Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching & graphing public data using Google

A new data-visualization feature was added to Google search a couple of months ago, while I wasn't paying attention to anything but end-of-semester work. The system uses the latest official statistics available from government agencies, and Google is soliciting more data.

Luckily my Twitter feed brought a couple of tips about it today. Very cool. Try typing "unemployment rate" or "population" in a Google search window, followed by the name of your city or county. This would be very useful for journalism students, once it works as advertised. (See note below.)

Related posts:
Problem:The click-through enlarged graphs shown in the video work for "population radford va" but when I search for "unemployment rate radford va" the enlarged graph page comes up blank. The same happens with the two searches demonstrated by Google. I posted a note in a Google forum asking whether the unemployment data search is broken... and will update this when I get more info. (Or just follow that link to the forum to see if there's any discussion.)

On the population data search, a left column allows you to add other counties or states to the expanded graph, as shown in the video. Using the same technique with unemployment data would be even more interesting, so I hope they get it working.

Footnote: The search should be "population placename, st" or "unemployment data placename, st" -- if you leave out the word "data" in the unemployment search, or include it in the population search, you don't get the data graph. The comma appears to be optional. Also, in some localities, such as Radford, independent city names work with or without the word "city." County searches also work with or without the word "county." (New York City, however, is not the same kind of thing. Apparently "New York County" is only part one of five in the city -- 1.6 million of its 8.2 million people. See U.S. Census QuickFacts. )

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