Visualize Your Information: Google Launches Free Data Tool
Google today (Feb. 16) opened its Public Data Explorer tool to Internet users everywhere who want to use their own data to create powerful, interactive visualizations of their information. Unfortunately, the tool, which is available in Google Labs, requires users to have a mastery of the document programming language XML, a knowledge of which most Google users are unlikely to possess.
However, as more and more data sets are uploaded for public consumption, you may find Google's Public Data Explorer to be a useful reference for presentations, reports and simply to satisfy your curiosity. Because data is linked to its source, the charts are continuously updated when new data is available.
Further, each chart can be explored — just click on the "explore data" link in the lower right-hand corner of a chart you are interested in. A large window opens up that allows you to slice and dice the data in different ways.
For instance, in Google's Public Dataset "Life Expectancy at Birth", data is grouped by geographical region, but by clicking on a specific country in a listing to the left of the chart, you can see one or more countries at a time. Also, rolling over the key will cause regions to "flash" and become far more visible. Animations are built into most data sets.
For the past two years, Google has offered curated datasets, including unemployment figures, government debt levels and population statistics, based on the company's new data format, called the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL). These sets are expected to grow with the opening of the tool to the general public.
Charts can be shared by clicking "Link" in the upper right-hand corner. A drop-down box offers a link to charts, which can be included in an e-mail or instant message. Alternately, a line of HTML code is available that can be copied and pasted into a website such as a personal blog, a process that's similar to embedding a video.
Here's how to add your own
According to Google, adding your data is a three-step process:
- Describe your dataset using DSPL (an open, XML-based metadata format optimized for data visualization). See the documentation on Google Code for more information.
- Bundle your data and metadata into a single compressed file, and upload it.
- Preview, share, and publish your dataset for others to see and use.
- How to Double Gmail Security
- Visualization Tools Can 'See' Through a Forest of Data
- How to Write a Business Plan