From the New York Times:
“PARIS — Google, which organizes the world’s information digitally, is linking up with a precursor that aimed to do something similar, on paper.
It plans to announce Tuesday [13 March 2012] that it is forming a partnership with a museum in Mons, Belgium, dedicated to a long-ago venture to compile and index knowledge in a giant, library-style card catalog with millions of entries — an analog-era equivalent of a search engine or Wikipedia. …
… Long before them, in 1895, two Belgians, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, began the project that grew into the Mundaneum. Their card catalog, initially called the Universal Bibliographic Repertory, compiled links to books, newspaper and magazine articles, pictures and other documents from libraries and archives around the world. People were able to submit queries via the mail or telegraph. The collection expanded to 16 million cards, and Mr. Otlet and Mr. La Fontaine envisioned a “city of knowledge,” complete with museum exhibits and other archival material. …
…The partnership is part of a broader campaign by Google to demonstrate that it is a friend of European culture, at a time when its services are being investigated by regulators on a variety of fronts.’
Disseminating Official Statistics is a content driven task that should be foremost user-centric. However when it comes to data visualisation, some technology choices have to be made. In fact it was recent progress in web technology that made interactive data visualisation on the web possible in the first place.
ONS is known for pushing the boundaries on interactive content in this regard, going so far as to provide some content that has the following attached to it:
Note – requires an SVG-enabled web browser, such as Firefox, Safari or Chrome
Obviously this wasn’t an option for a press release or for tabulated data. On the other hand there are many on the web who would ask what other browser than the aforementioned ones would one dare to use. The reality however in larger organisations with centrally managed PCs is that users are only offered Internet Explorer and as long long as they are stuck on Windows XP will be confined to Versions 6, 7 and 8 of Internet Explorer that will not display these data driven graphs. As has been shown, browser update cycles differ greatly between corporate users and the home.
Many of us may have been able to quietly install Firefox or Opera on their work machine as those browsers don’t require administrative priviledges to install. That however doesn’t mean that this is an allowed or welcome action and there may be other technical restrictions that will prevent you from even doing that. And then there is management or other less technical inclined parts of staff that just don’t want things changed and learn a new icon to click or find their bookmarks in a different location.
Therefore so far the situation was such that either you would forego technical progress and interactive content alltogether (wait until you get WIndows 7 with Internet Explorer 9 deployed in your or your customers’ organisations) or do it only on some parts of your content and attach the above note to it.
After installation nothing happens, which means that all the custom intranet applications of your organisation that rely on the non-standard behaviour of Internet Explorer 7 or 8 (IE) will continue to work as before since the IE behaviour is still fully there. If however you are providing interactive content that greatly benefits or even requires a modern browser you just need to add the following line to the pages in question:
Most of you want to try this out before you can convince your web team to add a meta tag to your web pages, so go check out the Chrome Frame: Developer Guide as well as the Chrome Frame FAQ, where you will also find how you can tweak your registry to deliberatly force the Chrome Frame renderer on pages that don’t yet have the above meta tag added (don’t ask your IT department for help with this).
I am well aware that getting this deployed in an organisation is a tough sell but at least you can guide your users who don’t want to install a new browser to check out your interactive content. If you link to the installer like this
users will be redirected to your page of interactive content after the installation. Finally Chrome Frame auto updates itself as well as the Flash plugin that comes with it.
Some days ago in a post I mentioned how Google and others go semantic and provide in their search results not only information about information (means: links to web pages) but information itself. So i.e. the cinema showtimes.
And Googles does even more. Google search directly provides statistical information.
Unemployment Spain gives this:
In context: (Hint: use Google without country redirect, this is: google.com/ncr)
And the source is Eurostat via Google Public data Explorer:
So why go to Eurostat or another statistical site ;-).
Search on Google for cinema or weather in a region and you will get more than a link: the weather forecast and the showtimes for today or tomorrow … .
Increasingly, search engines are going to provide more than just links, that is the information looked for. To do so Google already uses (since 2009) semantic markup on web pages in order to present search results with information instead of links to sites containing that information. Such so-called rich snippets describe people, reviews, products, recipes, etc.
Wolfram Alpha has this ambition, too. But Wolfram follows another road: Incoming search questions are analyzed via language recognition, linked to the Wolfram Alpha knowledgebase which then delivers corresponding content:
For weather Spain Wolfram Alpha does even better than Google 😉
And now we see a step forward by Google & Co in direction of the Semantic Web: Second of June 2011 Google, Bing and Yahoo! announcedschema.org, a ‘new initiative to create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages. Schema.org aims to be a one stop resource for webmasters looking to add markup to their pages to help search engines better understand their websites.’
This is the next step after rich snippets and one further step towards the Semantic Web in action. But: Google unfortunately doesn’t use an existing standard like RDF! 😦
Many new markup categories will be added. Something relevant for statistical sites? Perhaps ‘GovernmentOrganization’ and ‘DataType’.
Providers of websites have now to decide how they will integrate such new markup in their content in order to get a good representation in search engines.
Last year we launched a search feature that made it easy to find and visualise statistics and public data. Our data visualisation tools are designed to surface statistical information about a wide range of topics – from energy usage and the environment to health, education and the economy – and make complex datasets more accessible.
In the current economic environment, policymakers, academics and individuals around the world (and particularly in Europe) want to ensure that new rules and regulations are evidence-based. Interactive visualisations such as charts and maps allow raw data to be seen in context and give helpful new insights that can lead to better policies.
The data we made available last year in English was just a first step, and today we’re happy to share that we’re making a lot more public data searchable via Google – across 34 languages and Google domains.
We’ve been working closely with Eurostat to surface some really useful and interesting data about unemployment rates, government debt, minimum wage, and broadband penetration across Europe.
Welcome to our collection of the latest Internet stats
This Google resource brings together the latest industry facts and insights. These have been collected from a number of third party sources covering a range of topics from macroscopic economic and media trends to how consumer behaviour and technology are changing over time.
All facts and insights given on this webpage are provided by the data provider that is attributed next or close to that piece of data. Any links to third party websites are provided as a convenience to our users only, and Google does not make any representation, affiliation or endorsement of these websites. We also welcome you to submit your own stat.
Last year Google started crawling structured data on websites (microformats, RDFa) and using them in search results by displaying rich snippets (see here) .
Now Google gets even more semantic by buying last week Metaweb with the semantic database Freebase.
Official Google Blog: ‘Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages. The web isn’t merely words—it’s information about things in the real world, and understanding the relationships between real-world entities can help us deliver relevant information more quickly. Today, we’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world. Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.’ … ‘In addition to our ideas for search, we’re also excited about the possibilities for Freebase, Metaweb’s free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more. Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database for the world. Better yet, we plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies use and contribute to the data. We believe that by improving Freebase, it will be a tremendous resource to make the web richer for everyone.’