In case you haven't run across Gapminder.org yet, I encourage you to carve out about 45 minutes of a day to do so. Even before going to the URL above, your first stop should be this 20 minute video by Hans Rosling -- professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute -- from a TEDtalk last year. ((TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design -- an "annual conference [that] brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)." TED publishes some of the talks as a video podcast called TEDtalks.))
Part of Hans' work is to make publicly funded data sources easier to use and understand. He established the Gapminder Foundation 2005 as the umbrella organization for software development and other activities needed to make it easier for people to visualize and explore statistics. Their premier product, Gapminder World, 2006 is a Flash applet that allows one to chart two of a dozen statistics about countries and then "play" that graph across time from 1975 to 2004. Other tools include an Income Distribution chart and a chart, among others. The visual nature of the raw data is truly compelling and something to model.
And just in case you are still wondering if this is worth looking at, it was interesting enough to Google for Google to buy the underlying software and post it as a free tool on their website. Google hopes "to provide the resources necessary to bring such work to its deserved wider audience by improving and expanding Trendalyzer [the underlying software behind the graphs] and making it freely available to any and all users capable of thinking outside the X and Y axes."
The text was modified to update a link from http://www.gapminder.org/downloads/applications/income-distribution-2003.html to http://www.gapminder.org/downloads/income-distribution-2003/ on January 20th, 2011.
The text was modified to update a link from http://tedblog.typepad.com/tedblog/2006/06/introducing_ted.html to http://blog.ted.com/2006/06/27/introducing_ted/ on August 22nd, 2013.