My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Archive for the ‘Census.gov’ Category

The historical impact of technology on the 2010 Census

Friday, March 12th, 2010

As the 2010 Census approaches, more and more questions are pouring in about the history of the decennial census –spanning  from the 1790 Census to the present. From the Census Bureau’s self-recorded history, we’d like to give a hat tip to Vector1media.com for highlighting the following points about the progression of  technology and the census:

  • 1890 is the first year that census workers were given detailed maps to help complete their tasks, and it’s also the same year that an electric tabulating system was utilized for the count
  • 1950 was the first time a computer was used to tabulate results, and it was also the first computer designed for civilian use
  • 1960 was the first time that census results were digitally recorded (on magnetic tape)
  • 1970 was the first time that census data products were made available digitally on magnetic tape.
  • 1980 saw the creation of the State Data Center Program for easier access to digital data on computer tapes
  • 1990 was the year that the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER), computer-based maps, was introduced. It also was the first year that data was released on CD-ROM
  • 2000 was when the Internet became the primary means of distributing Census data
  • 2010 won’t include the “long form” because this more detailed collection has been converted to the ongoing American Community Survey
  • Additionally, the Census Bureau sent out a media advisory today with historical Census Bureau information. Enjoy it here:

    1790
    (See < http://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/overview/1790.html>
    for more information)
    – Census Day was Aug. 2 (the first Monday of the month).
    – Six questions were asked.
    – The census was conducted in the 13 original states as well as the
    districts of Maine, Vermont, Kentucky and the Southwest Territory
    (Tennessee).
    – U.S. marshals, who conducted the census, submitted their results to
    Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, nominal director of the census.
    – President George Washington delivered the first “State of the Union”
    address on Jan. 8, 1790.
    – Rhode Island entered the Union as the 13th state, May 29, 1790.
    – U.S. population: 3.9 million. (more…)

    MyTwoCensus Editorial: Get the $800 million back from Harris Corp.

    Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

    Taxpayers and government officials alike are either unaware of ignorant of one major debacle: The failure of the Harris Corp. to get their job done in creating and implementing functional mobile technology for the Census Bureau. Though this contract, signed in 2006, was originally valued at $600 million, it swelled to $800 million. (Reward insufficient and terrible work with more money…sounds like a solid government plan!!!)

    If taxpayers have ever been swindled, this is the company that did it. (Harris Corp. was supposed to save the government $1 billion by implementing technology successfully, but in reality cost taxpayers $800 million for nothing!!! )  Unfortunately, higher-ups at the Census Bureau, initially during the Bush Administration, and currently during the Obama Administration, have done very little to recoup these losses. Legal action should be taken against this company for not performing the services that it was assigned to do. A large portion of this money should be returned to the United States Treasury — or at the very least, used to pay individuals working on the NRFU operations that will have to use a pen and pencil rather than a handheld computer.

    In the year 2010, this is nothing short of pathetic. The government’s decision to choose the Harris Corporation for this contract was ludicrous. It’s decision to keep fueling the fires with $200 million of additional cash is shady at best.

    MyTwoCensus intends to A. File an FOIA request to find out as much information about this contract as possible and B. Bring down Harris Corp. so they are forced to give this taxpayer money back.

    MyTwoCensus urges Congress to pass legislation that prevents this company from obtaining more government contracts until the money for the 2010 Census contract is returned. Immediate government divestment from a corporation that robbed taxpayers is the only way to send the right message.

    Additionally, MyTwoCensus calls on the government to immediately terminate  the Census Bureau’s 5-year contract with the Harris Corporation, as it is currently in its 5th year, and that means that there is still a chance to withhold 20% of the cash, or roughly $160 million.

    On a more cheeky note, if Tea Party activists want to think of a site to hold their next protest, the Melbourne, Florida headquarters of this sleezy corporation would be one of the best and most symbolic places to do it!

    To Steve Jost: This Is What You Can Learn From Guam

    Thursday, February 18th, 2010

    If American students had small  financial incentives to design posters (or YouTube videos), then perhaps participation rates for the 2010 Census would be higher…let’s take some lessons from our South Pacific cousin, Guam:

    Source:  GuamPdm.com

    The 2010 Guam Census is soliciting all Guam students to participate in a student poster competition to educate Guam residents about the upcoming Census. All public and private elementary and high schools are invited to participate from now through 5 p.m. March 12.

    Students are encouraged to paint, draw and create a poster describing what the Census means to them and the community, according to a Census news release. The theme is “2010 Guam Census, It’s in Our Hands,” which must be incorporated in the 8-1/2 by 11-inch letter-size poster.

    The first place winner will receive $250, second place $150, and third place $100, in each category. Winning entries will be used for advertising and promotional purposes, the release added.

