Review: Gapminder Makes Statistics Fun

In putting together Monday’s post on Chile, I played around with some demographic information courtesy of Gapminder, a program I downloaded a few weeks ago. I’d been looking for an excuse to use it.

Gapminder describes itself as “unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.” Clearly, Hans Rosling, Gapminder’s creator, is a geek. I know many people–some of them social science types–who would never use the words “beauty” and “statistics” in the same sentence. But when Rosling uses statistics, they’re more than rows of digits; the Gapminder software makes data visual on maps and charts by using color, size and position to indicate relative quantities. And as you’ll see in the video, the data can dance on your monitor, as it plays like a movie over decades or (if there’s data available) centuries.

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Review: Read It Later

The first time I saw the Internet–many, many years ago–I thought I’d died and discovered that heaven is a really great library. Unfortunately I soon discovered that this library was growing faster than my time and energy were able to keep up with.

Enter bookmarks. Enter “save as…” Enter tabbed browsers. (Last week I discovered I had 88 tabs open in Firefox.) Enter RSS subscriptions. If it were a physical pile of TBR (to be read) books like the one on my coffee table, it would have engulfed the eastern United States by now.

No, I haven’t found a solution, but I have a new tool and it works for some situations. Read It Later is a simple plug-in that works with your web browser or mobile device so that you can save a web page to read later. It stores pages locally so they are accessible whether your are online or offline.

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Book: Being Virtual

Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a person by his or her online avatar.

When I placed a library hold on Being Virtual: Who You Really Are Online by Davey Winder, I expected advice on enhancing one’s online persona. Well, sort of…. True to its theme, this book is not what I expected, but much more interesting than a how-to.

Winder writes about the differences and similarities between who we are when we interact in cyberspace and who we are in person. He shares his own experience discovering virtual communities (back to the days of online bulletin boards and FidoNet) after suffering an attack of viral encephalitis that left his body largely paralyzed. “Getting online wasn’t easy, nor cheap, but it was all I had,” Winder writes of his explorations soon after being released from the hospital. His body was limited by paralysis and the physical barriers that impeded his wheelchair, but his mind roamed freely in cyberspace. Eventually improved technology and Winder’s hard-won experience led him to complex online worlds such as There.com and SecondLife.

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