For the past three weeks, every time someone asked me "What have you been up to lately," and I could convince myself that they actually wanted me to tell a brief story, I talked about Hans Rosling's 2006 talk on TED.com (link).
Simply amazing, this video. I haven't met a single person that wasn't amazed and interested by it.
Gapminder's animated charts make understanding complex statistics about the world's populations...
...easier than falling off a log.
There's no hand-holding, persuasion, or moralizing here. Just automatically graphed and animated data.
Yes, Gapminder fixes up multidimensional datasets of public health, economics, demographics, and geography, so we can actually read it ourselves! Normal people, reading complicated data. Easily.
The average annual income in the USA is $47,000, and the average annual income in Laos is $572. But what about each of these countries neighbors? How are these incomes distributed around the countries? How has it been changing over time? How do the changes in income relate to changes in child survival within 5 years of birth?
Without the answers to these questions, the one-sentence data is too fuzzy to act on. And wordy analysis is confusing and tiring.
A picture is worth a thousand words.