    Pick up entry forms at the local Census office, 770 East Sunset Blvd., Suite 280, Tiyan

    BREAKING NEWS FROM THE AP: Audit finds 2010 Census preparations wasted millions

    Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
    H/t to Hope Yen and the Associated Press for the following piece. Of course we are already trying to obtain this complete document to find out the details of exactly what happened…but at the same time, none of this should come as a shock since we’ve been reporting on many examples of blatant waste at the Census Bureau for the past year…
    UPDATE: This report from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office is now available to the public HERE.

    By HOPE YEN (AP) –

    WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs.

    Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press.

    On a positive note, investigators backed the Census Bureau’s decision to spend $133 million on its advertising campaign, saying it was appropriate to boost public awareness. The spending included a $2.5 million Super Bowl spot that some Republicans had criticized as wasteful.

    The findings by Todd Zinser, the Commerce Department’s inspector general, highlight the difficult balancing act for the Census Bureau as it takes on the Herculean task of manually counting the nation’s 300 million residents amid a backdrop of record levels of government debt.

    Because the population count, done every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and billions in federal aid, many states are pushing for all-out government efforts in outreach since there is little margin for error — particularly for Democratic-leaning minorities and the poor, who tend to be undercounted. At the same time, the national headcount will employ 1 million temporary workers and is the most expensive ever, making it a visible sign of rising government spending.

    The federal hiring has been widely touted by the government as providing a lift to the nation’s sagging employment rate — but investigators found it also had waste.

    The audit, scheduled to be released next week, examined the Census Bureau’s address-canvassing operation last fall, in which 140,000 temporary workers walked block by block to update the government’s mailing lists and maps.

    While the project finished ahead of schedule, Census director Robert Groves in October acknowledged the costs had ballooned $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. He cited faulty assumptions in the bureau’s cost estimates.

    Among the waste found by investigators:

    _More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.

    _Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.

    _Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.

    _Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.

    Census regional offices that had mileage costs exceeding their planned budgets included Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City and Seattle.

    Most of the nation will receive census forms in mid-March, and the Census Bureau is asking residents to return them by April. For those who fail to respond, the government will dispatch some 700,000 temporary workers to visit homes in May.

    In response to cost overruns, Groves has said he would work to prevent expenses from ballooning further and reevaluate budget estimates for the entire census operation. He has made clear his goal of returning tens of millions of dollars to government coffers by motivating more U.S. residents to mail in their form, which avoids costly follow-up visits by census takers.

    As to the Super Bowl ads, Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the $2.5 million purchase, which included two 30-second pregame spots, on-air mentions and a 30-second ad during the third-quarter.

    The ads, featuring Ed Begley Jr. humorously extolling a new project called a “Snapshot of America,” was widely panned as weak and ineffective by media critics.

    “There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues,” blogged Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both marketing professors at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

    The inspector general’s report said the census advertising was consistent with the government’s goals of boosting participation in the count. The agency has said that if 1 percent of Super Bowl viewers change their minds and mail in their form, it will save taxpayers $25 million to $30 million in follow-up costs.

    The Scope Of An Advertising/Marketing Flop…

    Monday, February 8th, 2010

    The Nielsen Ratings are crap. Seriously. These ratings are the results of an antiquated system that relies on statistics from 5,000 Americans to represent more than 300,000,000 Americans. However, YouTube has provided many, many, statistics for the common man (not just the stat-heads over at Census Bureau’s HQ in Suitland, Maryland). So, let us delve into the US Census Bureau’s YouTube channel to see just how few people have watched the ads that have been created for the 2010 Census:

    Thus far, the Census Bureau has posted 63 YouTube videos for the 2010 Census. The first video (the boringly iconic “Portrait of America” clip) was posted 10 months ago and the most recent addition (a hip-hop music video geared toward young urbanites)  was posted two days ago. The Portrait of America video has just over 6,500 hits…which would sound pretty pathetic for a 10 month campaign if only it wasn’t revealed that the other six videos posted 10 months ago each received between 347 and 1,305 hits. In the series of videos posted 6 months ago, the most widely-watched video, about the address-canvassing operations, has been viewed a measly 1,083 times. (This means that only a tiny fraction of the workers involved in this process even watched the video…)

    Sadly, Census Director Robert M. Groves has not become the YouTube phenom he wished to be, as his four-part panel discussion and swearing in ceremony clips received only 264, 124, 92, 120, and 285 views respectively (over the course of 6 months!!!). If Dr. Groves were trying to make it on network TV, he would have been canned lightyears before Conan…

    And most pathetic are the efforts of the Census Bureau to reach out to minority communities…Video testimonials by members of minority communities that were posted 5 months ago have received between 33 and 258 views…and the majority of these videos have been viewed less than 100 times each! Even if the Census Bureau’s own employees who are representing the minority groups (partnership specialists) had viewed their own videos, there should be more views than what is represented on YouTube!

