Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wiki Wiki Anyone?

You have by now likely seen or used a wiki. A wiki is a simple but useful web tool to learn about any number of things. A natural outgrowth of email and blogs, it is server software that lets users to communally control content. A group of people can edit parts of text on the wiki, tweaking the information found there.

The strength of the wiki comes from so many eyes constantly improving it. It is the closest thing to the original concept of what the web should be – an open tool for people to share information. While abuse does exist, moderators can correct incidents.

One highly visible wiki is wikipedia, there is also wiktionary, wikiquotes, but they are well suited to collaborative projects. Organizations that are interested in knowledge management may be looking in this direction for information sharing.

For more information on wikis check out HowStuffWorks.com for an article by Marshall Brain entitled “How Wikis Work”.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Creative Commons

As a librarian, I tend to be cognizant of, and pulled by, two often conflicting values, the widespread distribution of information versus the desire to honor intellectual property rights (copyright, trademark, patent), the latter so the creators will be willing and able to "do it again."

So, I was very interested in reading an article in the July/August 2005 Searcher, "The Magazine for Database Professionals". The article, "Generosity and Copyright" by Laura Gordon-Murname, asked the question, "How can you help patrons identify public domain content...?"

The copyright law has become more skewed towards the copyright holder over time, with longer periods and more lenient applications, so that the doodle on a napkin or a quick e-mail becomes copyrightable. According to Gordon-Murname, there are many critics who believe these changes fly in the face of the law as envisioned by Jefferson and others. She quotes Larry Lessig, who says this "permission culture" has changed from "an opt-in system in which creators were required to register to an opt-out system."

The Creative Commons Foundation was founded in 2001 to create "balance, compromise and moderation" for copyrights, offering "creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them." Creative Commons has developed tools so that creative people who wish to share their work can specify who can use their works and under what circumstances.

Try the Creative Commons search mechanism or the new (March 2005) Yahoo! Search Creative Commons Search. You will be able to ascertain if the work:
- is in the public domain
- requires attribution
- can't be use commercially
- must be used as is (no derivatives)
- allows for sampling

Of course, many federal government web sites are in the public domain. Gordon-Murname lists these sites that offer public domain content:
Library of Congress
National Archives
NASA
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Also check out these other PD locations:
Public Library of Science
Ibiblio, "the public's library and digital archive"
Project Gutenberg, "the Internet's oldest producer of FREE electronic books (eBooks or eTexts)"
The Online Books Page
Bartleby.com, "Great Books Online"

Monday, July 25, 2005

Library Usage Stats

I frequently prepare usage statistics for presentation at meetings. A blog seems a good place to present them, too. Here's a few items of note:
  • As most of you know, the Research Network has been serving the SBDC community since September 1992. On May 31st of this year, we received our 20,000th request for information. Thanks to John Narciso at our Farmingdale SBDC for being the one to help us reach this milestone!
  • We answered 146 requests asked during the month of June. This is about right - we've averaged exactly 146 for every June since 1993.
  • To put that number in perspective, know that our busiest month ever was April 2002, when a whopping 217 requests came to our doors. The lowest? October 1998, when there were but 74.
  • Generally, March is our busiest month of the year, and (unsurprisingly) December is the slowest.
  • In June, we devoted 1.4 hours of prep time per question. This isn't unusual - historically, we've spent 1.5 hours on a request.

I'll try to remember to keep you updated every month when I have usage figures. Just thought you might be curious.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Know Your Industry Using SEC Filings

In this age of rising costs for proprietary information, the Research Network librarians have to be creative in their research strategies. One of the ways we track down industry trends is to look at Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. Maybe your client sells a product in a retail establishment. Check out the manufacturer's filing for a discussion of the industry as well as competitors. Form 10-K is a good place to start. The 10-K is the annual report to the SEC, however, it's generally different from the Annual Report to Stockholders. The 10-K follows a standard format as mandated by the SEC and doesn't contain the colorful charts and graphs found in the glossy Annual Report to Stockholders. The 10-K describes how the firm does business, lists ownership and management, may provide estimates of market share and competition, discusses research and development activities, lists subsidiaries, and reveals legal proceedings and other matters that affect the company's operations. At the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's official site, http://sec.gov/, you can search for company filings, however, printing from this site is difficult. The printed area falls outside the margins of a typical 8.5"x11" page. Try one of the other sites below for easier printing:

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Home Agents

While working on a question for an advisor, I came across a term I had not heard before: ‘home-shoring’. At a time when there is so much written about out-sourcing and off-shoring, it piqued my interest. We come across a lot of buzz words, and this was a new one on me. Naturally coined here in the US, home-shoring refers to the outsourcing of functions in this case to those working from their homes. Off-shoring has not worked out in many cases, particularly for call and customer services, and with increasing security fears, this seems to be a viable alternative. And apparently about as cost effective as off-shoring to India, while employing those within the market they serve. Not that we haven’t seen many home-based businesses offering outsourced services to industry, but now we have the lingo.


