Why the American Community Survey is Important

The American Community Survey is an ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year. It’s one of our most popular APIs in the Data Marketplace and the data within it provides the key data for the Digital Elements IP Intelligence Demographics API.

Learn more about the importance and usefulness of this annual supplement to the US Census.

(via Flowing Data)

The Era of Big Data and What It Means For You

cookie2.r The Era of Big Data and What It Means For You

When it comes to predicting the future, your best resource (short of a soothsayer) is historical data.  As data collection, storage and processing has become more sophisticated, the volume of data has exploded. A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, states that in the US, across most business sectors, companies with more than 1000 employees store, on average, over 235 terabytes of data – more data than contained in the entirety of the US Library of Congress.

What does this mean?  It means that companies are sitting on a goldmine of insights for competitive advantage.  The McKinsey Quarterly article mentions this example:

The top marketing executive at a sizable US retailer recently found herself perplexed by the sales reports she was getting. A major competitor was steadily gaining market share across a range of profitable segments. Despite a counterpunch that combined online promotions with merchandizing improvements, her company kept losing ground.

When the executive convened a group of senior leaders to dig into the competitor’s practices, they found that the challenge ran deeper than they had imagined. The competitor had made massive investments in its ability to collect, integrate, and analyze data from each store and every sales unit and had used this ability to run myriad real-world experiments. At the same time, it had linked this information to suppliers’ databases, making it possible to adjust prices in real time, to reorder hot-selling items automatically, and to shift items from store to store easily. By constantly testing, bundling, synthesizing, and making information instantly available across the organization—from the store floor to the CFO’s office—the rival company had become a different, far nimbler type of business.

The amount of data we produce is staggering and the underlying possibilities are incredible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean companies have the ability to extract true value from their data.

Looking to understand how Big Data can revolutionize how your organization does business?  Sign up for a free Big Data consultation with some of our leading data scientists to get started today!

Big Data Love is Back!

bigdatalove Big Data Love is Back!Join us for our first Big Data Love Happy Hour of 2012. Now that we’ve completed the big announcement of our new Infochimps Platform and things have calmed down post-SXSW, we are looking forward to reconnecting with our local community.  So, if you’re in town this Thursday, swing by our office at 1214 W. 6th Street between 6:30pm and 9:30pm for some brews and nerdery.  We’re looking forward to the hang time!

Economic Outlook: Mostly Typical

economicoutlook Economic Outlook: Mostly TypicalUsing major macroeconomic indicators, Russell Investments has created a dashboard to capture a snapshot of the state of our economy.  It’s updated on the 22nd of each month with data from Bloomberg.

You can click through the “Historical Details” links to read more about each indicator and its see its changes over time.  Check out the legend below for complete details on how to read the chart.

economicoutlookkey Economic Outlook: Mostly Typical

So, what does this dashboard tell us about the current state of our economy?  For starters, we are growing at a modest 1.8%.  As you can see from the chart, most indicators are well within “typical” range and even mortgage delinquencies and corporate debt are slowly coming down.  I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled for updates to this slick little dashboard.

Are You OPEN to the New Anti-Piracy Bill?

bill comparison Are You OPEN to the New Anti Piracy Bill?

Two days after the Internet Blackout that saw supporters of SOPA and PIPA changing their minds, a new bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Issa was one of the most vocal critics of SOPA and PIPA and his proposed bill, known as the OPEN Act (Online Protection & ENforcement of Digital Trade Act) offers a more laser-focused solution to online piracy by foreign rogue sites.

What is most impressive about this new bill is the approach taken by Issa and the clearly superior understanding he has of the web than many SOPA supporters. Issa’s office has set up a website, Keep the Web Open that offers numerous resources for understanding the bill, as well a new tool called “Madison”, which allows users to read, share, edit and comment on the text of the bill. A politician who adds transparency to the conversation and listens to the nerds?  That sounds pretty sweet to us.

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How PROTECT IP and SOPA Break the Internet

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

In case the flood of information from yesterday’s Internet Blackout didn’t sufficiently clarify and explain the potential impacts of PIPA and SOPA on the web as we know it, check out this video. Even though SOPA appears to have successfully been killed with 121 representatives opposed or leaning no and only 27 supporters remaining (as of the time of this post), there is still a great concern around PIPA, which retains the support of 37 senators with opposition expressed by only 27.

While we can all take a collective breath as more senators come out against PIPA following yesterday’s barrage of public opinion, but the battle isn’t over.  The PIPA vote is scheduled for January 24th and it is crucial that we continue to make our voices heard and protect our Internet.

Act Now!

Untangling SOPA and PIPA

 Untangling SOPA and PIPA

Yesterday, Forbes reported (and we retweeted) an article stating that President Obama’s opposition to the bills would effectively kill SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).  This action from the White House spurred the House of Representatives to delay making a decision on SOPA for at least a month.  PIPA (Protect IP Act) is still scheduled to go up for a procedural vote in the Senate on January 24.  These bills, meant to stop online piracy, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American businesses, in particular countless entrepreneurs who make their livelihoods on the internet.

