On its trail to organize the world’s information, Google has just added a new experimental product to their Lab. The Public Data Explorer makes “large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate”. It is designed to help people comprehend data and statistics through rich visualizations.
The Explorer uses Google’s ability of syndicating public datasets previously introduced in their search results. The visualizations are built on top of their Visualization API and the animated charts are based on the Trendalyzer technology Google acquired from the Gapminder Foundation. It has previously been available in the Motion Chart in Google Spreadsheets.
Creating a visualization is straight forward and a matter of minutes. A user can chose the data and how to visually represent it. Additional data can then be applied to different attributes of the visualization. The created views can be shared via permalink or embedded in any webpage.
Google selected the data sets by analyzing anonymous search logs to find patterns in the kinds of searches people are doing. This way they can cover a majority of the demand for statistical data with a limited amount of different data providers and data sets. Here’s a list of the currently available data sets:
The World Bank, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the California Department of Education, Eurostat, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In my opinion Google is in a strong position to evangelize the advantages of transparency in information distribution. Let’s hope this encourages more insitutions to open acces to their data sets. I am also happy to see a user friendly addition to the solutions already available for developers to access public data programmatically. It makes it really easy to create and share visualizations based on public data. As a note: If you’re looking to display your own data, I recommend having a look at the recently launched Tableau Public.
What do you think? Are the available data sources sufficient enough to be real value to the average user? If not, what would you like to see added to the list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.