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Swivel It (Just a Little Bit)

I've been eagerly awaiting the appearance of Swivel, and this week it finally opened to the public. What's Swivel, you ask? Well, it's being billed as "the YouTube for data visualization": a website where people can upload practically any kind of data, render it into graphic form, and compare it against data submitted by other users. It's still in "preview" mode so things can be a little glitchy, but over the past couple of days things have noticeably smoothed out.

For statistics geeks (i.e., World Almanac fans), there's a lot of serious potential here, and even opportunities for fun. One particularly nice tongue-in-cheek touch: the icon to compare data in Swivel shows an apple and an orange, side-by-side — and most users are indeed, comparing apples to oranges, mashing together wildly different and completely unrelated trends, like wine consumption vs. violent crime over the past 30 years.

1160993Obviously, users should approach any data on Swivel with the same degree of skepticism they would bring to other user-created online content (I'm looking at you, Wikipedia). But it's still an interesting new service, and a great place to play around with any of the millions of authoritative, trustworthy statistics you'll find in the 2007 edition of The World Almanac and Book of Facts. For starters, click on the table at right to compare trends in accidental U.S. deaths from falls, poisoning, and firearms over the past 35 years. Which do you think is more likely to kill you?


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