Star Tribune
Let's hear it for 'homeshoring'
October 7, 2004 at 11:46 AM
By Nick Eian
September 19, 2004 FORUM0919
http://www.startribune.com/stories/535/4983779.html


CNet News
'Homeshoring' to trump offshoring?
Published: December 21, 2004, 11:24 AM PST
By Ed Frauenheim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
http://news.com.com/Homeshoring+to+trump+offshoring/2100-1036_3-5499784.html

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ACS

There's a U.S. Census activity now taking place that will eliminate the need for the long form in the 2010 Census, and beyond. The American Community Survey is a nationwide survey designed to provide information more quickly, rather than having users wait for 10 years. Yet it it has received very little publicity, because the Bureau has little or no budget for promotion.

"The decennial census has two parts: 1) the short form, which counts the population; and 2) the long form, which obtains demographic, housing, social, and economic information from a 1-in-6 sample of households. Information from the long form is used for the administration of federal programs and the distribution of billions of federal dollars.

"Planners and other data users are reluctant to rely on [out-of-date data] for decisions that are expensive and affect the quality of life of thousands of people. The American Community Survey is a way to provide the data communities need every year instead of once in ten years."

Responsing to the ACS is mandatory. "The U.S. Census Bureau may use this information only for statistical purposes... confidentiality is protected.

"Full implementation of the American Community Survey is planned in every county of the United States. The survey would include approximately three million households. Data are collected by mail and Census Bureau staff follow up with those who do not respond.

"The American Community Survey will provide estimates of demographic, housing, social, and economic characteristics every year for all states, as well as for all cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 people or more.

"For smaller areas, it will take three to five years to accumulate sufficient sample to produce data for areas as small as census tracts. For example, areas of 20,000 to 65,000 can use data averaged over three years. For rural areas and city neighborhoods or population groups of less than 20,000 people, it will take five years to accumulate a sample that is similar to that of the decennial census. These averages can be updated every year. Eventually, [the Census Bureau] will be able to measure changes over time for small areas and population groups." What this means, in English, is that Census will be using rolling averages for the smallest geographies; the 2004-2008 average (or cumulative) data, then the 2005-2009 data, etc.

There is data now available at the website above. The earliest years have information for test counties only, but starting with the 2003 numbers, there is full national coverage, limited only by the size standard. By 2008, that won't be an issue, either.

However, the one thing that may derail ACS is the annual appropriation. The Census Bureau believes that the ACS will save money in the future by having a trained staff taking in this information now, using electronic intake forms. However, Congress has not always agreed with this philosophy. If money is not appropriated regularly starting now, the Census Bureau will necessarily resort to having a 2010 long form.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Average Wages by Occupation and Geography

We receive a number of requests for average wages paid - either hourly or per year - for a given occupation within a given geographic region. If this is something you're asked repeatedly, then you should bookmark this site:

http://www.bls.gov/oes/oes_data.htm

It presents wage estimate data generated by the Occupational Employment Statistics division within the U.S. Department of Labor. Right now, the most current data is available from May 2004. Data can be generated by a) the U.S. in general, b) an individual state, and/or c) selected metropolitan areas.

(Metropolitan areas are usually defined as a collection of one or more contiguous counties, not necessarily within the same state. However, not all counties are part of a metro area. To find out, visit this section: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/msa_def.htm.)

Back to the wage tables. You'll notice the far-left column is titled "SOC Code Number". Occupations are organized according to the Standard Occupational Classification System - a kind of NAICS code for job types. You can do as I've done, and scroll up & down the page to find the occupation class you're looking for. However, if you're in a bit more of a hurry, a search feature is available here: http://www.bls.gov/search/soc.asp.

Now that I've told you all of this, can anyone tell me the mean annual wage for librarians in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy region?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Free Home Sales Alert by ZIP Code

At a librarian conference in June, I learned about this free service from MelissaData. Go to the Free Home Sales Alert by ZIP Code page. Sign up to receive a weekly email with the home sales in a ZIP Code for the previous 7 days. You'll get information on the sales price, street and date the sale was recorded. You must be a registered user to take advantage of this service.

The Lookups section of MelissaData has lots of other free services (up to a daily limit) including:
  • Campaign Contributors - Contributors to federal campaigns by ZIP Code
  • Climate Averages - Monthly low, average and high temperatures by ZIP Code
  • ZIP Codes in a County - List of ZIP Codes in any county in the United States
  • Fatal Accidents - Number of fatal vehicle accidents by county
  • People Finder-Locate anyone nationwide. Search public records.

Try it out for yourself and post a comment when you do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Recent Library Acquisitions

Rainey, W.T.
10th Annual Disaster Resource Guide
2005/2006

2004 Automatic Carwash Operations Benchmarking Report.

2004 Self-Serve CarwashingBenchmarking Survey Report.

Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association
AOBA Farm & Ranch Guide 2005-2006

Hall, Stephen F.
From Kitchen To Market: Selling Your Gourmet Food Specialty 4th Ed. 2005

Getzips: Zip Codes By County. 2001.

