February 7th, 2011
Google Charts Part 2 of 2: Motion Charts
By Jodie Mozdzer Gil
Now lets talk about Google Motion Charts — a more in-depth way to compress and display tons of data in one easy, interactive, moving chart.
This How-To is really an overview to introduce you to motion charts, and give you a basic idea of how to use them. The power of motion charts is the ability to compare any variety of data, so it’s up to you to use the charts to suit your reporting needs.
I’m still figuring out the charts myself, and have only ventured into using it to track unemployment data. My first try at the charts only scratches the surface of what they are capable of communicating.
Google Motion Charts is based on a program created by Hans Rosling of the non-profit group Gapminder.
Gapminder developed software that would take large amounts of data and visualize them in a movable timeline to “unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics.”
Gapminder used the software to compare world data. In one chart, for example, Gapminder compares age of first marriage and income levels in various countries around the world.
Google bought the software in 2007, and you can now use it to create your own interactive, animated timelines.
The motion charts are best understood by viewing them, so click here to play the video to see an example of a motion chart in action.
The Google Motion Charts let you compare up to five data sets at a time — and track them over the course of time.
That’s a powerful tool for news reporting.
I’ve used the charts to look at unemployment rates in various towns. Click here to view the story.
One blogger tracked college alumni donations, comparing the graduation dates, median income and percentage of class that actively donate to the college.
Use census data to track median income, education levels and populations in several different towns or neighborhoods. The possibilities are endless, and customizable to your beat.
Click here for the how-to from Gapminder.
The following is a summary of the steps:
1. Open a Google Documents spreadsheet.
2. Determine what data you want to be represented by bubbles. Gapminder usually makes the bubbles represent countries. The larger the bubble, the larger the country’s population.
3. The second column is for years. (2000, 2001, 2002, etc.)
4. The following columns are for the rest of your data.
5. Click Insert –> Gadget. Choose motion chart.
Once you insert the Google Motion Chart, you can customize where data appears in the chart. Then, it’s easily published to the web by clicking Publish, and pasting the HTML embed code onto your website.
Jodie Mozdzer is a web journalist for the Valley Independent Sentinel in Connecticut. She is a member of the SPJ Digital Media Committee and the treasurer for the Connecticut chapter of SPJ. Jodie is getting her masters degree in Interactive Communications from Quinnipiac University, with a focus on interactive news graphics. You can follow her on Twitter @mozactly.