it takes almost two full screens to see the eight factors. Each factor has a chart icon to click on so you can see the actual chart.

The icon is large enough in size so that it would have been big enough to give a useful small size version of the chart. Amazingly, when you click on the icon, instead of getting the full size version of the chart, you get an intermediate screen that tells you that you are exiting the White House Server. After a 5+ second delay you are redirected to the chart.

So to look at all 8 charts that were picked to represent the most important employment related factors, you have to navigate up back and forth with the redirection delay in the middle. Not a lot of fun.

If you want to look at all the key indicators from all the categories, there is a whole lot of clicking and mousing and redirect delays ahead of you.

Contrast this to the St. Louis Fed approach of combining all the key indicators at a given point in time into a single PDF document. My take is that the PDF format is much kinder to the prospective reader/viewer and that it is much more likely to be examined and used.

It would be great if there were an option to download a single PDF or PowerPoint document that had all the charts from all the different categories so that the viewer could simply scroll through each chart and thereby obtain a composite, gestalt view of the state of the economy.

St Louis Fed July 2007 National Economic Trends

The latest collection of charts from the St. Louis Fed highlighting National Economic Trends where they continue in their tradition of presenting both extended time periods and shorter intervals. This easy to download document is a good example of how it is possible to present high degrees of multi-dimensionality covering a wide range of the most important indicators, all in a single, easy to use, easy to read format.