A great data for data geeks of all stripes: Today, Google has opened up the tools on its Public Data Explorer, so that you can use them to chart any old data set you might have laying around. "If you're a student or a journalist or a teacher, you can upload your data and get the same visualizations that we have for our own product," Ben Yolken, Google's product manager for the Public Data Explorer, tells Co.Design.
The tools were first rolled out a year ago, after the company bought up the Gapminder Trendalizer, a bubble-chart data-viz technology invented by Dr. Hans Rosling, the infographics guru/health researcher/acclaimed TED genius.
Thus, on the PDE site right now, you can see all manner of amazing time-based data animations, such as the relationship between fertility and life expectancy in the last 50 years; 20 years of U.S unemployment data; and even STD transmission in the last 15 years.
Now, to use all these nifty charts, you just have to put your data into a special format developed by Google, which is adapted to each of these visualizations. Afterward, you can share that data with anyone you want as a Google Doc.
But Google isn't trying to supplant Excel or Powerpoint. "This isn't really a generalized table editor, so it doesn't replace a spreadsheet," Yolken tells us. "It's a complement to other systems." (Not to mention a tool that cost Google a tidy sum, and which is now free to use.)
Yolken points that that all these data viz efforts fit in with Google's broader goal of making information -- and not just webpages -- transparent for public use and understanding (and, of course, the unspoken goal of feeding Google's massive cache of user data and keeping more people on Google for more hours). "People are constantly searching for the data we have on the site now," he says. "But data needs tools that allow people to understand and explore it."