For a fact-based Worldview


Hans Rosling, co-founder and promoter of the Gapminder Foundation and of fights with statistics against myths (‘Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview.’) and tries to counterbalance media focussing on war, conflicts and chaos.

Here one more example (and this in a media interview…): ‘You can’t use media if you want to understand the world’ (sic!)

And this statement on; ‘Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school).’




Statistics 2013 Launch Video Released

‘The International Year of Statistics launch video is now available for you to view, use, and distribute.
Created by SAS Institute, the video portrays the many ways statistics affects our lives.
Titled Improving Human Welfare in 2013 International Year of Statistics, the video is posted on this page


Mobile is not the future. It’s now.

Mobile access to the internet is growing at a tremendous speed. That’s a real challenge for information providers.

What tell us statistics about mobile use? An efficient interactive infornation offer and a quite interesting way of chart building provides

Our Mobile Planet

Open Data – Some Perspectives

In Switzerland there is a growing discussion about open government data, on June 24 2011 a very well appreciated conference – 2011 – took place in Bern.

All presentations can be found at on youtube.

Jeremy Stucki (interactive things) posted an English summary on Many thanks!

Invited speakers Nigel Shadbolt and Rufus Pollock presented their views in a lively and engaging manner.

My presentation was about open data and Official Statistics: Some Perspectives. Here it is

.. ans as video in German

Touching Statistics

This week the German parliament lifted the ban on using tablet computers like the iPad during sessions. Earlier this year one MP dared to read his speech from an iPad and got cited for that. Still laptop computers aren’t allowed for the noise and visual barrier they present.

Now I don’t have any aspirations of speaking in parliament but I do know what a difference a touch device makes. It is so much more convincing in one on one talks. Modern tablet sized computers are very likely to run SVG capable browsers, so data visualisation is a given. In this video you will see some additions to the webbased visualisations as far as the touch interface goes, which is a little different from pointer devices like the traditional mouse.

Try it out as a beta version on my personal site at

Additionally this population pyramid uses the html5 application cache which means this web-app will work even without an internet connection. So if you have a WiFi only device or are afraid of roaming costs during international conferences, just visit the above URL once and bookmark it. From then on it will work without an internet connection.

If you want to start developing yourself just do a view source at the above URL or read further in the Safari Reference Library.

Journalism in the Age of Data

Journalism in the Age of Data from Geoff McGhee on Vimeo.

Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?

Watch the full version with annotations and links at

Produced during a 2009-2010 John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.

‘This is the Time to Invest in Statistics’

Washington, at the World Bank, 21st of May 2010:  Beth Noveck (author of Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful, Amazon)  and Hans Rosling (Gapminder, Trendalyzer) present their activities and ideas. Fascinating.

Hans Roslings’ ‘Mindest upgrade for a multipolar World’ starts at minute 23.

Two remarkable statements of Hans Rosling:

  1. On the basis of all the well done visualisations with free and open data is the experience of the Statisticians. Listen to  Hans Rosling (minute 30.58 ff) why this is the time to invest in statistics and why it’s important to cherish the experience we have in statistics.
  2. Free data will lead to a lot of rubbish, a lot of mistakes will be done. And it’s only one way we can meet that: enabling the data producing units to have a good webpage because a good webpage is the place to check the data and it corresponds to the watermark on the banknote (listen minute 1.06.06 ff)

Visualizing absolute numbers

Quite often we deal with quantities that differ a lot and when it comes to visualizing those we tend to play tricks like using logarithmic scales or calculating relative numbers, a process by which a lot of the story gets lost.

Here is an artists’ project called Of All The People In All The World (Stan’s Cafe), that used rice grain to depict human beings:

Related: Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

Talks Hans Rosling: Asia’s rise — how and when

Hans Rosling was a young guest student in India when he first realized that Asia had all the capacities to reclaim its place as the world’s dominant economic force. At TEDIndia, he graphs global economic growth since 1858 and predicts the exact date that India and China will outstrip the US.

Comparing Thematic Maps

Statistical graphics are most convincing when they allow for interesting comparisons. A pie- or bar-chart allows comparisons in one data dimension as does one map, it shows how one variable varies in different regions. But data analysis shouldn’t stop here. Diagrams like the animated population pyramid or the gapminder/trendalyzer allow comparisons in more than one dimension where one of the dimensions is usually time which is depicted through animation.
Comparing regional patterns is a little trickier. A standard use case could be the question if people have more children in regions where conservative votes are higher. This would statistically be done by calculating correlations. However regression analysis is not for everybody. At least it would be nice to show two related patterns side by side and give people an idea what correlated variables would look like. Below is an example of how this could be implemented:

You can check out this mapping application at
it will work for at least 95% of internet users

To build an ecosystem of data on the Web

Using statistical data to explain the world, telling stories with statistical data, visualizing statistical data to make these data accessible in a quick and instructive manner – all these topics are well known and belong to  long and intensive discussions and activities in many institutions of official statistics. Results can be seen on the websites of National Statistical Institutes and international statistical organisations.

Some examples:


OECD explorer

ECB Inflation dashboard

World Bank Atlas

Business Cycle Tracer Statistics Nertherlands

Stat@las Statistics Switzerland

Eurostat TGM

There are many other visualizations and behind all these user friendly databases with free access for everybody. This is the ecosystem of official statistics.

Official satistical data are also used and presented outside the institutions of official statistics (see: earlier post raw data now and helping free up data), the discussions and aims are comparable, the instruments are innovative.

Well known is Gapminder which collects data from many sources and offers a presentation tool that has also been integrated as motion chart in the list of visualization widgets of Google spreadsheets.

Google’s Fusion Tables (see earlier post Fusion Tables and provide some more possibilities of data collaboration and data visualization. Listening to Alon Halevy, senior Google engineer and Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute (which uses Fusion Tables) well known arguments can be heard: ‘ “The biggest potential [of Google Fusion Tables] is to build an ecosystem of data on the Web. This means making it easy for the people to upload, to merge data sets, to discuss the data, to create visualizations and then to take these visualizations and put them elsewhere on the Web so that there’s better data on the Web.” ‘

Link: Google Fusion Tables Continue reading “To build an ecosystem of data on the Web”