Peace, Love, and Big Data

In my mind there is no question that big data is the buzzword of 2012.  Everyone from CEO’s to tech geeks are batting the term around like it’s the answer to all of the World’s problems.  A few brave naysayers have said, “Big Data? Big deal…”, but for the most part there is a sense of excitement over what is possible with all of the terabytes of data that are collected daily.  Though much of the energy is business and profit driven, there are also many data scientists who are passionate about using big data for the greater good.  One such start-up, DataKind, is endeavoring to match the skills of data scientists with non-profits who could benefit from their expertise with big data.  To date they have sponsored eight Data Dives in various parts of the country where they match up non-profit social organizations with volunteer data scientists who spend a weekend tackling their data challenges.

DataKind

One such event generated this map of storm surge risk in NYC.  As this was created in September it proved to be prophetic in determining the outcome of Hurricane Sandy the following month!

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NYC Data Drive

 

DataKind founder Nate Porway, who was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for 2012, believes that this is a match that has been waiting to happen, “We’re connecting nonprofits, NGOs, and other data-rich social change organizations with data scientists willing to donate their time and knowledge to solve social, environmental, and community problems.  Data is like a bucket of crude oil. Potentially great, but only if someone knows how to refine it (data scientists) and someone else has vehicles that will run on it (the social sector).”

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/jake-porway/

 

 

A recent white paper from the World Economic Forum highlights the ways in which big data can have a big impact (I’m learning that people love to find other words to attach big to when they are writing about big data!) on international and social development.

 

This is all well and good but as as blogger Zach Gemignani wrote recently, “All the work of collecting, combining, and modeling data is wasted if not enough attention is paid to how the data is shared. The data needs to be transformed into bite-sized (pre-chewed, even) stories that can easily stick in the brains of your audience.”

http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/big-data-intimate-stories-big-impact/

In other words the excitement over big data’s potential for change needs to be combined with practical and usable applications.  Organizations like DataKind, which has started to inspire spin-offs on college campuses across the country, can be instrumental in helping this ideal to become reality.

Some Related Reading!

5 Things That Will Change the Way Nonprofits Work in 2013

Big Data, Big Hype: Big Deal

Links to other great Forbes articles as well!

The Age of Big Data

 

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Humanizing Big Data

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“We question. We research. We catalog. We quantify. We aggregate, calculate, communicate, analyze, extrapolate and conclude. And eventually, if we’re fortunate and thoughtful, we understand.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/rick-smolan-book_n_2237921.html

This quote, from Associated Press Editor-At-Large Ted Anthony, could be about librarians or even a treatise on human nature in general.  Instead it is used to describe an ambitious multifaceted project from prolific photographer Rick Smolan, who is best known for his work on the “Day in the Life” series of photo collections.  The Human Face of Big Data, which was released on December 4th and will soon be followed by a documentary, captures in photos and short articles the essence of big data real-world and personal applications.

In the book, big data is defined as the real time collection, analyses, and visualization of vast amounts of the information.  “In the hands of data scientists this raw information is fueling a revolution which many people believe may have as big an impact on humanity going forward as the Internet has over the past two decades. Its enable us to sense, measure, and understand aspects of our existence in ways never before possible.”  Amazon.   The following interview with the author provides some great background information.

In addition to the book, a free mobile app has been launched, “to help you learn about yourself, how you compare to others, and what your phone can tell you about your life.  Compare answers about yourself, your family, trust, sleep, sex, dating, and dreams with millions of others around the world.  Find your Data Doppelganger. Map your daily footprint, share what brings you luck, and get a glimpse into the one thing people want to experience during their lifetime.”http://humanfaceofbigdata.com/about/

In less than two months, more than 3 million share and compare questions have been answered, in more than 100 countries.  Through the app some interesting data insights have been extrapolated.  Check them out!

http://thehumanfaceofbigdata.com/datainsights/

This is a cool project and I look forward to watching the documentary when it comes out.  In addition, the results of a worldwide, user submitted video contest will be coming out shortly which will undoubtedly provide us with some awesome snapshots of the “Human Face of Big Data”.

Links

http://humanfaceofbigdata.com/

Just as a side note this article on, “5 Trends That Will Shape Digital Services In 2013” was pretty interesting and relevant!

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671418/5-trends-that-will-shape-digital-services-in-2013#1

Vizualize it

I have been guilty of infographic envy lately.  They are such a great visual and I want to learn how to make one!  What does this have to do with e-science librarianship?  Well for one, infographics can bring all of that big data to life in the form of a few pictures.  They are also a great marketing, outreach, and social media tool that librarians should be hip to.

How about I let an an infographic do the talking?

There are many ways that librarians can incorporate infographics into their instructional sessions

Here for example is an Infographic created by Mashable, that tells you, “How to Google it”.

We are constantly trying to say more with less and do more with less and infographics allow you to do just that.

I was curious about the tools that are available to assist in the creation of an infographic and I found this great article on edudemic.com highlighting “10 Fun Tools to Easily Make Infographics“.  Definitely worth a read!

I chose to investigate the site, Easel.ly which allowed me to chose one of several templates to tweak as I so desired.  It was pretty fun, I’m not going to lie and I am definitely going to keep playing with the format and try to get better at it!

I ended up creating an infrographic on metadata schema.  What do you think?

 

 

Making Data Accessible to All

In honor of Open Access week, I’d like to take a moment to highlight the work that the World Bank has done in the last several months to make their data freely available.   An Open Access Policy for its research outputs and knowledge products was formally implemented on July 1, 2012 and will continue to be expanded and improved upon over the course of the coming year.

The policy implicitly states that, “The World Bank supports the free online communication and exchange of knowledge as the most effective way of ensuring that the fruits of research, economic and sector work, and development practice are made widely available, read, and built upon. It is therefore committed to open access, which, for authors, enables the widest possible dissemination of their findings and, for readers, increases their ability to discover pertinent information.”

The Open Knowledge Repository, the centerpiece of the policy, is the new home for all of the World Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products. The Repository currently contains works from 2009-2012 (more than 2,100 books and papers) across a wide range of topics and all regions of the world. This includes the World Development Report, and other annual flagship publications, academic books, practitioner volumes, and the Bank’s publicly disclosed country studies and analytical reports. The repository also contains journal articles from 2007-2010 from the two World Bank journals WBRO and WBER.

The repository will be updated regularly with new publications and research products, as well as with content published prior to 2009. Starting in 2013, the repository will also provide links to datasets associated with research. While the vast majority of the works are published in English, over time translated editions will also be added.

Last week the latest effort in the World Bank’s push for transparency and open access was unveiled in the form of Health Stats, a new database featuring information and data on  health, nutrition and population topics.

According to their press release, “Health Stats provides access to more than 250 indicators on health, nutrition and population in 200+ countries, covering topics such as health financing, HIV/AIDS, immunization, health workforce and health facilities use, nutrition, reproductive health, cause of death, non-communicable diseases, and water and sanitation. Users can pull data by country, topic, or indicator, and view the resulting data (and wealth quintiles) in tables, charts or maps, or access pre-made tables for quick query.”

The site draws on a variety of data sources, including administrative statistics and household surveys compiled by the World Bank Group and its client countries, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Population Division, the United Nations Statistics Division, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

One new feature that I particularly like is the Data Visualization Map, which allows you to animate data to show how indicators have changed over decades.  For example, this is a map of worldwide female life expectancy from the year 2011.

Additional Resources

Updated information and helpful resources

http://blogs.worldbank.org/

Examples of user generated data visualization

http://worldbank.tumblr.com/

Useful information on accessing World Bank data

http://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/your-top-5-questions-about-world-bank-open-data