    Final Analysis from an untrained marketing expert: As of February 8, 2010, this ad campaign is a colossal failure!

    Michelle Malkin Hearts Us..And Makes Some Valid Points

    Saturday, February 6th, 2010

    Though we’re a staunchly non-partisan media outlet, yesterday we became a darling of the right, as Michelle Malkin sung our praises. Perhaps the best point in her article is that Christopher Guest’s “viral” video has fewer than 7,000 hits on YouTube, but maybe that will soon change with all of this (ahem, negative) exposure:

    The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle

    By Michelle Malkin  •  February 5, 2010 10:19 AM

    My column looks at the bloated Census p.r. and education budget. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson is asking questions. As well he should. History shows that the more the Census spends on advertising, the lower the response rate is. Best watchdog site for all the latest Census shenanigans: My Two Census.

    ***

    The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle
    by Michelle Malkin
    Creators Syndicate
    Copyright 2010

    If only the federal government were as responsible with our money as Pepsi is with theirs. The soda giant has been in the Super Bowl ad business for more than two decades. But this year, Pepsi determined it was economically unwise to pay $3 million for a 30-second spot. So, who’s foolish enough to pay for Super Bowl gold-plated airtime? You and me and Washington, D.C.

    The U.S. Census Bureau will squander $2.5 million on a half-minute Super Bowl ad starring D-list celebrity Ed Begley, Jr., plus two pre-game blurbs and 12-second “vignettes” featuring Super Bowl anchor James Brown. It’s a drop in the Census boondoggle bucket (otherwise known as the tax-subsidized National Democrat Future Voter Outreach Drive). The Obama White House has allocated a total of $340 million on an “unprecedented” promotional blitz for the 2010 Census. That’s on top of $1 billion in stimulus money siphoned off for increased Census “public outreach” and staffing. In all, the Census will triple its total budget from 2000 to $15 billion.

    Ads pimping the Census have already appeared during the Golden Globe awards and will broadcast during the Daytona 500 and NCAA Final Four championships. Some $80 million will be poured into multi-lingual ads in 28 languages from Arabic to Yiddish. Racial and ethnic groups have been squabbling over their share of the pie.

    The U.S. census is a decennial census mandated by our constitution. Should Americans know about it? Sure. Should the p.r. budget become a bottomless slush fund in recessionary times? Surely not.

    Yet, no matter how you translate it, the Census commercials to date have been an Ishtar-style flop. Global ad agency Draftfcb, based in (Obama’s hometown) Chicago and New York, nabbed a $200 million, four-year contract to oversee the Census Bureau’s direct marketing, online, and offline general market media strategies. The agency hired comedian Christopher Guest to produce “viral” spots. One of the supposedly “humor-driven” videos produced by Guest and commissioned by Draftfcb was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago. It has racked up a measly 6,880 views.

    “For a once-a-decade project involving every living American, that’s a pretty crummy return on investment,” jeered AdFreak.com’s David Griner. “The video seems to be hampered by the same problem that plagues all campaigns meant to ‘go viral.—i.e., it’s simply not that funny…[T]he joke is a chuckler at best, and dragged out to three minutes, that chuckle gets spread pretty thin.” According to independent Census watchdog Stephen Morse, the feds conducted a total of 115 focus groups in 37 markets across the country before settling on the dud of an ad.

    That’s a hell of a lot of focus-grouping to get people to pay a little extra attention to government head-count questionnaires that will be coming straight to their mailboxes, anyway.

    Taxpayers are also footing the bill for the Mother of all Government Junkets – a three-month, $15 million road trip by lucky-ducky Census Bureau flacks traveling in 13 buses and cargo vans with trailers. They’ll be partying in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and at parades across the country. In case you were wondering about the anticipated Census Road Show carbon footprint, it’s an estimated 223 metric tons.

    But not to worry: The eco-racketeers of an Al Gore-endorsed carbon offset firm called “Carbonfund.org” have become official government “partners” with the Census to offset all the vehicle emissions – and surf off the free publicity to garner more shady business.

    As if overpriced TV ads, online videos no one watches, and indulgent, cross-country caravans weren’t enough, the Census Bureau is also enlisting 56 million schoolchildren to pester their parents and act as junior government enumerators. Educrats are spending several billions more on math and social studies lessons peddling the Census. Overzealous Census partners such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials have distributed recruitment propaganda urging constituents to participate because “Joseph and Mary participated in the Census.” Goodness knows what kind of fear-mongering curricula the kids are being served in the name of counting heads – and shaping the electoral landscape.

