Government agencies pump out massive streams of data on housing, population, economics and demographics, though that statistical trove is compartmentalized and can be unintelligible for the public at large.
ZipCodeStats.com is tapping into this virtual mountain of public information while simplifying and amplifying local statistics for communities across the nation.
“We as taxpayers spend billions of dollars per year for all of this analysis done and information collected by the federal government. People want to know all of this statistical data but it is very cryptically presented. Because of budgetary rules, information tends to be highly segmented,” said Chris Van Vleit, a technologist and founder of the Web site.
The goal for the site is to make the information more “presentable, digestible and more thoroughly interwoven than even the federal government is able to do,” Van Vleit said. As you might guess, this is no small task. The Web site provides city-level and ZIP code-level statistics and charts for population, ethnicity, households, housing and social characteristics.
The volume of data that Van Vleit has assembled for the site would circle around the world 1 1/2 times if it were printed out on standard paper, he said. And Van Vleit is expanding the database with more historic data that will likely gobble up several terabytes of computer storage — a terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes or 1 trillion (1 followed by 12 zeroes) bytes.
ZipCodeStats is not alone in this ongoing quest to build the ultimate database. Another data-intensive site, Neighboroo.com (see Inman News story), has also amassed a huge collection of government stats, and offers detailed local statistics and mapped visualizations of the data. A range of real estate-specific sites, such as PropertyShark.com, Trulia.com and several automated home-valuation sites, have also gathered a virtual warehouse of information that is filtered and processed for public consumption.
Van Vleit said that a key difference with ZipCodeStats.com is that the information at the site is current to 2007, though this information can be based on projections of historic data. The next phase of the site, which will roll out in a couple of months, will allow users to view data back as far as 1969. Van Vleit said he built an algorithm into the site that allows for regression and prediction based on historic and current data sources. Also, Van Vleit said he has a specialty in building bots, or programs that crawl the Web in search of specific information, and ZipCodeStats will be automatically updated.
The company plans to provide statistical information “all the way down to the block level” within a given community in the next phase of the site.
The site was born out of a project that Van Vleit undertook for a real estate company. The company sought current and accurate data for communities across the country, he said. A version of the ZipCodeStats.com statistical reports are built into the MLSOnline.com site, and Van Vleit said he expects interest among other real estate companies and professionals to host ZipCodeStats content on their Web sites.
The site features Google AdWords advertising, and Van Vleit said he expects there will be interest in customized reports for a fee.
Development on ZipCodeStats began about a year ago and the site went public about five months ago, Van Vleit said. The site is still in beta and hasn’t been actively promoted, he added, though there has been some chatter on the Internet.
Underlying the Web site is a data-gathering project that Van Vleit has dubbed LodeStone. And he views the effort to collect and disseminate U.S. public data as “a foot or tail to a much bigger animal” — the world. In the long term Van Vleit said this project could become a planetary venture, though he said it would be difficult to standardize data from many nations.
The company has received some investor financing, and Van Vleit said he will be seeking additional investments.