Sometimes Good Data is Hard to Come By

Filed Under Visualization

Sometimes Good Data is Hard to Come By

by
April 19, 2012

Sometimes the most challenging aspect of creating data visualizations is finding an interesting data set that tells a story. As I’ve mentioned before, try all you want but dressing up dull data won’t disguise poor data. The truth of the matter is, if you don’t have good data even the most visually stunning infographics will still look like they’re missing something. I know that it’s a bit cliché, but when it comes to data visualizations the old adage rings true: “garbage in, garbage out”. So where are some places to look when you need some additional, reliable data to help bring out the best in your visuals?

If this problem has got your stumped, then look no further. Romy Misra of the data visualization site, Visual.ly, kindly offers up some excellent sources where you can find good, reliable data– so get your browser’s bookmarker out as it’s definitely saving a few of these sites for future use.

Government & Political Data

For those seeking information that governments record (i.e. earthquakes, local area unemployment stats, the Consumer Price Index, air pollution levels, or crime rates) Data.gov is the place for you. This site claims to have up to 400,000 different data sets, of both raw and geospatial. Sounds great, right? However, there is one small price when using data from Data.gov. According to Misra, “you have to make sure you clean them, since many have missing values and characters.”

Another good place to explore government-related data is Socrata. Socrata flaunts some cool visualization tools that make exploring the data even easier.

Looking for data about the parking spot availability in San Francisco, or the crime rate in Chicago? Well now even some cities have created their own data portals setup. For example, need specific data pertaining to the city of San Francisco? Check out San Francisco Data where you’ll be able to browse everything from graffiti reports, to city parking lots, to wind speeds across the city – odds are if you can’t find it here, then it isn’t being recoded!

Data Aggregators

Not looking for government data? Well, there are tons of excellent data aggregators out there for you to take advantage of. Misra suggests taking a look at the following:

Infochimps offers thousands of public and proprietary data sets for download via their data marketplace. They have tons of data ranging a vast variety of categories (from historical Twitter and OK Cupid to get location data) Additionally, Infochimps offer this data across different formats for you to use. You can even upload your own data should you want.

Data Market is a great place if you are looking for data related to economics, healthcare, food, agriculture and the automotive industry.

Google (surprise, surprise) is yet another great data aggregator. Google Public data explorer is a good place to check out data from world development indicators, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and human development indicators.

Open Paths is a great geo-location data service. It’s free, and allows users to upload and use individuals’ location data.

News Data

Of course when thinking about news visualziations, the New York Times immediately comes to mind. They offer a great set API’s and a good explorer to access any article in the publication. The data is returned in json format.

The Guardian Data Blog is another excellent source. They regularly publish visualizations and make data available through Google docs. Misra points out that “the great thing about this is that the data has already been cleaned.”

These are only a few of the sources that Misra offers up, if you want the whole enchilada check out Misra’s entire post. I hope that these sources will help your data visualizations tell an even more compelling story.

Image Source: www.iStockphoto.com
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