January 22, 2017

Google's Public Data Explorer

I was interested to see recently that Google had opened up their data visualization infrastructure. One part of it is a tool that anyone can use to visualize publicly available data — the Public Data Explorer. As they say on their web site, “The Google Public Data Explorer makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate…You don’t have to be a data expert to navigate between different views, make your own comparisons, and share your findings.”

They have a directory of many public datasets, but you can also upload your own data and use their tools to visualize it.

To do that, you need to learn about the Dataset Publishing Language. It’s basically a standardized way to describe your data so the Public Data Explorer can manipulate it. The data itself doesn’t need to be marked up in XML, it can stay in the CSV format (comma separated values, and a typical Excel output format).

But be careful, you can easily lose a lot of time messing around with making animated graphs of various data sets that are already there. I sure did.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.