Data by itself doesn't tell the story...

My friend at at the WoodstockWire sent a posting this morning about "Google Fushion Tables" and I'm seriously impressed with the technology in the first video on the page.

The second video however really just plain blew me away. I have to admit, it wasn't the "solving the world's water problems" part that got me (sorry, I guess I'm not much of a save-the-world kind of guy). The part that got me was the "solving a problem by using data" message - this part really hit the sweet spot for me.

In the video are Google's Alon Halevy and Pacific Institution's Peter Gleick discussing the principles of interpreting and using data to solve (water) problems. The fascinating part of this for me is the dichotomy, it's like we have two conversations going on, merged in all the right places. A very good story with great quotes:

"We need to develop tools that make it possible for people without too much technical expertise to play around with structured data, explore it and to use it to answer questions that they have about their data".


"Data by itself doesn't tell the story, Data in the end is only numbers."

"Information is the most powerful tool for combating the water crisis, knowledge"

"We have to find new ways to get water data out there and used and useful, we have to find new ways to get the stories about water and the solutions to water problems that we identify out there in a way that it can be useful."

"And if we can find innovative ways to convert data into images, and into stories and ultimately into action, THEN data is important."

Once again, it's all about the data and how we can use the data to solve problems. Each and every time we present data and information we need to tell a story, not just show numbers on a spreadsheet. Context of why the data is important for your audience is essential, even more so for those who learn in an auditory fashion. Visualize the data for visual learners and let people play with the data for those who learn "with their hands". Everyone loves a story and if you make your data dance to your story people will listen to that story each and every time.

Until next time...Rich