Sue Beardsmore spoke to a class of primary school children in Birchfield, asking the children to tell her what they think of school, the city of Birmingham and what they hope to do when they grow up.
Sue tabulated the answers into a spreadsheet and I’ve had a quick play at visualising one question in the text data: “what do you think school is for?”
Here’s the result (click the link to view the image at full size). I used a word tree in Many Eyes to choose a starting keyword, in this case “learn”, and then view the children’s answers in context to the keyword.
I really like the word tree format (say over a word cloud) as a way to understand context of the text I’m interested in.
Do you need some help making sense of your data? Talk to us.
I spent a great day at LocalGovCamp in Birmingham last Saturday, an unconference for anyone interested in how social media and digital technology relates to local authorities and improving public services.
Photo by Glenn Wood
Toby Blume, of Urban Forum and Paul Evans ran a session on data visualisation and visualising policy (more on that in this previous post).
Partway through the discussion, one particular issue really grabbed my attention. There was some frustration from some local authority officers about how difficult it is to actually make a visualisation or to communicate issues visually. It went something like this:
“This stuff is really hard. I want a tool that will let me put my data in and will give me a nice visualisation back.”
After a few responses – useful suggestions such as starting with Google Spreadsheets or Fusion Tables – the frustration with the steep learning curve came out, and Michael Grimes refocused the room with this nugget of sense:
“The process of creation [for a data visualisation] is important. It’s about how we communicate accurately with the information we have.”
And Michael got me thinking… do local authority officers expect making a data visualisation to be a straightforward process? Should it be easier? Are the available tools not serving those new to visualisation?
Or, and this is my thinking, there’s a false expectation that visualising data is easy. The JFDI attitude prevalent in other areas of digital tools for local government may have created false expectations on ease of access to visualisation.
Toby Blume runs Urban Forum, a charity helping community groups and local people influence what happens in their area. Toby is interested in understanding how we can make policy and data understandable to help people engage with decisions that affect them and to help them make informed choices.
Toby facilitated a session, alongside Paul Evans (here are Paul’s slides) on visualising data and policy at LocalGovCamp last Saturday in Birmingham.
These are my links for February 13th through February 14th:
- Local council elections in 2010 « LGiU – the local democracy blog – At the BBC I loved organising and doing election coverage. (Genuinely did) This post shows that while the Local Government Information unit was thinking there are 166 local councils holding elections on May 6th the researchers I used to rely on, Rallings and Thrasher reckon there are 176. This can't be a tricky single data source problem to crack!
- Google Code Blog: Announcing Google Chart Tools –
- BBC – The Virtual Revolution Blog: BBC Digital Revolution rushes for you to download and edit – Argued for this in 1999 – great to see it happening. The most embarrassing bits of the rushes (un-edited video) are the ones when the producer reporter is making people do/say what they need them to do. That may well be the stuff left out! "Releasing rushes like this is an experiment, and there are some limitations. We're not releasing all our rushes, for two reasons. Firstly, we have a compliance procedure at the BBC which means that all online video has to be viewed by a senior manager – there's simply too much footage to do this properly. We do estimate that we will be releasing around 5 hours of interview material, featuring 20-30 interviewees, and up to an hour of other content."
- Blogging and Facebook for councillors – Councillor Mary Reid offers you the benefit of her experience. She offers top tips on how councillors can make the most of blogs and social network media. (thanks to @pigsonthewing )
- PC Ed Rogerson (hotelalpha9) on Twitter – This is one of my favourite bits of the web for the crossover between social media, very local stuff and public service: "Just had a meeting with my Sergeant. I've been instructed to conduct more speed checks in Starbeck and to seize tobacco off children."