Stock charts for everything else: Google Public Data

Google rolled out a simple little feature today: enter “unemployment rate wayne county” and they’ll offer you a chart. Click it, and you’ll see the unemployment rate since 1990, and be able to add other counties to compare. It ain’t much, but it’s neat.

Now, unemployment data *is* take-my-shirt-off-WOO-HOO-high-five thrilling, but this’ll get much more interesting if Google follows through (from the Official Google Blog):

The data we’re including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web. There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers’ salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on. … we have been working on creating a new service that make lots of data instantly available for intuitive, visual exploration. Today’s launch is a first step in that direction.

Tidy snippets of civic information, linkable and comparable, from all aspects of public data — that’s one damn cool almanac! More like Everyblock than Wikipedia. Data, but easier. Fucking linkable!

Who’s gonna step up?

From this day forward, any news story about unemployment must link to the chart, just like business stories link to stock charts. Anything less is a disservice to readers. It’s zero-effort, free, informative, and damn neat. Why the hell not?

The future

The sci-fi geek in me sees this as just one more step towards Google’s lofty mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s coming: All the data, one gesture away, on my cornea-screen. Oh, hell yes.

enviroVOTE: Tune in tonight to track the environmintiness of the elections

This morning, Ryan Mark and I launched enviroVOTE!

Conceived last Monday, and built in a three-day coding sprint that ended in the wee hours this morning, the site tracks the environmental impact of the elections by comparing winning candidates with environmentally-friendly endorsements.


The numbers

Amy Gahran got the scoop with her E-Media Tidbits post:

The site’s home page features a meter bar currently set to zero. That will change as election results come in tonight. You can also view races by state, with links to specific eco-group endorsements given to specific candidates. …

But the analysis goes deeper than that. Below the meter bar is a percentage figure. That’s where Envirovote gauges the level of enviromintiness of the 2008 elections. Boyer defines enviromintiness as “The freshness of the breath of the nation. Technically, this is the percent change in the eco-friendliness of this year’s elections compared to the last applicable elections for the same seats.”

We calculate the eco-friendliness of a candidate based on how many environmental endorsements they’ve received compared to their race-mates.  Most of the endorsement data, as well as candidate and race information was lovingly sucked through the tubes from Project Vote Smart.  Other data was pulled from Wikipedia and the environmental groups’ websites.

The awesomeness to come

The enviro-meter hasn’t moved yet, but very soon it’ll show the environmental impact of today’s election.  We’ll post the results as they come in tonight, and if America made environminty choices, those bars are gonna start turning green!

So, what are you waiting for?

Check out enviroVOTE tonight, as the polls come in!  And for the play-by-play, follow us on Twitter!

Flickr adds embeddable slideshows! Yaaay!

I use Flickr lots. For sharing little videos in my river blog posts, for finding creative-commons-licensed images to accompany my news stories, and for sharing my pictures with the world so that they might find their way into neat places like the Wikipedia.

And now I can embed slideshows! Woo!

Click the little arrows-in-a-box icon for fullscreen.

UPDATE: They also added videos to slide shows. They play automagically. (There are a few videos at the end of this set, if you’d like a demo.)

I love Flickr.

(Thanks to ReadWriteWeb and Mashable for the heads up.)

New media literacy: a quiz

Ryan Thornburg has posted a quiz for his readers — an excerpt:

Could you explain how spread like wildfire the rumor of the death of Subway spokesman Jared Fogel? (And why it will be important for every political journalist to monitor the site on Nov. 3?)

Could you use Wikipedia’s revision history to see who edited the Jared Fogel entry with the false rumor of his death? Could you explain why the page is (probably) accurate right now?

SEO and whois are also on the quiz – do you know how these tools work, or even what they are?  His point is that the bad people do know.  They’re creating misinformation — the modern journalist needs to know how to filter it out.

I would add:

UPDATE – Spelled Ryan’s name wrong! Eek!!  So sorry.  Medill F.

Social production: why it’s important, and how it’s at risk

The Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and free and open source and software are brilliant, wonderful things. They’re examples of forms of collaboration never before possible, and are just a glimmer of what’s to come. But they’re not guaranteed.

Yochai Benkler says it far better than I could:

Social production is a real fact, not a fad. It is the critical long term shift caused by the Internet. Social relations and exchange become significantly more important than they ever were as an economic phenemon.

Yochai Benkler
Click to watch video.

So, next time you open the paper, and you see an intellectual property decision, a telecoms decision – it’s not about something small and technical. It is about the future of the freedom to be as social beings with each other and the way information, knoweldge and culture will be produced.

If you haven’t read Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks, I highly recommend you do so. It’s amazing, and freely available online under a creative commons license. (It’s also in print, for paper lovers like me.)

Found on DigiDave.

UPDATE: Swapped image in for nasty flash embedding.