Data Is Plural

... is a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets.

2015.10.21 edition

US place names, Pell grant graduation rates, the Police Open Data Census, Wikipedia editor activity, rejected NY license plates.

Every place name in the United States. Sometimes, bureaucracy creates poetry. Since 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has been cataloguing, standardizing, and promulgating official names for the places we hike, swim, work, and call home. Along the way, it began publishing Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), a searchable and downloadable database containing all of its domestic nomenclature. In Alaska alone, the database lists names for 167 dams, 303 post offices, 666 glaciers, 2,704 capes, and 9,575 streams. My favorite: Confusion Creek. [h/t @emilymbadger]

“There’s finally federal data on low-income college graduation rates—but it’s wrong.” The Hechinger Report casts doubt on the Pell grant graduation numbers contained in the Department of Education’s recently-released College Scorecard. Why the discrepancy? “[W]hile schools are required by law to provide the graduation rates of Pell recipients to any applicants who ask, a loophole protects them from having to report the same figures to the government.” Oof.

What police-related data does your city publish? The Police Open Data Census, created by Code for America fellows in Indianapolis, is tracking “currently available open datasets about police interactions with citizens in the US," including officer-involved shootings, use of force, and citizen complaints. The census currently covers 36 police departments. Related: The NYPD says it will start tracking all officer use-of-force incidents — not just gunfire — next year, the New York Times reports.

How often do Wikipedia editors edit? The Wikimedia Foundation has published a dataset enumerating monthly revision counts for every editor, across all of its wikis. The foundation is asking for help investigating a few perplexing trends. For example: Why has the number “very active editors” — those with 100+ edits per month — increased while the number of merely “active” editors has plateaued?

Four years of rejected license plates. WNYC, through a freedom-of-information request to the New York DMV, obtained a list of vanity plate approvals and denials from late 2010 to late 2014. Among the denials: “RUBMYDUB,” “S5SS5S5S,” “RFLMAO,” and “CBSNEWS.” (Strangely, “NBC4” was approved. Go figure.) The files and related story were published in August, but the data are timeless. [h/t @veltman]

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