    “When times are tough, you tighten your belts,” President Obana lectured us. “You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas.” Coincidentally, the Census Road Tour junketeers just wrapped up a visit in Vegas. Next stop? You guessed it: The Super Bowl in Miami. Taxpayers should start crying foul.

    The Super Bowl Ad: The Census Bureau Responds To MyTwoCensus Questions

    Thursday, February 4th, 2010

    MyTwoCensus.com has received a fair share of e-mails from Americans who are all asking the same question: Why did the Census Bureau choose to purchase a multimillion dollar Super Bowl advertisement? Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner has responded to this and other related questions below:

    Questions from Stephen Robert Morse, Founder/Editor of MyTwoCensus.com: Whose idea was it to air an ad for the Census Bureau during the Super Bowl? Who chose Christopher Guest as the director of the ad? Who chose which specific ad or ads will run? Which ad or ads will run? Were there ever focus groups to see how effective the ads were? If so, where and when did these focus groups take place? What were the results of these studies?

    Answers from Stephen Buckner, Assistant Division Chief, Decennial Programs, Public Information Office:

    The essential challenge for the Census is that because it happens only once
    every ten years, many U.S. residents are unaware of when it happens (in
    March) and how they participate (by mail).  Our own research in late 2009
    showed less than 10% of Americans surveyed correctly answered that the 2010
    Census occurred in March.  

    The first goal of our promotion efforts is to
    raise awareness of the when and how the Census works.  We have a very
    limited window of opportunity to achieve our goals Jan – April, and
    therefore need programming that delivers high ratings.   The 2000 Census
    paid advertising campaign also had a Super Bowl ad for just this reason.

    The Super Bowl is the top-rated and most highly anticipated television
    event in the U.S.  An ad running once in the Super Bowl has the potential
    to reach 45% adults over age 18.  For comparison, CSI which is one of the
    top rated programs on television delivers a 6.6 rating with adults, which
    is a fraction of the reach of the Super Bowl.   A 30 second spot on the
    top-rated regularly scheduled show in America, American Idol costs $450,000
    and has a 9.5 rating, or just 9.5% of adults are watching.   The Super Bowl
    reaches 100 million viewers at a very efficient price compared to other
    shows.

     The Super Bowl is rare, in that viewers are just as tuned in to see the
    commercials as the program itself.  Commercials that air on the Super Bowl
    have a multiplier effect.  Advertisers are mentioned in multiple news media
    outlets and viewers will typically look to view them online almost
    immediately after airing.  Therefore, airing once in the Super Bowl creates
    significant buzz leading to additional viewing potential.

    Our media buy with CBS consists of (1) 30 second ad in the 3rd Quarter.
    CBS provided added value in the form of (2) more 30 second ads in the
    pre-game show and an additional (2-3) 12-second vignettes featuring James
    Brown delivering a message on behalf of the Census.  We believe the message
    delivered by James Brown who is the host of the day, will carry great
    weight with viewers.

    We did not choose the Super Bowl itself for an ad, or at the expense of
    some other programming.  We went where the audience was to be found, and
    CBS put the Super Bowl into their proposal for all Census ad dollars, along
    with the NCAA finals and other high profile programming.  NBC similarly
    offered us special programming for advertising during the Olympics.

    We did conduct focus groups and other research for all of our paid
    advertising concepts in 2009, including the concept of a “Snap Shot of 300
    million Americans” which became the ads being directed by Christopher
    Guest.  They tested very positively.  We conducted a total of 115 focus
    groups in 37 markets cities across the United States for all our
    advertising, television, radio, print, digital and out door.

    The first ad in the series is currently airing and will also air during the
    Super Bowl pre-game. A new will air during the game, but if we told you
    what it was all about, it would spoil all the suspense.  While we reply on
    the professional expertise and advice of our expert advertising
    contractors, the Census Bureau is responsible for these ads and their
    placement.

    Finally, Super Bowl advertisers see a significant lift in internet searches
    which is a great opportunity for Census to drive traffic to 2010census.gov
    to further educate viewers on the Census.

    Calendar of road tour stops

    Thursday, January 14th, 2010

    One of our commenters wrote last week that the Census Bureau should release a full schedule of stops for its Portrait of America Road Tour to promote the census — and it looks like one is finally up.

    The color-coded calendar, which also includes other Census Bureau events, is available from the Bureau’s web site, and syncs with iCal, Outlook and Google Calendar. It’s also available via RSS.

    You can also follow the locations of the road tour vehicles on Twitter.

    Interview With Robert M. Groves: Census Director focuses on putting IT to the test before the big count

    Friday, November 27th, 2009

    H/t to Gautham Nagesh of NextGov for the following interview with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves:

    Since his confirmation in July, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves has found himself in charge of the costliest and most controversial census to date.

