Graph it online with Swivel

February 8th, 2007 at 12:00 am

When you open , one of the first things that you'll read is this message: “Swivel is a place where curious people explore all kinds of data.” It is a good welcoming message especially for people who see can't stand handling numbers. For researchers, writers and even professionals, Swivel can be a great companion, helping them find specific information or share what they know to colleagues and friends. The website allows users to posts interesting data and information, even obscure statistics, and transforms them into visual representations, mostly graphs, so people could appreciate them fully and will not feel intimidated by rows and columns of numerical information.

The site provides an easy way to search for topics, data sets, graphs and even users. Tagging is provided. Graphs and data sets are classified by date and by popularity. You could initiate or join in a discussion about the findings of each data set or graph by posting comments underneath them. Moreover, graphs and data set can be compared with each other to determine how strong or if any correlation exists. This features is really very useful and quite interesting. It is so interesting that Swivel decided to post a warning lest people forget the dangers of exploiting correlation analysis in statistical data. Below the graphs you will see the phrase “Correlation does not imply causation” which is linked directly to a Wikipedia article which discusses in detail the dangers of misinterpreting such statistical results. Also, data and graphs can be embedded into your blog post or web page.

As a registered user, you can also upload and share your own data set and information. Swivel has an easy to follow procedure on uploading files. It is ideal that you upload from a spreadsheet program, like Excel or Google Spreadsheets. Trust me, if you do that you won't encounter too many problems. You can choose your preferred color scheme for your table and can add pictures to the final results to make it more interesting. Any uploaded data can be rated, commented and bookmarked by any other users. You can upload and share basically any type of topic to your liking, may it be about politics, economics, weather, sports, health and business.

If you have some doubts about the capabilities of Swivel to handle voluminous data, the website has this to say: “We use farms of powerful computers and algorithms at the Swivel data centers to transform a lonely grid of numbers and letters into hundreds – sometimes thousands – of graphs…” The site existed and was developed for one year before it was launched in December 2006.

Like what I've said earlier, the appeal of the website is on the academe and professionals who handle write-ups of industry statistics, trends and analysis of market values and so on. Not all data, however, are available for the public. One can pay Swivel for a private account which keeps the information off the public boards. Any private data can still be compared to public data and graphs, though. Because of this, the usefulness of Swivel has reached organizations and groups whose needs are covered by basic statistical analysis, creation of graphs and performing correlation analysis. Aside from this, the website can also be susceptible to some abuse. Let's face it, there are people out there that will create their own data, upload them as graphs and claim that these are the facts today, these are the trends and these are how we should see or solve things. When it comes to statistical data and analysis, there are still a lot of things that could be added to the website. But as it is now, Swivel is a unique site which offers very promising services.