Google public data, Wolfram Alpha and data.gov

This last two weeks, three high-profile data-related services have been released: google’s public data, Wolfram|Alpha and data.gov.

google's public dataWolfram|alpha

data.gov screenshotIn the next couple of posts I’m going to review all three.

But before I’d like to go back to 2007, when Swivel.com and Many-eyes.com were released.

Those 2 services allow users to publish their own data visualizations, based on datasets uploaded by themselves or by others. At the OECD, we had used the services extensively, uploading hundreds of datasets and creating that many visualizations.

At the end of the day, my main gripe with both services was never the visualization proper, or the interface, or any of the services to the data publisher – which the developers knew to be highly perfectible. No, what bothered me was the navigation within the site and how all the datasets were organized. There wasn’t any way to group your datasets or visualizations, then to group these groupings. Sure, they had an author name attached to them, and later, a theme, so it was possible to see all datasets from a specific author, or about a specific theme. But at the end of the day, that was a very long list, so the top titles received all the exposure, and the others, none. And indeed, we realized that some of our data objects got all the traffic, while others, not necessarily less interesting, had none – they were simply not seen.

My reaction to swivel and many-eyes was to tell them, you are not going to be able to allow users to search for data sets on your site. It’s too difficult and it’s not your focus. Forget about being a community site or a portal, and instead, allow users to share what they make on your sites in the environments they like. Allow them to download images, embed applets, you name it, but the navigation will have to happen on their site, not on yours.

So let’s see how this applies to these 3 new services.

 

jerome

 

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