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  • revamp

    After budget cuts a couple of years ago, I assumed was all but dead, but apparently there's a new site in the works.

    The original version of was hard to use, and you rarely found the data you wanted. I always ended up on Google and landed on the department's source instead. It looks like they improved the interface, and their aim is towards a community built around the data where people can share projects and analyses.

    However, the data available on the site still looks slim and dated, which was a challenge with the original version. I mean the homepage says you can search 100s of APIs and over 75,000 datasets, but then click over to the Data Catalog and it says only 409 datasets found. So there's still work to be done.

    I'm glad the project is still alive though. We'll have to see where this goes.

  • Thoughts on end of

    In a guest post for the Datablog, I thought out loud about the possible end of and what it means for open government data. Let me know what you think.

    Update: Funding might not be cut completely (for now).

  • and other transparency sites to be shut down due to budget cuts

    Last week, there were rumblings over the end of the Statistical Abstract, and I suggested that it was just a sign of changing technologies. I thought that and similar sites were the natural progression. Here's the problem with that argument. Congress is planning on shutting down and other transparency sites in the next few months.
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  • versus – Which wins?

    Back in May last year, the US government launched as a statement of transparency, and the Internet rejoiced. After the launch, excitement kind of fizzled with the actual site, but big cities like San Francisco, New York, and Toronto got in on the open data party.

    Then just a couple of weeks ago, launched, which brought me back to the US counterpart. How do the two compare? Here's my take. Continue Reading

  • Gearing Up For Launch, er, Does Launch

    Update: I had scheduled this post for next week, but apparently, launched today. The site isn't loading for me right now though. I guess they weren't prepared for traffic., a catalog of US data, launched last year. Now it's the UK's turn. Well, not yet. But soon. is still under lock and key, but it has granted access to some developers. Ito Labs, the group behind mapping a year of OpenStreetMap edits posted screenshots of their maps that show vehicle counts (above).

    Here are some comparison maps between 2001 and 2008, by vehicle type.
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  • is Live – Get Your Data While it’s Hot

    Big news. is now live. Government data is at your fingertips.

    The purpose of is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

    I was actually expecting an API of some sort, but it's a searchable catalog that makes it easier to find the datasets scattered across all the U.S. agency sites. I still need to explore more to figure out what exactly is there, but this is big news for data fans. What do you think of the new site? Discuss in the comments below.

    [via infosthetics]

  • Members Only

    How to Make Dot Density Maps in R

    August 28 2014  |  Tutorials  |  Tags:

    Choropleth maps are useful to show values for areas on a map, but they can be limited. In contrast, dot density maps are sometimes better for showing distributions within regions.
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  • How to Make Government Data Sites Better

    Accessing government data from the source is frustrating. If you've done it, or at least tried to, you know the pain that is oddly formatted files, search that doesn't work, and annotation that tells you nothing about the data in front of you.

    The most frustrating part of the process is knowing how useful the data could be if only it were shared more simply. Unfortunately, ease-of-use is rarely the case, and we spend more time formatting and inspecting the data than we do actually putting it to use. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
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  • Government data shutdown

    When you go to the United States Census site,, or similar government-run sites, you see this. "Due to the lapse in government funding, sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice." Now it's personal.

  • In land of YouTube dislikes, Justin Bieber rules

    Happy Friday, everyone. If you'll allow me, I'd like to take a moment to talk about something serious.

    In a move I believe is best for everyone (but mostly me), I am switching gears to only cover facets of pop culture and toilet humor. I will also be switching focus to online education. It's come to my attention that this is a lucrative area, and leveraging my authority on information and data graphics, I believe I can become a rich man and retire by age thirty, quite possibly making four figures even sooner.
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  • The end of the Statistical Abstract of the United States?

    March 24 2011  |  News  |  Tags: ,

    There are rumblings, mostly among librarians, over the end of the Statistical Compendia branch of the Census Bureau, in 2012. The branch has produced the Statistical Abstract of the United States every year since 1878.
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  • Lots of health data released via Health Indicators Warehouse

    The government has been making a big push for more open health-related data, and a couple of weeks ago, they released a whole bunch of it with the launch of It's the same interface as, but for health. Additionally, the Health Indicators Warehouse launched with different data and a slightly more useable interface.

    A quick scan of the data available, however, does seem to indicate that a lot of it is spotty or outdated (like on, which doesn't make it especially useful. For example, some data sets are only one data point, while others are only a single year. At least it's a start.

