Review: Does Your Zip Code Determine What You Buy?

Today I found a blog from The Wall Street Journal about how the zip code that you live in could dictate who you are.  Mapping behemoth ESRI mashed Census data along with marketing data from GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence and tries to predict what you will buy according to the zip code you live in.

The mapping piece is beautiful, the map moves smoothly and the graphics are top notch. The descriptions of the socio-economic levels are stereotypical and questionable.

I did some spot checking around my area  in South Jersey to see how the data compares to my own local knowledge.  I gave to say that in the zip code that I live in ESRI did get the fact that there are a lot of apartment dwellers in my hometown correct.  What they did not get right was the fact that a lot of these apartment dwellers are not millennials, instead they are middle class families. Looking at the Census data can tell you that.

I also found the categories in the “Top Tapestry Segments” incredibly insensitive and stereotypical.

Case in point: Camden City Zip Code 08110

This area in Camden is broken down into:

36% American Dreamers: Basically foreign born married couples and older people

30% Parks and Rec: People who live in older more established communities

18% Urban Villages: Recent immigrants who do not speak fluent English

The Urban Village description is the one I find most offensive.  “Shopping for trendy clothes for the whole family is important so we can be fashionable”.  Why is this connected to the urban poor?  Why play up to stereotypes? I think that this map has some really good uses but I think that it delivers its message poorly.

Check out the map here and feel free to leave your comments.

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Estimating The Boundaries Of College Football Fandom. NY Times Article.

The NY Times published an article that uses Facebook “likes” by zip code to map out college football loyalty.  It’s interesting to see how the mapped data shows whole states where one college dominates while some states are carved up into niches.  Check out what team your neighbors are rooting for.

The Promise and Pitfalls of Government APIs

How the City of Boston does Open Data.

Civic Innovations

Fresh off a week in San Diego for the annual Accela Engage conference (where Tim O’Reilly gave a keynote presentation) and some stolen hours over the weekend for hacking together an entry in the Boston HubHacks Civic Hackathon, I’ve got government APIs front of mind.

Getting to hear the Godfather of “Government as a Platform” speak in person is always a treat, and Tim was kind enough to share the awesome slide deck he used for his talk. The chance to follow up on an event like Engage with some heads down time to bang out a quick prototype for the City of Boston was a great opportunity to frame some of the ideas discussed at the conference.

For me, this quick succession of events got me thinking about both the promise and the pitfalls of government APIs.

APIs: The Promise

The thing I love the most about…

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Open Data Portals: Where To Find Data

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

Coming Soon: Review of Tableau Public version 8.2

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.

Resource: Your Local Public Library

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.

 

 

Why I Set Up This Site.

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!