Unfortunately, the wishful thinking of yesterday’s Forbes article has been debunked by a Forbes article today, stating that the “comforting rumble from the White House” only put the bill on hold and that while this is a small victory, there’s still quite the battle ahead.

Today, you have without a doubt noticed the conspicuous black out of sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, WordPress and Reddit or have seen all your Facebook friends change their profile photos to express their opposition to internet censorship.  The intense opposition comes not only from SOPA’s decidedly anti-free speech spirit, but, more importantly, the intentionally vague language and scope of the bill.   Chris Heald of Mashable dissects the actual text of the bill uncovers some of the SOPA’s more insidious, overreaching and dangerous.

An `Internet site is dedicated to theft of U.S. property’ if [a portion of the site is US-directed] and is used by users within the United States and is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables or facilitates [copyright violation or circumvention of copyright protection measures].

Still doesn’t sound that bad, but consider this: Any site that allows users to post content is “primarily designed for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables copyright violation.” The site doesn’t have to be clearly designed for the purpose of copyright violation; it only has to provide functionality that can be used to enable copyright violation.

This means that YouTubeFacebookWikipediaGmailDropbox and millions of other sites would be “Internet sites…dedicated to theft of U.S. property,” under SOPA’s definition. Simply providing a feature that would make it possible for someone to commit copyright infringement or circumvention (see: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) is enough to get your entire site branded as an infringing site.

We can hardly begin to think of what the impact of such a bill would have on data marketplaces, including our own catalog, which relies heavily on user-submitted and curated data from source such as Wikipedia and Twitter.  It’s easy to imagine the reach of this bill, supported primarily by huge media companies, would go far beyond the original stated intent of ending online piracy and begin to unravel the very fabric of the web.

There are countless sources with information on SOPA, PIPA and their potential (almost, inevitable) threats to freedom on the Internet.  We encourage you to educate yourself about the bills, who supports them, and join us and millions of other voices opposed to crippling innovation.

Learn about SOPA, PIPA and their Supporters

Act Now!

Public Speaking Lessons from MLK for Changing the World

Were he still alive today, Martin Luther King, Jr. would be 83 years old; however, his impact on the world, even 44 years after his death, is undeniable. The power of his words, in particular from his famous “I Have a Dream” speech still resonate with us today as we examine the state of human rights in the US and worldwide.

One year ago, Nancy Duarte shared a project on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Her findings provide great insight into how to effectively, and more importantly, convincingly communicate with an audience.

MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech is not only literarily brilliant, its structure follows the presentation form perfectly, by traversing back and forth between what is and what could be, and ending by describing what the new bliss of equality looks like. In addition, MLK carefully chooses phrases and metaphors that resonate deeply with his audience.

If you’re struggling to create your next big presentation or even just crafting the message for your next staff meeting, take a few minutes to be inspired by the brilliance of one of America’s most beloved orators. Thank you, Dr. King, for standing up and speaking out to change the world.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech analyzed by Nancy Duarte from Duarte Design on Vimeo.

Explore Foursquare with Infochimps

Today, Foursquare announced the launch of a web version of Explore, their tool for discovering interesting places.  Leveraging the power of 1.5 billion checkins, this recommendation engine does not spit out one -size-fits-all answers.  Instead, it intelligently compares your own check-in history with those of your friends and others to help you answer questions like…

  • What’s the best sushi restaurant in my town that I haven’t been to before?
  • What food trailer on East 6th Street will offer me the fastest service at 1am when I have had too much to drink and need a delicious mobile food option NOW?
  • Where can I get Golden Monkey beer near the Infochimps HQ during happy hour?

foursquareexplore 1024x601 Explore Foursquare with Infochimps

Foursquare Explore is a great illustration of a favorite saying of our CTO, Flip Kromer – “the solution to the too much data problem is more data!”  With the massive amount of check-in data and comments/tips left by Foursquare users, we can suddenly begin to get reliable answers to our strangely difficult to answer everyday questions.

Interested in building a tool similar to Foursquare Explore or augmenting an existing places recommendation engine?  You too can unlock the power of Big Data with some of these great Infochimps APIs:


Program or Be Programmed

In most of the country, high unemployment rates continue to plague individual’s lives and the overall health of our economy.  Average length of unemployment throughout 2011 rose, leaving the typical unemployed person out of work for an average of 40 weeks.  Obviously, there’s a need for an immediate and effective solution.

However, walk into any tech conference, startup job fair or Big Data meetup and it becomes readily apparent that there are jobs out there, but there aren’t enough people with the right skills.  With their ingenious and well-timed project, Code Year, Codecademy aims to teach technical skills to the masses via interactive programming lessons emailed weekly.  The promise is that participants will be up and programming within the year.

We suspect most folks reading this blog have some serious technical chops, but if you aren’t amongst the Rubyists and PHP-junkies, this is a great way for you to get started.  And if you’ve got the skills, we suggest you share with your friends.

It’ll be interesting to track the success of this project (how many people will actually learn to code by the end of 2012?) and see if a similar model can be applied to other job skills.

 Program or Be Programmed