Data360 — Another new venue for sharing data

Not long ago I wrote about a new Web site called Swivel, which serves as a venue for posting, exchanging, and exploring data. Although I was critical of its data visualization implementation and concerned that it might encourage people to make absurd and misleading comparisons between variables, I was encouraged that such a venue for data had been created and hopeful that it would improve over time. Shortly after writing about it, I received an email from the creator of another Web site with similar intentions named Data360. Its creator, Tom Paper, invited me to take a look at Data360 and comment on it. In his email, Tom described his site as a place where “people can find, present and share data. We’ve been calling it a ‘collaborative trend tracking website’ and a ‘data dashboard for a democratic society.'”

Tom pointed out ways that, despite many similarities, Data360 differs from Swivel:

Both products do similar things, although I would say that where Swivel is more playful, Data360 is more serious. Our view is that it’s too easy for charts to lie; a well-done chart tells a story and is the result of intelligent and, sometimes, creative analysis.

Data360’s target audience is businesses, academics, non-profits and governmental organizations (”BANG”), while Swivel’s appears to be more individuals (”Youtube for Data”).

On the surface, at least, Tom’s description of how the two sites differ seems fair. The folks at Swivel probably characterize their intentions differently, but even if they are trying to do precisely what Tom has described, the playful vs. serious goals of these sites are both worthwhile, as long as they serve these audiences well and discourage them from adding to the confusion and misrepresentation of the facts that already plagues the Web.

Both sites must improve the design and functionality of their graphs to provide an engaging venue for data presentation and exploration. Data360 suffers from fewer and less glaring problems than those that I found at Swivel, but this is partly due to the fact that its graphs do less. I want to encourage those of you who take data visualization seriously and have useful insights to get in touch with Data360 and Swivel to offer your suggestions and encouragement. With the right improvements, both sites could enrich the world by providing useful venues for presenting and exploration important data.


2 Comments on “Data360 — Another new venue for sharing data”

By Kelly O’Day. January 17th, 2007 at 11:03 am

While I like the idea of data repositories, I expect them to use exffective statistical charting techniques.

Data360’s charting is limited. I find their vertical bar charts particularly poor. The category labels are aligned vertically so that I oftemn find myself tilting my head to be able to read the bar labels.

In my Chart Doctor section, I have taken one of Data360’s vertical bar charts and made it into a dot plot.

Chart Doctor

Dot plots are great in situations where the category labels are lenghty or you have more than 10 data items.


By Stephen Few. January 17th, 2007 at 12:05 pm


I agree. Repositories such as this, which are designed for data sharing and collaborative analysis, must be well designed to deliver value. Data360 could be improved in many ways. Let’s keep the critiques and suggestions coming.