While new websites have done a terrific job allowing people to share text, photos, and videos, one form of data that has thus far resisted the trend towards new collaborative tools is raw data. Even the best websites generally isolate data as downloadable spreadsheets, leaving it to the individual users to analyze the results and create graphs and charts.
My friend Josh tipped me off to a new website called Swivel who hopes to change that. On their website, anyone can join and easily upload data, create graphs and tables, and even compare variables between datasets. The service is free if you make your data freely available, and is planning to charge for private accounts.
I’ve uploaded a few datasets I had lying around. Did you know the amount of vacant housing is increasing in Baltimore?
After posting this data on homicide in the District:
I found another blogger who had posted data for New Orleans, and could easily combine the two on a new graph:
The site isn’t perfect. Because the website automatically creates graphs for the data you upload, the system is clogged with a slew of meaningless or misleading graphs. (I’d prefer graphs be created when users create them) Data visualization purists will no doubt chafe at the limited options and prevalence of bad graphs. However, I believe the system has potential as a easy-to-use clearinghouse for easily sharing data. As for concerns about quality, the founders have already lined up a an impressive list of “Official Sources” including the National Weather Service, World Health Organization, and U.S. Department of Transportation.