    Well-publicized technology issues and budget overruns have hampered the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 count. Last month, Groves told lawmakers that the budget overruns leading to the decennial count’s $15 billion price tag were “intolerable.”

    But he told Nextgov on Monday that the bureau plans to push the limits of new technology in tests scheduled for after the Thanksgiving break in hope of making sure the census goes as hitch-free as possible in April 2010.

    Groves was the director of the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and served as associate director of the 1990 census in 1990. Nextgov reporter Gautham Nagesh spoke with him on Monday about the preparations for the 2010 census and the bureau’s progress on solving some of the technology problems that the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general found.

    Nextgov: What is the status of the bureau’s preparations for the 2010 decennial census, especially concerning the information technology systems needed to support it?

    Groves: I came in July and had not been there since 1990. There are a couple things to note on the IT side: First, I’ve been focused clearly on decennial IT issues, not on looking backwards. We have a new chief information officer, Brian McGrath, who came in weeks before me, and he was engaged in sort of the same thing I’m doing — checking the nature of the infrastructure for the decennial.

    We had on our table GAO and IG reports concerning the lack of testing in an integrated way of the various subsystems used for the decennial census. We had some outside folks take a look at whether core subsystems were being tested in an integrated way.

    We also have a new set of software we’re building as a result of the abandonment of the handhelds that will support paper-based nonresponse follow-up. That is the critical task on the software side I spend the most time on. After Thanksgiving we will perform a load test on systems that will be in action during nonresponse follow-up. We’re going to make sure we break the system to measure the capacity.

    The other thing that’s notable from your readers’ perspective: We’re 80 percent through opening 500 different local Census offices, each of which has its own computer network issues. That was done through Harris Corp., part of the Field Data Collection Automation contract. We’ve got 400 local offices up and running, each site is its own little story. After some initial bumps that seems to be going well.

    Nextgov: What was the situation like when you arrived regarding IT systems development? What in your view caused or contributed to the IT challenges at the Census Bureau?

    Groves: I haven’t spent much time going back and diagnosing those problems. I have to focus on the future.

    But I am a believer in certain philosophies when you develop software and hardware products for large, diverse sets of users, including that a user has to be at the table from Day One. The user has to be part of the inspection process for all the intermediate products as they are developed. The notion of writing down all the specs for complex systems and getting them right the first time, having programmers go away for a while and code those specs, that’s an approach that brings with it big risks.

    In my past life in software development I have learned from a management perspective that you’ve got to get the user there all the time. They have to be part of the development. Humans can’t anticipate all the features of a software system before they see the first version of it.

    But I need to emphasize that my job hasn’t been postmortem on handhelds, I have just not done that.

    Nextgov: There were reports that the handhelds had some problems during address canvassing, particularly regarding their mapping function. How are you dealing with those?

    Groves: There are two parts of the master address file: the geographical information that provides boundaries for aerial units and the address records. The big good news is that after this gigantic address canvassing operation, the number of records we have is very close to independent estimates of what it should be: 134 million households. That’s a good thing, based on the independent benchmark we get from sample surveys.

    Now we’re going out and checking for clusters of records deleted [during address canvassing]. If you were listed in address canvassing and you noted that an address was improperly placed in a block, your job [as a canvasser] was to delete that one address and add it in the correct place [using the handheld]. We’re scrutinizing any clusters of deletes. In some regions we’ve reinspected areas that look suspicious.

    Nextgov: What do they find upon reinspection?

    Groves: We’re getting spotty results. It’s not a slam-dunk one way or the other. When we go out and have a whole group of addresses deleted, sometimes everything looks fine, sometimes the ones that were deleted were duplicates, and sometimes they were deleted in error. There’s no typical result.

    Nextgov: The idea of using the Internet to collect responses was proposed and rejected last year, despite conducting a pilot in 2000. What’s your opinion on allowing responses online? Is that something you think should be explored for 2020?

    Groves: My son filled out a questionnaire for the 2000 census on the Internet. The decision to eliminate the Internet option for 2010 was made before I got here. I haven’t diagnosed that decision. I know the most commonly cited reason is concerns about security, which are indeed real and completely legitimate.

    Looking forward, I can say I can’t imagine a 2020 census without some Internet use. At the same time, in the same breath we have to know that neither you nor I have any idea what the 2020 Internet is actually going to be capable of. When I say we must have an Internet option, I must admit I’m not quite sure myself. We have to take advantage of the technology; other countries already are. In 2006, 18 percent of Canadian households responded to their census on the Internet.

    Nextgov: Do you plan to serve beyond next year? Would you like to be involved in the planning for the 2020 count?

