Recently a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a link to a free course on QGIS, a free open-sourced GIS software package. I was so excited to see this as I have been really interested in this software but haven’t been able to find a tutorial for it. I tried to find some stuff on YouTube there was nothing there that would help out a new user. This course is being offered by Canvas By Instructure, a start-up founded in 2008 that colleges and universities use to offer online classes. I signed up for the Q-GIS course which is at your own pace. I liked this idea because it’s hard for me to juggle assignments with all that i have going on in my everyday life. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it goes. For more info go to GIS Lounge a really cool site that keeps GIS users up-to-date on everything going on in the GIS world.
One of the things that I have been meaning to work is visualizing data for this blog. I am a visual person and I find it easier to look at a graph or map than stare at a report. Luckily, there are a lot of sites that cater to the data visualization crowd. The one that I plan on testing is called Tableau Public (the free one) version is 8.2. Tableau is a data visualization software that allows you to use Excel spreadsheets, Access databases or text files to produce charts, graphs and maps that can be added to the web. I have yet to try it out. I am still at the stage of watching the introductory YouTube videos. Once I get it up and running, I’ll post my progress under the Projects portion on the blog. If you have used Tableau before please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear the plus and minuses of your experience.
One of the most overlooked places to go to get assistance for data for your research is the public library. With the popularity if the internet, people sometimes forget about the utilizing their local public library as a resource. I always promote libraries to clients because they have access to things that you may not find online. All you really need is a library card and you can take advantage of tools that are paid for by your tax dollars. Also, business /non-profit librarians are subject matter experts, they can show you how to use the library to your advantage. They can grant you access to databases/magazine that need subscriptions and many offer free workshops and bring in guest speakers. So check out your neighborhood library and stop by the reference desk and strike up a conversation with the librarian. It’s like sitting with a consultant for free. Now who doesn’t like that!
ReferenceUSA. The premier source of business and residential information for reference and research.
The Regional Foundation Center informs the local nonprofit sector through research, resources and referrals.
Very cool post about open data sets including but not limited to nutrition, railroads, data from Pew Research and many, many more.
Looking for interesting data sets? Here’s a list of more than 100 of the best stuff, from dolphin relationships to political campaign donations to death row prisoners.
Reference: 100+ Interesting Data Sets for Statistics
Most of my professional life has revolved around GIS (Geographical Information Systems). GIS is a mapping application that is used by many disciplines to visualize and map data. GIS systems use tabular data along with spatial data so that patterns can be seen and interpreted.
All kinds of data can be mapped such as demographic, environmental, medical, etc. There are many kinds of GIS systems available, some are pricey and some are available for free. GIS does have a steep learning curve, but once you understand how it works you use the same principles to just about all GIS platforms.
If you are interested in learning more about cartography and GIS check out this article from the Smithsonian on the history of GIS.
A few months ago I was browsing at a local bookstore looking for something interesting to pick-up. Lately I’ve been very interested in Business topics because I hope to convert this blog into a money generating stream. I stumbled upon a book called “Business Plan In A Day”, by Rhonda Abrams. It promises to help the reader create a business plan. The author says that it will take 24 hours (non-consecutive 24 hours because you will have to do some research) to get craft your plan). The book covers “The Anatomy of a Business Plan” (9 steps total) and has a chapter devoted to each step. I’m going to specifically review Step 3 which is about understanding your Target Market.
This is a great chapter because the author points out some resources that are free such as census data to show your customer demographics. She also mentions reading market and industry reports, researching trends and using customer surveys to get a good grasp of your market.
This section goes over:
- Targeting your market location and reach your target market
- Describing the demographic characteristics of your target customers
- Explaining customer patterns/motivations
- Determining market size
- Evaluating market trends
I found the book very easy to understand. It is laid out in a way that you can work on each chapter independently so that you don’t become overwhelmed with the process. There are worksheets that can be filled out by hand the reader can keep notes in one place for reference later on. Ms. Abrams doesn’t illustrate how to access the data so a tutorial on the process would have been helpful.
You can find the book here and wherever books are sold.
I realized a few days ago that I didn’t write a a post about why I launched this blog. So I’ll take this opportunity to write about why this blog was created and what you will get out of it.
In my professional life I work with people and organizations who are looking for data to beef up their grants, reports and business plans. Either they are in the process of starting a business/grant writing or they already have a plan in place and need to fine-tune it. This is where I come in and educate them on the types of data that are available for them. I always steer clients towards free data as there is a plethora of them waiting to be used.
So this blog will be a stage to showcase what I have used in the past and what I discover during my own research. I’ll discuss government data, business data and GIS/mapping resources that I think will be beneficial for the public to be aware of. So bookmark my site and sign-up for updates, you won’t want to miss a post!
One crucial part of a business plan or a grant is the section on who your potential customer base/client base is. This information is vital to your bottom line whether you’re reaching out for funding or pricing your services to customers.
Why spend a ton of money having someone else crunch numbers and send you a report that you can create on your own for little to no money. How so? By using data that is already available. One of the most widely used sources of data on people is census data. You can get all types of stuff including income, education, languages spoken, family composition many times down to the neighborhood level. Sometimes it does take a little work to understand what you are looking at but I guarantee that the info that you find will be very eye-opening. Imagine you want to know the income level of an area because you are thinking about opening a business or want to get funding for a grant to help children receive after school tutoring. Demographic data can help you find the best place to serve your community or open your business.
Here are some websites that you can peruse to see what data is available.
US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov
Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html
United Kingdom Office for National Statistics: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/index.html
Mexico Census (site is in Spanish): http://www.inegi.org.mx/
Showing that you have really done your homework can make your proposition stand our from among the crowd. And with all the competition out there who doesn’t want any advantage they can get?
There are many sources of free data that are available from the internet and brick and mortar places (like libraries) that most of the public aren’t aware of. When writing a business plan or a grant it’s best to have data behind your idea that will make your project stand out from your competition. And if you are like most of us, you have a limited time and budget for research. I’m going to show you what resources are out there, how to find them and how to get the most out of them. We’ll be exploring government data sources, books that you need to read and websites to bookmark. Feel free to send me your tips and tricks. Looking forward to seeing how far your ideas can grow!