If you’re interested in the visual presentation of information, you should already have seen Hans Rosling’s TED talk titled “Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen” from 2006. If you haven’t, go check it out.
What’s incredibly cool is that Google docs will now let you create Rosling-inspired motion charts here.
So, for example, you could create a motion chart like this one that shows the relationship over time between the housing price index and the unemployment rate; or this one that tells something (I honestly can’t explain exactly what) about trends in the top journals.
To me, the lessons here are:
1. Hans Rosling is a genius AND an incredible story-teller
2. The fact that Google is making these kinds of tools available is just one more reason (along with free, simultaneous collaboration) that Google docs may just obviate Microsoft Office in 2-3 years’ time
3. Just because you have the tools doesn’t mean you should use them. In truth, neither of the two examples I’ve linked to in this post passes my litmus test of making a clear story out of complex data.
Nevertheless, the tools are fun and worth exploring. Enjoy.