Data Tells a Story: helping the poor, predicting a hit song, defining happiness


We at Inform believe that data tells a story, across all industries, and every week we round up the most interesting ones. This week: helping the poor, predicting a hit song, defining happiness.

An Army Of Data Just Joined The War On Poverty

To get a better idea of the needs of the poor in real-time and to direct resources more efficiently, university researchers and the Salvation Army have partnered to develop the Human Needs Index.

The index goes beyond just income or unemployment rates by looking at several measures of poverty based on services used and requests for assistance at Salvation Army locations across the country.

As a result, the index can show changes in regional or seasonal needs. For instance, the researchers noticed a big spike in energy-related needs in April. This was because utility companies are often forbidden from shutting off power during the winter months and simply wait until springtime to do so.

Cities Using 311 Data in Novel Ways Discover Drawbacks

Somerville, MA, New York City, and Chicago are just a few cities leveraging data collected from non-emergency 311 calls to make public works improvements. Somerville used its call-ins about rat sightings to cut down on the rodent population while New York uses 311  data to target unauthorized uses of apartments. Meanwhile, Chicago is looking into restaurants with public health violations.

However, there are some gaps, and addressing the differing behaviors of varying demographics might address such gaps. For example, immigrants might be less likely to phone in non-emergency complaints; in some neighborhoods, people may choose to resolve conflicts themselves; renters are less likely to call in issues like damaged trees; and senior citizens might be more inclined to dial 0 as opposed to 311.

4 Ways Gyms Are Using Data To Drive New Members & Enhance the Workout Experience

Need help keeping that fitness New Year resolution? Some gyms are leveraging big data to help their members do just that.

Some customers are being encouraged to use wearable technology so that their stats can be reported back to their personal trainers while they’re not at the gym. Some gyms are creating their own apps, while others’ fitness equipment collects members’ data. Yet others are using their members’ habits and preferences to improve fitness programs, optimize resources, and better target ads and reward programs.

These Students Are Using Data Science to Predict Which Rap Songs Will Become Hits

Data science students at the University of California, Berkeley developed an algorithm to determine if there’s “a science to creating a blockbuster rap,” says Mic, and found that indeed there is.

The student researchers found that the biggest factor for a song’s success was the amount of profanity — the more the better. Another perhaps more surprising factor is variety in theme. A song that explores lyrical themes beyond the rapper’s lifestyle tend to be more successful.

The students also discovered the most popular locations, with New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago topping the list, as well as the most popular brands, including Bentley, Porsche, Apple, and Twitter.

What is #happiness? One Brooklyn artist is using Instagram data to figure it out

For 12 months, a Brooklyn artist collected 100,000 Instagram photos with the hashtag #happy and came away with some interesting findings. One is that selfies “are enormously popular with the hashtag #happy,” while another is that #happy photos often have “warm, muted tones.” Finally, despite the popularity of Instagram filter names, the most common one is no filter at all.

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