Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Data in Pop Culture

This is a bit of a departure, and perhaps not all of you will find this post useful in your community indicators projects. That's OK. One of the key messages we share with our communities is the importance of data, and a second is that data are everywhere and we need not be afraid to make decisions based on data.

That message has now been embraced by fans of the pop culture phenomenon known as American Idol. If, as the show's judges comment, song choice is critical to a singer's ability to move forward in the competition, wouldn't data about song choice be nice to know? Glad you asked! For all those that Ken Barnes, USA Today Idol Chatter columnist calls "number enthusiasts" (preferring the term to "data geeks"), here's a website for you: What NOT to Sing.

The database contains all the songs sung on American Idol in seasons 2-6, with who sang them, what the results were, and more -- data sets sorted by contestant, artist, song, performance, season, and episode. So a contestant could look at the data and find a song that hasn't been overperformed, has been generally well received by the judges, and has not yet had a "signature performance" against which all future performances would be judged.

OK, you may not find the actual database interesting if you're not a fan of the show. But the desire for data that drove the creation of the database, and the methodology in creating the resource -- those are interesting.

So what's the point? Data are everywhere. Data are being used in non-traditional ways in non-traditional fields by non-traditional data users. And they'refinding data to be fun and useful in making decisions.

What's not to like about that?


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