On the Beat: Census 2010 Coverage

The decennial Census has kept us busy this spring, especially as the government released the daily tally of participation. Today’s the last day to mail back forms, so it feels like time to take a breath and recap some of the work my excellent colleagues have done the last few weeks:

– Stories on states and counties beginning to top their response rates from 2000, on hurdles to participation and ┬áCensus jobs going unfilled.
Maps tracking participation and an interactive where you can search rates by state, county or locality.
– A neat interactive explaining how Congress is reapportioned after every Census.

More to come as Census workers fan out to households that didn’t respond. But, of course, this is nothing compared to the deluge we’ll face next spring when Census turns on the firehose of the actual data.

You Can’t Afford to Stop Learning

The late Jerry McBride, founder of the Marist College information systems program and mentor to many of us in it, gave our capstone class a bit of advice that I’ve always remembered:

“Never stop learning.”

Plenty of people, regardless of industry, argue otherwise. Play it safe, take few risks and stay with the tried and true — that keeps the bills paid and the lights on.

Decades ago, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” was a phrase you could bank on. IBM had it all — the kings of the air-conditioned mainframe, making oodles of money, and very snug in their white-shirt-and-tie ways. But they were slow to learn. PCs came along, the mainframe business withered, OS/2 failed to unseat Windows, and tens of thousands of people in IBM-hometowns found themselves unemployed. IBM’s come back, but it’s nothing like the company it was in 1980.

Stop learning, rest on the existing models, and it’s easy to become a mainframe-hawker in a PC revolution. Or a railroad tycoon watching with disregard as Henry Ford mass produces Model T’s.

I’ve practiced Jerry McBride’s advice better at times than others. Lately, very much so. I’m on a learning jag. My latest quest is Ubuntu, Apache, PostgreSQL and Django. Last night, this little screen brought a smile or two:

P.S. My bookmarks and RSS feeds prove one thing: There’s no excuse for not learning; the Internet is the best free library you’ll ever find.