WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2019
In the past three months, Social Explorer has added new features designed to allow users to do more with our platform. We hope this leads to new insights and stories not previously possible.
This post will detail the following features (click on any of them to jump ahead to that section).
After listening to user feedback, we have redesigned our map application with usability chiefly in mind. Not only is it more intuitive, it is also more responsive for tablets and handles large datasets over fine geographic units with greater ease.
From the Social Explorer Explore Maps page, be sure to click on “Try beta version” to ensure you are working with the new application. Let us know what you think!
To help you navigate Social Explorer’s redesigned map application, be sure to take the on-screen tour to learn where to find all of your favorite features and tools.
First-time visitors may be immediately prompted, but you can access the tour at any time by clicking on the “More Options” icon (marked with three dots) at the top right of the screen, directly to the left of your account options.
Find the “Take a tour” option from the top right menu.
Once you have started the tour, click through the options to read about how to use Social Explorer’s exciting new features, many of which are also detailed here in the rest of this post.
You love exploring maps and data on Social Explorer’s platform. But how do you share insights and findings with colleagues and friends?
Social Explorer now has an improved Story Editor that makes it easier to share your analysis with anyone – even those without Social Explorer account.
As shown below, start a story by clicking on the “Tell a Story” icon found at the top of the controls located in the bottom right of the screen.
Create a story to share maps and analysis in a presentation-style format
Once you’ve started a story, you’ll find an interface similar to Microsoft PowerPoint or other presentation software. Social Explorer maps serve as the base for slides, and you can add a title and a column of descriptive text along the left-hand side.
Although you can export static versions of these stories as a PowerPoint file, you can also share a web link so anyone can explore fully interactive versions of your maps.
Generate a link to share your story with anyone on the web.
To better understand what you can capture in a story, try the link here for a story on Social Explorer’s new datasets. You can also find a user-generated story on the development of American society here.
Social Explorer’s map layer library provides users tools to control many visual elements. For example, here you will find options to remove certain boundaries or labels from any given map. You can even remove all data and switch to a satellite view.
Users can also, however, use layers to visually cross-reference other kinds of boundary lines against their chosen data. For example, users may wish to explore spatial patterns of race against Congressional District lines. In order to do this, users would plot selected race data as they normally would, but then add the layer of Congressional Districts.
Opportunity zones and flood zones are only the latest layers to be added in a library we plan to grow to include hundreds of geographic datasets. Opportunity Zones are a new investment scheme offering potentially favorable tax incentives in low-income communities. After adding this layer, users can see how these zones compare to any data variable, such as income.
The share of Denver households earning less than $10,000 according to the 2017 ACS (5-Year Estimate), marked by Opportunity Zones
Many more layers are coming in the near future, so be sure to let us know what layers you would like to see added next!
Social Explorer’s annotation tool is now even more powerful. We have heard your feedback, and now, in addition to being able to add free-hand line, polygon and text annotations on top of any map, you can now directly save search results as annotations.
This new feature is especially useful for annotating border lines that would be too difficult to draw by hand.
As an example, let’s examine a shaded area map of the state of Connecticut, plotting the percentage of the population older than 25 holding a Master’s degree or more according to the 2017 ACS 5-Year Estimates.
How would a user highlight the border of this state? Using the search box in the top right corner, search for Connecticut. After selecting an entry, the user is immediately presented with an option to “Save as annotation”. Clicking this option automatically adds the state border with a default line annotation style (a thin light blue outline). This state shape is now available in the Annotations menu for further styling.
Directly save search results as annotations
Before making a selection from the search box, it is important to observe the entry’s category in the light gray box to the right of the entry’s name. Is it a state? County? Place? Postal code? Take New Haven as an example. Do you want New Haven the county or the city? For any example, see the gray box to the right of the entry’s name to know the answer.
In order to adjust all of these different annotations from the default style, just navigate to the Annotations menu, found by clicking the hamburger button (three horizontal lines) at the bottom right corner of the main data menu.
In the example below, you can see three different border annotations for the state, county, and city highlighted in black, green and light blue, respectively. Of course, users can still add free-hand annotations, such as an arrow pointing to Yale University.
Annotate border lines by saving search results
One of the difficulties of examining historical economic data is accounting for inflation. Social Explorer has now made this very easy to overcome through a CPI correction tool.
The example below maps average family income from the 1970 Census. Be on the lookout for the gray dollar sign icon to the right of the star and information icons in the data toolbar. Selecting the dollar sign icon brings up a menu allowing the user to adjust prices from the year of the selected data to any year desired.
Use the CPI Correction tool to adjust any price for inflation
This makes it easy, for example, to translate the average family income in South Dakota in 1970 of $8,795 to, in 2018 terms, $53,405. Of course, in this situation, we would need to re-adjust the color scheme cut points.
Update 1970 prices to 2018 with a CPI correction
Another useful feature concerns mapping the percentage of certain categorical variables. For some data selections, you can now adjust the percent base from the default total population to other possible subsets.
For example, the map below on the left shows that African Americans constitute about 8% of the population of Los Angeles County according to the 2017 ACS 5-Year Estimates. That is 8% of the total population. Perhaps, however, we might want to map the percentage of African Americans amongst only the non-Hispanic or Latino population, a smaller base.
Seeing the gray percentage sign icon next to the star and information icons in the main data toolbar allows us to change the variable percent base from the default total population to only the non-Hispanic or Latino subset. Amongst this smaller subset of the population, the percentage of African Americans in Los Angeles County now rises to 15%.
Change the percent base of categorical variables
Thanks to popular demand, Social Explorer’s “Create report” feature now incorporates the data from the presently selected map view by default. After choosing your map data, now there is no need to select the same data again in order to generate a report.
For example, if viewing a county-level population density map of Oregon, users can select “Create report” after clicking the hamburger icon of the main data toolbar.
Export data in a variety of formats through the “Create report” feature
Having done that, users are prompted to create a report with the current table selection by default. Once you have selected the counties of interest, clicking “Create” then retrieves the corresponding presently-selected data for those counties in table format available for export to a wide variety of formats, such as Excel.
Avoid re-selecting report data by choosing the current table selection.