December 7, 2006


For a long time, there has been a need for a Wikipedia of Data.

Back in 2004, the Laboratory of the States website showed the value of the concept by inputting several hundred sets of numbers for the 50 states and then allowing users to try any correlations they wanted. I found it very useful in devising my Affordable Family Formation theory of Red State-Blue State voting. For example, that's where I discovered that housing inflation by state from 1980-2004 was very closely correlated with voting in the Bush-Kerry race.

Laboratory of the States lacked the glossy interface necessary to catch on with the public, however. A snazzy-looking website called Gapminder ("Our Vision: Making sense of the world by having fun with statistics!") came along recently loaded with data by country and with some excellent graphics for analysis.

My first thought was, "Man, we have got to load the Lynn-Vanhanen IQ by nation data into this." But, I've never found a way to add data to Gapminder.

Now, a new website called is positioning itself to be the Wikipedia of data, allowing the public to load in their own data sets, then produce correlations and graphs versus other data already in Swivel.

Meanwhile, Swivel will be automatically checking the correlations of all the data it has, thus producing a few new valuable insights and, no doubt, a boatload of false positives, some of which will turn into new examples of conventional wisdom of the abortion-cuts-crime ilk. For example, today Swivel is featuring a graph showing that the crime rate in America has been negatively correlated with the popularity of wine. So, Steve Levitt was wrong -- it wasn't abortion that drove down crime in the 1990s, it was the resurgence of wine-drinking!

A reader writes:

Swivel won't exactly be the new youtube, but it is very fun and could be useful. Right now though, it's a bit hard to operate. They're going to need to figure out how to find a good way to search through the various graphs. Also, I couldn't get the graph mashing function to work on the few I tried. So there are still kinks.

Note: From Swivel's Terms Of Service:

According to their TOS, if you submit anything, you grant to Swivel, its affiliates and their assignees a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, royalty-free right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, make derivative works of and otherwise exploit such User Submissions in any form and for any purpose, including without limitation, any concepts, ideas or know-how embodied therein.

So, bye-bye to your intellectual property rights in anything you post there.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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