Swivel: Playing with Data for Fun and Profit

I see that word is out of Brian Mulloy and Dmitry Dimov’s new service, Swivel. Brian tipped it to me recently, and, as I told him, I like the idea of a “YouTube for data” immensely. This site is nothing if not a testament to the fun of playing in data traffic, whether public or private, and making that sort of thing easier is a no-brainer for we data nerds.

More seriously, the tough stuff in something like this is in the UI design. It’s one thing to allow people to store data, it’s something else to straightforwardly facilitate its analysis and sharing. From what I’ve seen from briefly playing with the service the guys are on the right path, but I’m sure they would also cheerfully
concede there is lots more to do on the way to launch.

Nevertheless, this is powerful stuff. It’s a Big Idea, taking data to the cloud, and
then allowing people to straightforwardly share and exchange it on a set-by-set (and analysis-by-analysis) basis. Unbeknownst to many/most people, the Internet is a hotbed of private/public data and sharing — look at places like Econmagic, for some rich paid data, or do a Google search for something like “OECD xls” to see some free stuff — to just see the tip of the databerg.

I’ll give you an admittedly serlf-serving use-case that would appeal to me. Whenever I see charts like this my first reaction is “Whoa, cool”, but my second is “Where’s the data?”. I would like to see people increasingly put their data out in stores like Swivel, whether in private or public form, so that people can share and play with the stuff. That approach is increasingly common in academia, where most data-centric papers now tell you where on the web you can go to get the underlying data.

But why stop there? Data, as Tim is fond of saying, is the Intel inside. I like to say it’s actually the Intel outside, where data is more valuable to the extent you open up APIs and share the stuff. Either way, online data is valuable, ubiquitous, and rapidly-growing. It is past time services — like Swivel (and Dabble DB, which touches on some aspects of the same problem) — showed up that capitalized on it.


  1. Paul, yes, we have a long way to go. And to give credit where it is due, a few honest conversations with you about a year ago helped shake us off one crazy path and onto something closer to Swivel. Now we have to do our end of things and nail your expectations. Thanks for the post on Swivel.