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The U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies has long supported (for the past ~5 years) an online system for pulling area-based employment and residence data using a visual map-based selection tool called OnTheMap. This software is fairly intuitive and fun to use, but can also be quite useful in exploring a specific market or region to understand where workers live and work, and how that has changed over time.
OnTheMap is useful for more than work location, however. It’s a multi-layered mapping tool, with companion data on demographics, earnings, industry characteristics. We’ve also used it to identify exact metropolitan statistical areas and radius ranges, to find transportation routes, greenspace, and tribal and military lands, and to simply better understand a physical marketplace.
For years, organizations like the Census Bureau relied heavily on point-in-time estimates, tables of statistics and physical and static maps for data exploration like this. As new systems come online, are developed further, and improved over successive versions, our ability to access information from our desktops is not only facilitated but empowered.
Jeff Ely, economics professor at Northwestern University and contributor to the Cheap Talk blog, recently wrote a great article about titles, or names. His examples focus on bank names, and how they engender trust, and the names of legal documents, which could perhaps be simply skimmed to get a sense of utility or relevance. But the article is an interesting reminder and idea spark, for researchers and marketers.
There are varying degrees of scope and sophistication in our wildly different projects and initiatives. Our work is passed to our clients, to internal teams, to executive management, to various partners and outside parties. The names of studies, reports, presentations, tools used in the process, task force teams, strategic plans, products in development, etc. do matter.
Names should be clear and communicative – presenting the topic but also the considering the audience. Names should not be overly technical or detailed. Names should be intuitive, parsimonious, and should be readable (and intelligible) “out loud.” But names should also hold up over time, regardless of how related issues change or evolve. Future researchers should be able to refer back to your work, referencing a name that still communicates something to them. It’s somewhat a lofty challenge, if you think about the implication of the choice of title. The goal is to strike a balance between communication and brevity – if the name simply “fits” in these terms, it will likely carry and communicate as desire.
Okay, this one’s a little obtuse… 🙂 Check the article too, whew!