Connecting data to your social graph could be the next big thing in thinking quantitatively
ProPublica is on to something with their new "opportunity gap" database. Essentially, the independent journalism group got a hold of a massive cache of school-level data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights on a variety of good-school indicators. Now, the normal way to present this data for public consumption might be to create some kind of infographic, maybe even one for every state, or comparing states, etc. Problem is: I'm starting to fear we've reached Peak Infographic. Most of the time, the story they tell is muddled or oversimplified and I find myself pulling out one data point or two, and wondering whether I'd rather see the spreadsheet and sourcing behind all the little pictograms.
Then, along comes ProPublica to give me renewed faith in the power of data visualization by connecting it with your life through Facebook. I recently left the service, but this is one of the best integrations that I've seen. Using the Facebook API, ProPublica pulls *your* high school and then automatically compares it to the other schools in your area. Suddenly, data has all the emotional punch of a high school football rivalry as you scan from Columbia River to Fort Vancouver to Hudson Bay. This is Big Data made personal, not through whizbang graphics but through demonstrated and automatic relevance.