Column: B Clear bunnies, in case you need a carrot to dive into data

Like many cities in America, Bloomington uses its website to offer a pile of municipal data to the public.

Bloomington’s data warehouse is branded as B Clear Open Data.

When an item appears on the city council agenda, or an issue becomes controversial in the community, it’s always worth a quick search on B Clear Open Data.

Often a useful dataset is just sitting there, waiting to be analyzed.

Examples of the myriad datasets that have helped inform Square Beacon coverage include: water main breaks, the use of Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle, the ethic breakdown of fire department employees, and shared electric scooter usage.

Plotting out data is not everyone’s cup of tea. I once worked in a newsroom where the page designer dismissed a bar chart I’d built to support a piece I’d written: “If you’ve seen one bar chart, you’ve seen ‘em all.”

Even if you don’t have the inclination or skills to analyze the datasets in B Clear, it’s still worth rummaging around to see what’s there. If you don’t care to analyze the data, just scroll through the records.

Use your own eyeballs to see what might be lurking in those records.

Here’s an example. The Bloomington city council has on its Wednesday agenda the annual interlocal cost-sharing agreement between Bloomington, Ellettsville, and Monroe County for the Bloomington’s animal shelter. The bar chart included in this column plots out the information relevant to that cost-sharing arrangement. That’s information I gleaned from historical city council records.

What about Does B Clear Open Data? Does it include anything related to the animal shelter? Search on the word “animal” and boom, you’ve got two data sets.

Ever wonder what the top dog and cat names are at the shelter? Here you go:

Top 10 Cat Names

  1. Luna
  2. Pumpkin
  3. Simba
  4. Nala
  5. Pepper
  6. Felix
  7. Charlie
  8. Lucy
  9. Minnie
  10. Midnight

Top 10 Dog Names

  1. Lucy
  2. Luna
  3. Buddy
  4. Bella
  5. Daisy
  6. Zeus
  7. Rocky
  8. Chloe
  9. Shadow
  10. Roxy

But let’s say you don’t know how to sort things to find the top dog and cat names.

Just by scrolling, you might discover that some of the assigned rabbit names are hilarious: Janis Hoplin, Scarlet O’Hare-ah, Benedict Cumberbunny, and Rabbit De Niro.

You might find others that are even funnier.

Or you might discover that about a year ago, Jan. 6, 2020, was a special day at the shelter:

It doesn’t take a data scientist to figure out what happened there. Hats off to the heroic effort to find 10 thematically-linked names.

Moral: If you make regular visits to B Clear Open Data, you might find that it’s mostly boring numbers, but sometimes, it’s bunnies. Or puppies.