Back in June last year we posted about a demo site we’d put together to experiment with storing and visualizing open data. Recently several new sites have appeared doing web-based visualization, the most prominent of which are Many Eyes from IBM’s visualization research department and swivel.

In both cases it appears that the code isn’t open though the data you upload is (though in neither case does there seem to be any explicit licensing). Both sites also have a very limited approach to managing the data (no data versioning, no packaging etc etc) with the emphasis being on the nice visualization tools (and snappy photos from flickr).

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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.

3 thoughts on “Storing and Visualizing Open Data: II”

  1. About the explicit licensing of data at Swivel, shortly after we launched we learned from our community that explicitly keeping the data open was more important than we realized. So, we immediately shifted to a creative commons license. You can read about it here:

    and here:

    And also in our terms of use:

    You will also notice at Swivel that every graph and every data set allows users to download the source data as a CSV.

    I would enjoy hearing more about the limitations you allude to so we can react to those.

    It sounds like we share a similar mission in liberating the world’s data and making it more valuable. It would be interesting to find ways to work together. Please drop me an email anytime.

    Brian Mulloy
    CEO & Cofounder

  2. Thanks for such a rapid response Brian and it is fantastic to hear that the data (and resulting graphs) are openly licensed. swivel certainly is a very impressive effort and exactly what we need more of — as I discussed in my original post last summer about storing and visualizing data without nice tools there is no incentive for people to provide the data (and without the data you can’t really do anything!)

    Regarding the limitations the main thing I had in mind (and I hope I haven’t missed anything) is that there is no way to collaboratively work on the data. In particular am I correct that: a) the data is not versioned (with csv files this would be as simple as putting stuff in a subversion repository) b) there is no way for me to edit (e.g. bugfix) other peoples datasets?

    Of course one has to be careful with editing but it would be interesting to allow people to make their dataset writable, or at least selectively writable — and once one has versioning this is a lot less problematic as there is no risk of permanent data loss. (For more on this theme see this earlier post on collaborative development of data. You might also be interested in this post on four principles of open knowledge development).

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