The web offers news organizations whole new ways to present complex stories to readers, but even the emergence of free tools hasn’t made online databases or Google Maps mashups a daily commonplace in your average news organization’s website. Often, that’s because the effort involved in building a rich, complex visualization is just too high for it to become an everyday occurrence.
But what if those days are coming to a close? Enter ManyEyes, a free service created by one of IBM’s research labs that allows near-instant interactive visualizations of a data set. Your Excel spreadsheet of public job salaries and perks never looked so good.
Best of all, the resulting visualizations are, like a YouTube video, embeddable in any web page, so you don’t have to feel as though you’re distracting readers by sending them to a new site with a new interface: they’ll see these nifty interactive visualizations right on your own pages.
Here’s an example of a visualization based on data from Boston Magazine’s annual survey of area schools:
I was introduced to ManyEyes by Emily Lin, who demonstrated it at a meeting at the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT’s Media Lab. Emily is a grad student in the TIE program at Harvard School of Education. Emily is working on a project to use Many Eyes in a high school English classroom.