Morrison, David A.
Marketing To The Campus Crowd:
Everything You Need To Know To Capture
the $200 Billion College Market. 2004

Barletta, Martha
Marketing To Women: How To Understand,
Reach, And Increase Your Share Of
The World’s Largest Market Segment. 2003

Valuationresources.com
Small Business Valuation Formula Multiples. 2004

Gross, T. Scott
When Customers Talk...
Turn What They Tell You Into Sales. 2005
Based On A National Survey Of 100,000 Customers

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

That's Entertainment

Here are some recreational and entertainment sites to check out. While some of them (notably SGMA) sell a lot of material, there is something of use, and FREE, to recommend the site.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association has a number of expensive reports, but the Sports Participation Topline Report, delineating how many play various sports, is free.

Clients seeking to compete with the big music chains should check out the site of The Coalition of Independent Music Stores.

Speaking of music, there are great demographic statistics at the Recording Industry Association of America webpage.

Paul Rapp is a lawyer dealing with intellectual property issues, especially in the areas of art and music. He was also the drummer in the legendary Albany band Blotto. He's put out a series of articles about copyright myths, trademark infringement, work for hire, fair use and similar topics.

If you fill out the form on the Motion Picture Association of America website, you will be sent a lengthy PDF with information about movie viewing, DVD and video usage, and other entertainment statistics.

The Toy Industry of America is heavily involved with the annual Toy Fair in Manhattan. The association also has useful information, especially in the articles section.

Finally, there are questions that the Research Network gets, and I have no idea what the advisor is talking about. Quite often, I go to How Stuff Works and search. I can find out what an A&R person does in the music industry, how a compact disc is made, even how the Batmobile works.

Monday, July 11, 2005

How People Search the Web

Recently, I came across an article that might be of interest to clients of yours who run e-commerce businesses. It explains the results of recent studies of how visitors to the Web go about searching for what they need. It answers such questions as "How do they phrase their searches?" "At what sites do they begin their search?" "How many results are they willing to wade through before choosing a destination?" Very useful for those businesses with a significant customer base in cyberspace.

(By the way, this article was found on a Web site called Search Engine Watch. If it sounds familiar, Mary Beth cited this in her blog of June 23rd.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Regions & Counties of New York State

When you call the Research Network, you may ask for a list of competitors in a certain region, say, Western New York. When a librarian starts work on your question, (s)he needs to define what counties make up that region. To do this, I use Empire State Development's definitions:

(1) Western New York: Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany
(2) Finger Lakes: Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Yates, Seneca
(3) Southern Tier: Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chenango, Otsego, Delaware
(4) Central NY: Cayuga, Oswego, Onondaga, Cortland, Madison
(5) North Country: Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex
(6) Mohawk Valley: Oneida, Herkimer, Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie
(7) Capital Region: Warren, Saratoga, Washington, Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Columbia
(8) Mid-Hudson: Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester
(9) New York City: Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond
(10) Long Island: Nassau, Suffolk

If the counties of Western New York or another region means something different to you, please let us know when you put in your research request. We want to deliver the right information to you and your client.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Competitive Intelligence

Every small business owner will at some point realize the need for competitive intelligence. We often get requests for lists of competitors in a given area but the real questions concerning the competition: how much of a threat they pose to the business owner is one that requires closer attention. They will likely learn a fair amount about the competition from their own clients.

Besides the typical sources of information: annual reports, corporate web sites, national and local papers; there are also job postings, legal filings, patents and interviews with people to gather the pieces that will come together into a fuller picture of the market.

Clients could take advantage of tracking services, join professional associations, and attend trade shows and network. Clipping competitors ads can help keep on top of what their offerings are. Business owners should also be aware of competitors from new corners – those with aligned products or services. Approach the competition as a customer to see how the experience compares. Trawling Internet bulletin boards and blogs may also glean customer comments and information. Here are a couple of articles on CI and a clipping service comparison site.

Know Thy Enemy: Ignorance isn't bliss when it comes to your competition.
Entrepreneur magazine - July 2003 By Rieva Lesonsky and the staff of Entrepreneur
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/0,4621,309514,00.html

The Manager
Management - Competitive Intelligence / Business Intelligence
http://www.themanager.org/Knowledgebase/Management/Intelligence.htm

clippingservice.com
“…search our comprehensive database of clipping services, make comparisons, and contact companies—all for free…”
http://www.clippingservice.com/

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Let's Get Local

Sometimes, you or your client need to make contacts with state and local governments, perhaps out of state. There are a number of different strategies to achieve your informational needs:

You can use Google or Yahoo! or another search engine. Be aware, however, that you might hit the commercial, rather than governmental site for the entity. The ending .com will generally be the tipoff, but not always.

You can access state web pages by using the formula http://www.state.xx.us/, where xx stands for the two-letter postal code of the state. (Need the postal code? Check with the U.S. Postal Service.) This methodology can be helpful when you want to look at several aspects of a state's governance. These sites also tend to have links to the localities within their respective states.

You can go to a portal of state and local government sites, regularly updated, such as the one here.

FirstGov.gov, "the U.S. Government's Official Web Portal," not only has alphabetical and thematic lists of federal agencies, but portals to state, local and tribal governments.

Many federal departments and agencies have portals for their state equivalents. For instance, here's the one for LABOR.

Try a few of these methods and discover what works best for you.