    Groves: I serve at the pleasure of the president and will serve as long as he is pleased with my service. I’m terribly interested in 2020 and also interested in innovation in all of the other surveys the Census Bureau does, thousands depending on how you count. The challenge of doing economic and social measurement in this country is never-ending. The rate of innovation lets us use technology in new and important ways; it can change the way we measure the country. That pace has to pick up in any organization like the Census Bureau. I’m terribly interested in being part of that.

    OhMyGov: Census website aims to reach every American, stumbles badly

    Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

    Check out OhMyGov! for more insightful critiques of the government:

    Decent idea, poor design

    By Alex Pinto
    Nov 23 2009, 10:59 AM

    If the financial crisis, health care squabbles, and general celebrity deaths of the of the past  few months have caused you to forget, next year is a census year. And a newly launched website, 2010census.gov, has been developed to make sure Americans are ready, and to conveniently address their questions, concerns, and paranoiac fears about being counted.

    The site is part of the Census Bureau’s campaign to “reach every resident in America” and plays up the Census as a way for everyone to participate in democracy.

    To accomplish that mission the site boats some big features. A huge Flash marquee takes over most of the front page—a landscape picture from the point of view of Lincoln surveying the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.

    “The heart of the new website is the animated marquee that represents a cross-section of America,” proclaims Dr. Robert M. Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, in a video on the site.

    Mousing over the different people pops up frequently asked questions (text and audio) which are answered by a very calming man. But only if you keep your mouse perfectly still. Hover over the dot incorrectly and you’ll be thrust into a different question, which creates a jarring effect that’s somewhere between amusing and annoying. In either case, the message is lost, and users are left hoping for a simple FAQ list.

    Then there’s the problem of loading the entire animated marquee for the soundbites to work, and it takes an unusually long time even by the standards of other Flash-heavy sites. If you don’t have broadband, you’ll be waiting a very long time indeed.

    Memo to Census: if you want to reach every resident in America, don’t use Flash.

    From Our Inbox: A New 2010 Census iPhone App

    Thursday, November 19th, 2009

    From Zubin Wadia of CiviGuard:

    MyTwoCensus Team,

    I figured you as someone who might be interested in publishing our Census taking app for the iPhone…

    http://www.icensus2010.com

    The Census Bureau will not allow people to respond to surveys online… I assume this is because it is very difficult to ensure no duplicity or contamination of results (from hackers etc.).

    The http://2010.census.gov site debuted about 2.5 weeks ago… and it had the 2010 form available in English and Spanish for anyone to review. A few days earlier at the Government Technology Conference I had the privilege to hear Vivek Kundra speak to us.

    One thing that resonated deeply with me was his vision for a world where agencies share their data and vendors organically come up with solutions. The Census Bureau did just that. They put the form online. They made their travails public. I thought it was a travesty that the USA, in 2010, cannot allow people to do electronic censuses.

    So I created an iPhone app with my team for it. It can easily be ported to the Android platform in 2 weeks. And even if the public may not be able to use it – the Census Bureau perhaps can. We are still 100+ days away from Census day 2010… which leaves plenty of time to perform any back-end integration with their address database.

    The paper version of the form can be downloaded in PDF here:

    http://2010.census.gov/2010census/pdf/2010_Questionnaire_Info.pdf

    About the App:

    - Checkboxes are hard to do on the iPhone (not a supported component out of the box) – but it works great for this use-case and we made it happen.

    - Once a survey is done (takes 2 mins for normal cases), a JSON message is created, it is encrypted, compressed and sent to a REST-style web service on Google’s App Engine.

    - The system uses GeoTagging to add a layer of validation. You must be within US territories. You must be within 1 mile of your home billing address related to your cell number. Then you can do a census. One census per household.

    - Integration with Telecom databases and the Census Address DB is of course pending. Our expectation is that the application will have enough buzz to yield next steps with the Census Bureau.

    About CiviGuard:

    http://www.civiguard.com

    We focus on Public Service 2.0 solutions for the US Government. Our core focus is emergency management – our CiviCast platform is the first solution in the world to offer guided evacuation or isolation guidance to civilians during a crisis. This is far more capable and detailed vs. the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) specification currently being pursued by the Fed.

    The Suitland Files: Inside The Census Bureau (Part 2)

    Thursday, November 12th, 2009

    I apologize for taking so long to post the second half of the series that I started nearly two weeks ago, but I’ve been traveling extensively and things were getting quite hectic. Without further ado, I present to you an inside look into my meeting with top communications/public relations/press officials at the Census Bureau’s HQ in Washington, DC:

    After making idle chit-chat about Europe, climate change, and Dr. Groves’ travel habits (like any good reporter, I try to extract information wherever possible) for more than half an hour with two private security guards inside their security booth on the perimeter of the Census Bureau’s fenced off headquarters (they refused to let me sit on a bench outside even though it was a warm day…), I was greeted by Derick Moore (who Steve Jost authorizes to make the official Census Bureau comments on MyTwoCensus posts) and Eun Kim, a new Census Bureau PR official who until very recently was a DC reporter for Gannett (hmmm…I wonder why she jumped over to the dark side…).

