It appears that my time is up as the guest blogger for the month of May. I just wanted to use my last post to thank everyone for this opportunity. As a long time reader and fan of FGI, I must say that guest blogging for this month has been a real treat for me.
According to a recent report by Lexmark that details the printing habits of federal employees, the US Government spends 1.3 billion dollars on employee printing, of which $440 million is wasted on unnecessary printing.
Some of the interesting nuggets from the study include:
- On average, each federal employee prints 30 pages each work day, totaling 7,200 pages per employee per year
- Federal employees estimate that they immediately discard 35% of those pages the same day they are printed
- 89% of federal employees report that their agencies do not have formal printing policies in place
Death and Taxes - A Graphical Visualization of the Federal Budget
Death and Taxes is a large representational graph and poster of the federal budget. It contains over 500 programs and departments and almost every program that receives over 200 million dollars annually. The data is straight from the president's 2009 budget request and will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress to begin the fiscal year. All of the item circles are proportional in size to their spending totals and the percentage change from 2008 is included to spot trends and disproportion.
[UPDATE 7/12/10: I updated the link to the paper from Justin's site to the umd site where the paper was officially published. jrj]
I thought I would give the readers of FGI the first scoop on some early research that is coming out of the University of Maryland on how members of Congress are using Twitter.
Abstract: Twitter is a microblogging service boasting over 7 million members and growing at a tremendous rate. With the buzz surrounding the service have come claims of its ability to transform the way people interact and share information, and calls for public figures to start using the site. In this study, we examine the way Twitter is being used by legislators, particularly by members of the United States Congress. We read and coded over 4,500 posts from all members of Congress using the site. Our analysis shows that Congresspeople are primarily using Twitter to post information, particularly links to news articles about them and their blog posts, and to report on their simple activities. These tend not to provide new insights into government or the legislative process or to improve transparency; rather, they are vehicles for self-promotion. However, Twitter is also facilitating direct communication between Congresspeople and citizens, though this is a less popular activity. In this paper, we report on our results, analysis, and provide suggestions for how Twitter can be used by Congresspeople in ways that benefit the citizens, not just the PR machines of the legislators themselves.
From the results of this study we found that Twitter is being used effectively in some spaces and not as effectively in others. In particular, Twitter has created opportunities for increased communication between citizens and Congresspeople, but the majority of posts contained information or location and activities which were being used for outreach and self promotion rather than to provide information that is helpful to citizens.
* Note this paper has been submitted for an upcoming conference but has NOT been accepted, peer-reviewed, or published. Please DO NOT CITE this article but if you are interested feel free to contact me.
This month, the Federal Government finally released their much anticipated data.gov website. The purpose of data.gov is to increase public access to machine readable data sets that are generated by the Federal Government.
Now that site has gone live, it is time for all of us to start digging into the data. Provided below is a collection of references and resources to serve as a short visualization primer for those interested in exploring the data sets that have been made available.
- Chart Suggestions - A Thought Start - A basic flow chart like introduction on how to represent data visually.
- Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design - a very small booklet that teaches the principles and techniques of information design
- Periodic Table of Visualization Methods - A collection of visualization methods
- Milestones in the History of Thematic Cartography, Statistical Graphics, and Data Visualization - A history of visualization
- Online Library of Information Visualization Environments - library of visualization environments
- Tufte Design Principles
Websites and Blogs:
- Flowing Data
- Information Aesthetics
- Visual Complexity
- Data Visualization
- Information Design
- Many Eyes - the YouTube of visualizations
- Juice Analytics - Chart Chooser
- DabbleDB - power data manipulation tool
- R - open source free statistical computing software environment
- Tableau - commercial visualization software
- Wordle - creates word clouds
- Tufte, E., (1990). Envisioning Information. Cheshire: Graphics Press.
- Tufte, E., (2006). Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire: Graphics Press.
- Tufte, E., (1997). Visual Explanations. Cheshire: Graphics Press.
- Tufte, E., (2001). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire: Graphics Press.
- Visocky, J., & O'grady, K. (2008). The Information Design Handbook. City: How.
- Jacobson, R., (1999). Information Design. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Few, S., (2004). Show Me the Numbers. City: Analytics Press.
- Ware, C., (2000). Information Visualization. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman.
- Card, S., Shneiderman, B., & Mackinlay, J. (1999). Readings in Information Visualization. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Here is an interesting organization that you might not be aware of, the Digital Government Society of North America.
The Digital Government Society of America (DGSNA) is a global multi-disciplinary organization of scholars, researchers, educators, students, government professionals, and practitioners who are interested in the development and impact of digital government or e-government. DGSNA focuses on creating a support network of individuals interested in the linkages among the democratic process, government management, innovation, information, and technology.
Benefits of membership include:
- Opportunity to exchange knowledge and information with other members in North America and throughout the world
- (In development) access to a membership database to find others who share your interests or have special expertise
- Discounted registration fees for our annual conference
- Subscription to a monthly e-newsletter, dgOnline
- Access to a library of over 2,000 articles and papers
- Discounted access to scholarly and professional journals
To join you are required to pay a membership fee, however, they do provide some excellent resources for free, including a nice collection of references, as well as a very useful library of citations (2000+ peer reviewed articles).
* Although this is not intended to be a plug, in matters of full disclosure, I am a current member of DGSNA.
DataFerrett (Federated Electronic Research, Review, Extraction, and Tabulation Tool) is a free data mining and extraction tool developed by the U.S. Census Bureau that allows users to search, browse, combine, tabulate, recode, and analyze statistical data from a network of online data libraries. The DataFerret software can be downloaded from the website or ran in the browser via a java applet.
Some material to read before getting started:
Available data sets included:
- American Community Survey (ACS)
- American Housing Survey (AHS)
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
- Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES)
- County Business Patterns (CBP)
- Current Population Survey (CPS)
- Decennial Census of Population and Housing
- Harvard-MIT Data Center Collection
- Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA)
- Local Employment Dynamics (LED)
- National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS)
- National Center for Health Statistics Mortality (MORT)
- National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES)
- National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
- National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS)
- National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife (FHWAR)
- Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE)
- Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)
- Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD)
DataFerret is a wonderful tool for exploring and analyzing data. Enjoy!
(found via Open Access News)
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Library has recently put together a very unique collection of government information. Free and available to all, UNL's Government Comics Collection is a digital library containing 174 scanned comics books from various government entities. In the government realm, comics books have had a long and rich history as a delivery medium for government information. UNL has managed to successfully amass a pretty impressive collection.
(found via MetaFilter)