The NY times recently released an article looking at how Census data gives us insight into migrations patterns in the US. For each state you see the following information: where people from that home state have moved to and where they have moved from (by decade starting with the 1990 census and ending with the 2012 American Community Survey). Within each of these migration patterns the data highlights what specific parts of the country people are coming from/leaving to. For example, Florida’s data illustrates that in 1900 65% of Floridians were born in the state compared to just 36% in 2012. The majority of the new migrants came from NY and other Northeastern states. The out migration data shows that the majority of Florida residents have moved to other parts of the state, with other states in the South being the second destination.
The NY times did a great job visualizing the data into colored streams that are easy to understand. The newspaper typically does a great job taking complex data and reformatting it for easy digestion.
Here’s a link to the article:
I am a firm believer in the public being able to access data that it is paying for through taxes (with the exception of sensitive data). That being said, having access to civic data is imperative to the ability to check and balance our government(s). Technically Philly has an article about a civic hacker who requested a data set from Philadelphia Traffic Court because he wanted to analyze the data to look for cases where violations were pleaded down to lesser charges/fines. He was told that it would cost $11,000 for the consulting firm in charge of the server where the data was hosted to make a specialized data dump. Pennsylvania has a “Right To Know” law on the books but Philadelphia’s court system has their own public access policy which allows it to pass the cost of the unique data pull onto the requester. So in essence, the court system is making data difficult to access by imposing a fee.
Any thoughts on this topic?
Here’s the story.
Finding sources of open data can be a little cumbersome because there are so many ways to find data. There are a lot of websites that house data. For instance, let’s say that you are looking for data on the bike routes in Philadelphia. One place you can look at is Open Data Philly which is a portal that provides access Philadelphia based data sets, APIs, and applications. You can search amongst the over 170 datasets or even submit or nominate a dataset to be included on the site. A quick search on the site shows that there are 6 datasets related to biking ranging from bike rack locations to commuting routes. Many large cities and counties are have websites where they store open data for their municipalities.
Here are some sites for local/federal government data:
Philadelphia: Open Data Philly
New York City: NYC Open Data
Boston: City of Boston
District of Columbia: Open Data Catalog
U.S. Government: Data.gov
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!
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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.