This could become a habit and is certainly unlikely to win me many friends but here goes anyway.
This morning the Guardian published a map of road accidents and deaths over the last ten years produced by the clever folk at ito World who have produced some of the most stunning visualisations of transport and OSM data that I have seen. So what do you think of this?
At first sight it is just a mass of dots which do not indicate any spatial pattern. If I zoom into my area I am presented with a complex array of symbols that indicate for fatalities the type of victim(cyclist, pedestrian etc) by colour, the age of the victim, the sex and adult/child status, the year of the crash plus further symbols for serious and minor injuries. Wow, that is a lot of information in one map!
I am struggling to understand any trends or patterns in the data even when zoomed in to my local area. I would like to be able to filter by year, perhaps view some trend information, perhaps filter the different categories, maybe understand whether the data is average, better than average or worse (when rated against what I am not sure but I imagine a transport) and even view some more info on the accident (assuming that is available in the opendata). Bottom line is a mass of points even when elegantly and cleverly symbolised is not giving me any insight.
The Guardian have been great advocates for OpenData and have achieved some breakthroughs in opening up geodata, they have also been at the forefront of the new discipline of data driven journalism , now they need to demonstrate how OpenData can provide new insights into important issues like road safety. We need more than pointilism or as I have said before “Just because you can stick it on a map …” although in this case there is certainly a lot of insight that could be derived from a more analytical product.