Monday, February 25, 2008

Regional Indicators Redux

I had meant to post on the indicators site actually yesterday, but hadn’t mustered the effort and time to do so. Then this morning I heard sort of second hand that some of the people at UCSUR (University Center for Social and Urban Research, which apparently maintains the site) were concerned that I was declaring the site difficult to use (at least for me, which shouldn’t mean that much). So I took a second (and third) look at the site and discovered what I had missed before. When you click on one of the broad indicator types, like transportation or healthcare, it brings up a submenu of three or four items, with a graph showing Pittsburgh’s position with regard to the benchmark average. The submenu titles are in black fonts; I had never noticed that if you place the pointer on they turn a color (yellow for transportation, red for healthcare, etc). In other words, I hadn’t realized the submenu titles are clickable, leading to more data. That’s because I am have myself programmed to recognize quickly that items with the familiar blue color and underline are hyperlinks. has something more fancy, which defeats dinosaurs like me.

Mind you, just a little looking around made me wish there might be more levels of data, and maybe there are. I just don’t have time right now to find out. But I plan to play around with the site and see what I can find. I might say something about it here.

Meanwhile, the inspiration for my wanting to post on this yesterday was that the PG had another Pittsburgh 250 opinion piece, this one from Paul O’Neill about the Pittsburghtoday site. I am very impressed with O’Neill, even though I commented last Sunday on how I thought he might have driven George W crazy when O’Neill was Secretary of the Treasury. Anyway, I’m not sure how to take O’Neill’s piece in this past Sunday’s PG. He uses the example of medical data to show how patients might be smart consumers of medicine (or perhaps how employers might be smart consumers of health insurance), and then admits that particular level of data is not yet on (D’oh!). Still, I don’t doubt that Mr O’Neill has it on his to do list, to add that data to the site, and that it will be done.

As I mentioned, I think that a Pittsburgh data compilation site is a really valuable idea. I don’t know that it should be limited to just data, or maybe it could be part of a group of linked sites, including sites that list restaurants and link to reviews, sites that link to housing lists, etc. Obviously a lot of that is on the PG website, and can be searched on either internally to that site or externally through Google (I should also mention the Trib website as well, having a lot of the same information as the PG site). The more of that that Pittsburgh can get together to resent to the outside world, the better. It is not enough in this day and age to be the “city with a doorway”. We need to be the city with an information highway on and off ramp (which, thank goodness, we do not have to rely on PennDOT to provide).

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