Big Data in Small Slices w/ Dianne Finch-Claydon

Democracy depends on good storytelling. Getting your facts right is always important, but in a democratic government, we need more than good data. We need to be able to organize, explore, and convey complex information in ways that humans understand, retain and can use to make predictions from. We need to be able to convince normal non-data trained voters to make the best decisions for the future of our town, our state, our nation and our world.

Luckily, humans are very good at grasping and retaining visual images. So if your story has compelling and informative accompanying images, it has a much better chance of being remembered. Politicians, marketers and religious organizations have known this for a long time.

Rockporter Dianne Finch-Clayton Spoke recently to the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library on her new book Big Data in Small Slices and its accompanying website.

This presentation introduces data visualization itself in nice chewable pieces and serves as a great introduction to a field that has more importance every day.

If you want to learn more about data visualization and how to tell stories from data, this youtube playlist might be a good start.

EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator

Looking for action to take to reduce the impacts of climate change? A successful response to the climate crisis takes action at all levels.


Big action is required. We finally have news that the XL Pipeline project has been stopped after years of organizing and protest.

Local action is needed. We have some great opportunities on Cape Ann to work on Climate Change mitigation through the Green Community Taskforce, and the Cape Ann Climate Coalition.

But even if you can’t get to a pipeline to protest against, and you don’t have the extra time to work on a town or Cape Ann committee, you can still contribute with small measures around your own home.

What parts of your lifestyle are still contributing to greenhouse gasses and what can you do about it?
The EPA provides this tool to calculate your carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprint Calculator


One great feature of this tool is that it provides a means of downloading the model as a spreadsheet so that you can see both the assumptions and all of the ways that the results are calculated.

Intro to malgislature.gov

And now for something completely different…..
Last week, we announced some changes in the numbers for Massachusetts House and Senate versions of the Compassionate End of Life Care bills. But, curious minds would like to know how a voter could find information like that out for themselves. Thus, we will spend a few pixels today on malegislature.gov, and how to use it to search for bills of interest and/or legislative work of any particular member of the legislature.

Frontpage of the malegislature.gov site.

This is actually a beautifully usable website with useful information on current bills, laws, legislators and commissions.

1 – Useful searchbox. Should you be looking for information on a particular bill, but only have a vague idea of its name, the search box at the top of the page will predict fairly well as you type. If you don’t see your bill listed, you can use the ‘See all results for this General Court’ which will get you an expanded list with filtering options

Searchbox from malegislature.gov, with predictions.

Expanded search results from malegislature.gov

2 – Find your Legislators. If you are new to MA, or have recently moved within state, you might not know who your legislators are. The Legislators section of the front page lets you search for your MA representative or senator by list and with the ‘Find My Legislator’ feature you can even search by map.

Find My Legislator from malegislator.gov

3 – Hearings and Events. Upcoming hearings and events are listed here. When the house or senate is in session, you can watch the proceedings live.

Live session page from malegislature.gov

4 – Easy to use Bills and Laws Section. Has your favorite bill already been passed by the house? Is it an amendment to a previous bill that is already law? Combining the main page for these two topics is among the best approaches to this content this reviewer has seen.

Bill and Laws page from malegislature.gov

5- ++ Although not called out in red in the first image above, the main menubar on this site is also wonderfully useful. Some of these menu items provide another route to information presented in the main page, and some, like Committees & Commissions, are the main route to those sections.

Committees and Commissions expanded menu from malegislature.gov

In conclusion, this website is a great tool! Give it a spin sometime soon!