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.