We’ve recently created a rather nifty feature for our PublishMyData platform. It allows you to select, and then view, any two dimensions of your choosing from a multidimensional dataset.

To be honest, in my quest to understand the data universe, the idea of multidimensional datasets was new to me (up to this point my understanding of viewing datasets has been entrenched in rows and columns). So, here’s my take on what this new feature really means and why it’s better than the traditional two dimensional data approach so many people are used to.

First of all I had to get my head around what a multidimensional dataset is, so I needed an example. I knew it was a dataset where multiple aspects vary, but practically, what does that really mean?

Well, say you’re interested in data about homelessness and want to know (for example), how many people of different ethnicities are homeless in the district of Barnet. This Homelessness Acceptances Dataset on OpenDataCommunities contains the numbers of households accepted as homeless, broken down by local authority and by ethnicity.

The different dimensions in the dataset are:

  • area (local authority)
  • ethnicity
  • and time period

But it’s hard to view all three aspects at once. So we’ve created a nifty little grid-viewer for these kinds of datasets. It gives you the power to choose which aspects of the multidimensional dataset you want to see as the rows/columns and which aspects you want to fix.

Going back to my example, the fixed aspect is Barnet (because that’s the area of interest) and the rows and columns show ethnicity and different time periods respectively. So I can easily see the homeless numbers for each ethnicity, in each quarter, in Barnet in one human-friendly view. You can even re-order the contents of the columns (I’ve ordered it by time).

And once you’ve built a view of the data you’re interested in, you can download it as CSV and import it into your spreadsheet program for working with offline.

We’re really proud of this innocuous looking grid with its mighty powers. You can find it on dataset pages in PublishMyData-powered sites, for datasets which are multidimensional data-cubes (like in my example above). Check out the datasets on OpenDataCommunities for more griddy goodness.

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