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swivel.com offers inovative way to hack data

In previous posts I have talked about the need to make indicator data "hackable" (see for example http://sfmindicators.org/designing_indicator_reports_for_the_web_2_0 and http://sfmindicators.org/hack_this_data) and about how, despite our best attempts to present data in a meaningful way, others will take our data and repackage it in new, and sometimes better ways for their community of interest.

Well www.swivel.com has just made doing this much, much easier. Swivel.com allows users to input raw data, combine it with new data from various sources and present new innovative graphs. Here is a link (http://swivel.com/graphs/show/8091657) to a graph that I quickly put together on swivel.com using information on the volume of roundwood harvested in Canada and the emissions of greenhouse gases by Canada's forest industry (Interestingly, while production has increased substantially, GHG emissions have remained relatively constant - through greater efficiency and fuel switching). Both sets of information can be found in the Canada's latest C&I report, but in the report they are not presented together. If I wanted, I could combine the data I uploaded with any other data uploaded by anyone else. As one might imagine, this is a potentially very powerful web application for users looking for deeper insight into data.

There are a couple of other aspects to Swivel.com that I like. First, having created the graph, they make it very easy to email the graph to someone or post it on a blog. They provide both a permanent URL link to the graph and html code to embed the graph in a blog post. Second, they allow for users to add tags and comments to the graph, and third, they allow for the graph to be "dugg" on Digg.com, meaning that innovative graphs can get almost instant widespread readership.

Swivel.com prefers data to be uploaded in cvs files (text based comma or space delimited files), so it would be useful if onlne indicator reports included cvs files of the data for easy download by users.