    After clearing a round of metal detectors, I made my way up the elevator with my two aforementioned handlers. I was led to a waiting room where I made some chit chat with Derick and Eun who each told me about their careers in private sector media. (I pray every day that the allure of a solid government salary with good benefits doesn’t one day catch up with me too…) Steve Jost, chowing down on a sandwich and french fries, returned and had us follow him into his office. We all sat down, with me at the head of the table. With white hair and a bit of scruff on his face, Jost wasn’t the devilish and egotistical Nazi I expected he might be, but rather a jovial guy who immediately poked fun at my comments about him on this site. I replied that I made those comments when I was thousands of miles away in the safety of my own home, and I had never expected to be sitting down with him in person. But I had no regrets. My job is to be a watchdog, and a vigilant watchdog I will be.

    Last to arrive at our meeting was Stephen Buckner, the mouthpiece of the 2010 Census (spokesman) who had the boyish charm of a high school quarterback. I’m sure that fifteen years ago he easily cruised his way to a victory during elections for homecoming king.

    Jost was the leader of this round-table, so between french fries he started firing off all of the positive accomplishments that he and his team have made, while clearly avoiding any of the shortcomings. Here’s a rundown of the most interesting things that he said:

    1. High unemployment rates and homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure will cause problems with the 2010 Census.

    2. The hardest group to count is “young, unattached people” who move frequently, only have cell phones, are between jobs or studies, etc. — NOT immigrants or minorities, as one might expect from all of the Census Bureau’s hard-to-count group advertising…(MyTwoCensus will investigate this further in the near future!)

    3. The Census Bureau has created a series of ads using pop music…get ready to find these on your TV screens starting in early January.

    4. The participation rate in the Census increased for the first time since 1970 in 2000, despite general trends that fewer and fewer people are involved in civic activities like voting, performing jury duty, etc. Hopefully they can once again reverse this trend in 2010.

    5. 95% of media consumers will be reached multiple times by 2010 Census advertising campaigns.

    6. 53% of 2010 Census advertising is local. 47% is national. (Note: MyTwoCensus has not heard back yet as to whether our proposal to let the Census Bureau advertise for the 2010 Census on this site was accepted…)

    7. Spoiler Alert: Sesame Street will be featuring a 2010 Census storyline via The Count and Rosita characters.

    8. 2010.Census.gov was redesigned.

    9. Though 173 forms of social media have been integrated with Census Bureau awareness efforts, no I-Phone Application has been created for the 2010 Census.

    10. The 2010 Census forms will be mailed to all households in America (hopefully) on March 17, 2010. (Let’s hope drunken St. Patty’s day revelers don’t interfere with the efforts of the U.S. Postal Service…)

    11. When selecting advertisements for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau asks the creative directors of 12 different advertising firms to submit proposals via a “creative rumble.”

    12. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of the 2000 Advance Letter Debacle in 2010…

    13. There will be extra Census Bureau staff in New Orleans to personally hand deliver 2010 Census questionnaires to every household.

    14. The address canvassing portion of the 2010 Census provided data that there are approximately 134 million individual housing units in the US, down from original estimates of 140 million.

    15. Many addresses in places like Las Vegas where construction on homes was started but never finished have been deleted from the 2010 Census rolls.

    16. Very, very, very few people hired to work for the Census Bureau as temporary workers have quit during the 2009-2010 cycle, as other jobs are extremely scarce.

    17. On November 17 at 9:30am, Dr. Robert M. Groves will be holding his next monthly “State of the 2010 Census” address…

    I was given some handouts (drawings of a 2010 Census logo on a NASCAR racecar that will be unveiled soon), portions of powerpoints (that showed me data about levels of Census participation), and had the opportunity to see one of the hip-hop music based commercials that was recently shot in LA and will soon be airing nationwide. It was a smooth operation, and my questions were answered well. Were the answers necessarily honest? No. But did the PR team effectively do their jobs to give give off the image of squeaky clean 2010 Census communications operations? Absolutely.

    MyTwoCensus Editorial: New Web Site Is A Step Forward, But Analytics Data Must Be Provided

    Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

    A government agency with a beautiful web site is rare, and only when the Obama Administration redesigned and modernized WhiteHouse.gov were the American people able to get access to the sort of web site that should be standard for online government publications. Building off the success of the Obama ‘08 campaign’s successful use of social media, we are glad to see that the Census Bureau has, as of yesterday, gone above and beyond 21st century governmental web site norms by redesigning 2010.Census.gov. The new site embraces the Obama rhetoric that advocates interactivity and transparency even further than WhiteHouse.gov. 