    [Health Indicators Warehouse via @periscopic]

  • Federal CTO on government and data

    Tim O'Reilly and Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer sit down for a chat on the US government's goals on open data and information accessibility. Disregard the infomercial feel to it. There's some interesting tidbits in there, albeit pretty broad.

    Uses for data

    Chopra brings up two examples on how the government is getting involved, and what's interesting about them is that it's not what most have in mind. It's not about money matters or policy-making.
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  • Open data doesn’t empower communities

    internet.artizans reflects on the usefulness of open data:

    I'm inspired by the idea that nuggets of opened data could seed guerilla public services, plugging gaps left by government, but i don't see any of that in the apps list. The reasons aren't technical but psychosocial - the people and communities who could use this data to help tackle their own disadvantage and marginalisation don't have the self-confident sense of entitlement that makes for successful civic hacktivism.

    The groups that really need it also often don't have the tech or know-how to make use of - or even collect useful data - to make a case for anything. People like us, the data and tech-savvy can help.

    [via migurski]

  • Where Americans are moving

    Jon Bruner of Forbes reports that more than 10 million Americans moved from one county to the other in 2008, based on data from the IRS. The above interactive map show these moves in and out of nine major cities. Red lines represent moves out of the city and black lines show the opposite. The less opaque a line, the less people.

    The interaction is kind of clunky, and it's hard to see all the movement, even when you zoom in, simply because there are so many lines. Further moves, say from California to Florida, get more visual dominance too, when it's actually less than it looks, I think. Placing less emphasis on the lines, and coloring counties as you select the major cities might make this more clear. Nevertheless, it's still an interesting view.

    [Thanks, @jonbruner]

    Update: Check out and look for 'migration' to get your hands on the data behind the map.

  • Visualizing data: ask a question first

    There is no way to think up an original and extraordinary design—it can only come as a result of pursuing a given task. In the same way running down a list of words is different from making a narrative.

    — Artemy Lebedev, Designer’s block, February 16, 2010

    This applies to visualization too. When you don't have a question to answer or a simple wonderment about something, you end up staring at a bunch of numbers with no clue what to do with them. Want to test this out? Go to and make something useful.

    [via @Coudal]

  • Review: indiemapper makes thematic mapping easy

    It's finally here. Indiemapper brings easy and flexible thematic mapping online. I've been looking forward to this app ever since I got a glimpse of what was to come over a year ago, through the eyes of Indieprojector. The guys at Axis Maps have taken the core functionality of advanced GIS, simplified the work flow with a well-designed interface, and made it it super easy to create beautiful maps.
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  • Explorations of real-world traffic

    April 15 2010  |  Mapping  |  Tags:

    Traffic visualizations, mostly in the form of geographic maps, have been popular lately. Governments and organizations have been releasing lots of GPS data, and as a result, we get to see some impressive animations and explore some slick interactives.

    We don't often get to see how cars, trains, subways, airplanes, etc move in physical space, because, well, we're usually in them, so it's always interesting to see the big picture. The activity feels very organic as traffic peaks during rush hours and slows down during the night, taxis provide service to and from the airport, and air traffic continues into the late hours. The maps pulsate with energy.

    Let's take a look at some of these great traffic visualizations, some new and some old.
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  • Edward Tufte on his White House appointment

    Edward Tufte was officially appointed to a White House advisory role a few weeks ago. Tufte, along with other experts like Ben Shneiderman, have been providing input for the last year or so.

    Tufte has a short chat (embedded below) with On the Media about what's been going on with The main point: report data like The New York Times.

    The first thing I said about a year ago when I met with them for the first time is that their model should be a first-rate news website... Once we got the news metaphor and got the intense mapping, that’s halfway there. I wouldn't give it an A yet. There’s, you know, still a ways to go, and I know some of them, and I hope to, you know, find a few more.

    Once is further along, hopefully other government organizations follow suit, starting with maybe Census...or the Bureau of Labor Statistics...or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...

    Listen to the six-minute interview below.
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  • 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year – 2009

    It was a huge year for data. There's no denying it. Data is about to explode.

    Applications sprung up left and right that help you understand your data - your Web traffic, your finances, and your life. There are now online marketplaces that sell data as files or via API. launched to provide the public with usable, machine-readable data on a national scale. State and local governments followed, and data availability expands every day.

    At the same time, there are now tons of tools that you can use to visualize your data. It's not just Excel anymore, and a lot of it is browser-based. Some of the tools even have aesthetics to boot.

    It's exciting times for data, indeed.
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