Technology often is a very helpful tool. This is definitely the case when it comes to compiling or retrieving large amounts of data, and then spotting patterns and trends within the records.
For a few years now, the Advocate has built, crunched and worked with databases, mostly those provided by public agencies. From the list of most popular pet names in Victoria County to the salaries paid to employees of the University of Houston-Victoria, we've published many stories that stemmed from data in a database.
The next step, then, is to publish that data on this website so you can easily look at the records for yourself. One goal of publishing databases online is to give readers easy-to-understand access to oft-complicated datasets, and showing you that information in a way that's useful.
Think of sifting through a list of local foreclosures, filtering that information by street or neighborhood, and then zeroing in on the details of a property that catches your eye. Imagine comparing public salaries, sorting by gender and tenure. We could even build a database of local swimming pools, and share with you all the pertinent info.
The great and simultaneously daunting facet to databases is that they are limitless. We can request or build ourselves a database on virtually any topic we think you might enjoy or benefit from. Do you want to sift through divorce records or a list of registered gun owners? How about bankruptcies?
This is where you come in. What databases would you most like to sift through?
If you've never tinkered with an online database, following are pretty solid examples of what other newspapers do:
While I tossed out a number of ideas above -- and while I welcome your input -- ethical issues arise with most databases, and the decision whether to publish a risque database, or just portions of it, would require discussion and then approval beyond my pay grade.
But it can't hurt to get that discussion going now, I figure.
Thanks for your input,
Gabe Semenza / Advocate public service editor
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