As announced on their excellent Open blog, the Times rolled out a neat tool yesterday:
The New York Times Visualization Lab… allows readers to create compelling interactive charts, graphs, maps and other types of graphical presentations from data made available by Times editors. NYTimes.com readers can comment on the visualizations, share them with others in the form of widgets and images, and create topic hubs where people can collect visualizations and discuss specific subjects.
It’s based on the technology developed by the folks at Many Eyes (about which I’ve blogged before). In this implementation you can’t upload your own data. Instead, the data you’re able visualize is provided by the Times editors.
Still learning a bit
The interface is pretty cludgy, and the initial data sets don’t quite work with the canned visualizations (NYT folks: if you’re watching, see below for my bug report), but they should be able to work that stuff out.
My other complaint is that the data is more like what I’d look for in an atlas than I’d expect from a newspaper. Party Affiliation By Religious Tradition, National League HR per AB Leaders 2006-2008, and Sarah Palin’s Speech at the RNC are fun as a start, but don’t realize the potential of this system.
I sure hope data sets discovered while researching New York Times stories get uploaded to the lab. They’ve got to have some FOIAed federal data on their desktops. That kind of stuff is begging for citizen journalism.
Or, do it yourself
If you love this, you’ll want to take a swing at making your own charts over at the full-featured Many Eyes site. I’ve been playing with the Illinois State Board of Education’s schools report card data:
(The Times did make one huge improvement… their embedded charts have a *way* better color scheme.)
I said the API was a good step forward. The Visualization Lab is more than a step. … I’m looking forward to seeing how well Times readers take to this new way of interacting.
Agreed. I’m really excited about this. It ain’t perfect, but it’s an exciting development for online news, especially if they start uploading lots of source materials and make it a bit easier to use. The big question is: Will people use it?