Thursday, January 31, 2008

City Data

The Hill Library's weekly "Business Web Site of the Week" is

"Enter a county, city, or zip code – or browse by state – to find pages and pages of information on U.S. places. Included are statistics on everything from age and income to ancestral heritage; from population change due to commuting to crime rates; from most common occupation to climate trends."

HOWEVER, it goes on to say, "The page just keeps scrolling, and the mind reels about where all this information comes from. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t make that clear. Because of this, please do attempt to verify any City Data you plan to use."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eight menu trends for 2008


Mini desserts, whole grains and superspices are among the top menu trends bakers should watch this year, according to Mintel Menu Insights, a national restaurant-tracking service.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Primary Information

From the NYS Board of Elections re: the February 5 (Presidential) and September 9 (unofficial date for other offices) New York State 2008 primaries.

In New York City and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Erie, POLLS OPEN AT 6 AM - CLOSE AT 9 PM. In all other counties, POLLS OPEN AT 12 NOON and CLOSE AT 9 PM.

Here's a list of candidates' delegates.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Census/Popular Culture History

Lenny found this:

The Look-back blog "Modern Mechanix" has posted another scanned article on the Census from our near-past. This time it's an article from Popular Mechanics from April of 1960: Nose Count, 1960.

You may recall a similar article back in November. That one was from 1940.

There is also one from 1950.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Going Postal

This is what the State Data Center, or any other group that does good stuff, but who are not well-known by the general public, ought to do: design a logo, and then get postage stamps made by Zazzle or Your Stamps. There's my mid-winter wisdom.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Using ACS Data for Transportation Planning

"A Guidebook for Using American Community Survey Data for Transportation Planning" was published as part of the National Highway Research Program. Data Detective Nate was a member of the research project panel and notes that there are many useful examples, especially in the first 6 chapters, that may benefit all regarding the ACS and how to use it.

Here's the link (285-page PDF).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Customer Service

I found this post on a website for a car wash association.
(Laurie Sherman is Co-owner of Blendco Systems, LLC. Blendco manufactures a full line of detergents and waxes for the professional carwash industry. You can contact Blendco at:

I've totally removed the car wash references, and it still makes sense.

Great operators are always raising the bar on themselves. Not content with the status quo, these operators are constantly seeking to improve their operations, add new services, and generally improve the overall 'customer experience'.

It really does take an amazing, sustained focus and commitment to keep a business running at the 'top of its game', let alone continue to improve it. In the quest for day-in and day-out excellence, one very important tool is customer feedback. To get better, you need to know what's not working for your customers. To get better, you actually need… customer complaints!

The problem with complaints is that they are hard to make, and hard to take. Many customers will avoid making a complaint for fear that the complaint may be misunderstood or reacted to in a defensive manner. It is no real surprise then that many legitimate complaints go unvoiced — to the detriment of your business. You really need to know that the credit card acceptor isn't in an accepting mood today. But your customers may just drive off feeling less than satisfied by their experience.

A daily check list and a good maintenance program will address most of the mechanical issues involved in delivering a customer experience, but you still need direct customer feedback. You need complaints, and you need to make sure complaints are being heard. You need them as a tool to get better.

Why not take a page out of the Starbucks play book? Starbucks is focused on delivering great coffee and a pleasant customer experience, and their challenge is to do this literally millions of times a day at more than 15,000 stores worldwide. This is no small task.

One of Starbucks' tools is something called a Customer Snapshot. It is basically just the use of a Secret Shopper, but Starbucks has taken pains to keep the system very simple. A secret customer (and in Starbucks parlance, a customer is always a "Guest") visits a given Starbucks store every few weeks to judge the store's performance, using the following 5 criteria for the person serving them:

Did you make eye contact?
Did you greet the guest?
Did you thank the guest?
Did you initiate conversation?
Did you recognize the guest by drink or name?

Notice that the quality of the coffee isn't even mentioned — and Starbucks is no doubt doing many things to make sure that the coffee is outstanding. Instead, they emphasize providing the guest with a positive experience. By design, the Customer Snapshot is simple and it is focused on creating a personal, social interaction for their guests. The Snapshot results are posted at the store for the employees to see, and whenever all 5 criteria are met, the store is recognized for giving "Legendary Service".

Think about this system in the context of your place of business. Your secret customer snapshot might emphasize the overall experience — were they greeted, were they thanked for their business or asked to 'come back soon!', was care taken to show concern and respect for them.

Your secret customer can be a trusted friend, a business advisor, your accountant, or your barber.

The payback to you and your business can be immeasurable. You will see your business through your customers' eyes, and be able to use their perspective to improve their overall experience, day-in and day-out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cyber Security Tips

The Hill Library suggests people look at Cyber Security Tips,
compiled by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. "(T)hese tips explain the most common computer security issues in short, digestible snippets. Written with the non-technical computer user in mind, the site offers highly practical information and advice."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Census Job Listings Online

Both 2010 Census employment and Regional Office employment opportunities are listed for the New York Regional Office in NYC. Upstate NYS jobs can be accessed through the Boston office here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

State Tax Revenue Faltering Again

As the national economy has slowed, state tax revenues showed further deterioration in the third quarter of 2007, a new State Revenue Report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government finds. After adjusting for inflation and legislated tax changes, revenues fell by 0.6 percent ­- the first such decrease in four years. To view the report and read the associated Wall Street Journal article, please visit

Monday, January 14, 2008

'SwitchGrass' is the Word

You'll recall a recent State of the Union address discussing SwitchGrass as a fuel supplement in order to make the United States less energy dependent on foreign oil. I was reminded of this by an e-mail from the Business Librarians' listserv, with these links:

Switchgrass ethanol: better than corn?

Switchgrass-to-ethanol comes out clean in study

A study published last week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that switchgrass contains five times more energy than it takes to grow it, which makes it significantly more cost-effective than corn. Switchgrass Yields Five Times More Energy Than is Used to Grow It.

Friday, January 11, 2008

PDF Online

I KNOW most of you have Abode Acrobat installed on your home and work computers, but in case you don't, PDF Online may be the answer. "This site takes numerous types of documents – such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint – and converts them into PDF. Just upload your original, give a name to your file, and enter your email address. Within minutes you’ll have a professional, secure, and portable PDF file in your inbox."

I tried it, and while it took longer than promised (maybe 15 minutes), it did work.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The state of the state of New York

From Jay Gallagher of the Star-Gazette: some pertinent facts about the state of the state of New York at the beginning of 2008 (many courtesy of the Public Policy Institute).

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Usual Thing

I'm going to request (again) all of your nifty articles about whatever data stuff catches your fancy. Meanwhile, check out this piece about environmental businesses.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Empire State to lose seats in Congress

After the 2010 Census, New York’s Representation Will Shrink, as projections suggest that the state will lose two seats in Congress. The state lost two seats after Census 2000.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008

Every year, Census sends out a press release highlighting some interesting factoids in the new Statistical Abstract; here is this year's model. If you just want to find the book electronically, go here; you'll also find instructions to buy the print version for $39.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


As our nation prepares to ring in the new year, the U.S. Census Bureau projected that the Jan. 1, 2008, population will be 303,146,284 -- up 2,842,103 or 0.9 percent from New Year's Day 2007. In January, the United States is expected to register one birth every eight seconds and one death every 11 seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person every 30 seconds. The result is an increase in the total U.S. population of one person every 13 seconds.