Key Takeaways: Data Don’t Have to Be Boring 2011 NTC Session

Posted on March 24, 2011 Under Online Content

This session covered a lot of ground through back-and-forth with both the panel and the attendees, which was great. Felicity Simmons of the Lucile Packard Foundation did a nice job keeping the conversation flowing.

I was most interested in the conversation about how to extract the most powerful, portable visualizations from a complex set of data. Kurt Voelker of Forum One raised the issue, flagging the problem that so much great data lives only in text-heavy PDF files. Some tips that got tossed out:

  • Get a communications person in the room with your policy or science expert from the very beginning.
  • For reports, show just the findings through visualizations — those will be the most interesting pieces to pull out and highlight.
  • Find a graphic designer who loves data! There isn’t an off-the-shelf way to package data visually and do it really well. It requires a good eye and design skillz.

Everyone shared tons of resources, too. I’m most excited about Tableau, software that lets you easily explore your data visually (it has a free trial and non-profit pricing plus a public free version), and Flowing Data, a blog that features cool visualizations. Thanks to the guys at Velir for recommending them!

See lots more links in the session’s Twitter stream, which is on the session page.