    From a practical perspective, one of the best features of this new site will be the ability to track census questionnaire response rates of individual states and locales as the data results come in. (We hope that Steve Jost and the communications team at the Census Bureau will make it a priority to update this data on a daily basis.) If nothing else, this feature will motivate states, municipalities, and other regional districts to improve their participation numbers before the non-response follow up period ends. This part of the new site will also encourage friendly rivalries between politicians, states, and municipalities which will likely result in free and positive press for the Census Bureau. We also hope that Dr. Groves and other bloggers for the 2010 Census site continue to provide new information at frequent intervals. 

    While the idea of a new and improved web site is wonderful, if few people are viewing it, then it won’t have the impact it needs. MyTwoCensus urges the Census Bureau to release the analytics data detailing the number of unique users per day on its new web site, particularly as it compares to the analytics data of the old web site. We hope to see the numbers of viewers for each individual page of the web site as well. This is the only way that MyTwoCensus and other watchdog/non-profit organizations will be able to accurately track the success of the redesign. Additionally, if the Census Bureau’s site redesign becomes a statistical success, then perhaps other government agencies will follow suit by improving their interactivity and transparency, which will be a great step forward for American society.

     

    It should be noted that the redesign of 2010.Census.gov was a combined effort of the Census Bureau with private sector advertising firm Draftfcb.

    Scoop: Census.gov Is Redesigned

    Friday, October 23rd, 2009

    If you check out 2010.Census.gov between now and Monday,  you will find the Census Bureau’s new, more interactive web site that was designed as a collaborative effort between in-house creators and ad agency Draftfcb.  Please feel free to submit thoughts and comments about the differences between Census.gov and 2010.Census.gov.

    Avencia Launches Redistricting the Nation.com, a Ground-Breaking Public Engagement Web Application

    Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

    Philadelphia, PA – October 21, 2009 – Following the upcoming 2010 census reports, states and municipalities will engage in a nationwide legislative redistricting process.  But in some parts of the country, the redrawing of district boundaries for partisan advantage has been rampant, which ultimately reduces the impact of individual voters on the election, resulting in lower voter turnout, and less competitive races.  The expanded use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has created both new potential for sophisticated gerrymandering and a possible means of implementing unbiased redistricting. 
    With Redistricting 2011 around the corner, Avencia Incorporated, a Philadelphia-based geographic analysis and software development firm, is releasing the “Redistricting The Nation” (www.redistrictingthenation.com) website to provide the public with better information about the legislative redistricting process and tools that support and encourage fair representation and competitive elections.  
    The site allows citizens and advocacy groups to:Enter their address (nation-wide) and view the “shape” of their federal, state, and local election districts.Learn who is in charge of drawing the boundaries of their election districts (e.g., independent commissions or elected representatives). Compare the “compactness” scores of their election district to other, similar districts (less compact and unusually shaped districts are more likely to be gerrymandered).Draw new district boundaries on a map and generate compactness scores for the new district. Avencia is also concurrently releasing a revised version of its 2006 study of gerrymandering (“Redraw the Map on Redistricting 2010”).  The new study expands the scope and methodology of Avencia’s original “Gerrymandering Index” to include state-level districts, council districts, and political wards for several new cities, and introduces three additional techniques for measuring districts’ compactness.  While poor compactness scores do not prove gerrymandering, they are a measurable indication of the practice.
    The whitepaper ranks the ten most gerrymandered local, state, and federal districts in the country based on four different measures of compactness.  The study reveals some interesting findings. For instance, at the Congressional level, both FL-22 and NC-12 rank high in the study’s Top Ten for all four measures of compactness, while some of the worst offenders at the local level are: Philadelphia, PA-District 7; Miami, FL-District 2; Jacksonville, FL-District 11; Houston, TX-District E; New York, NY-District 4; and Philadelphia, PA-District 5.
    Avencia is no stranger to political and election-focused projects.  Earlier this month, Avencia and Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia region’s premier non-partisan government watchdog group, launched a sister website to the “Redistricting The Nation” site, dedicated to raising public awareness in the Greater Philadelphia area about the potential impact of the 2010 census on federal, state, and local election districts, available at www.redistrictingthenation.com/philadelphia.  During the November 2008 presidential election, the firm built a Voting Incident Tracking and Mapping web-based application that tracked voting problems in real-time to enable Committee of Seventy’s record-setting 1,000 person volunteer force to respond faster and more efficiently.  Avencia also worked for multiple candidates in races to generate campaign walking and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) maps, and most recently generated over 400 campaign financing analysis maps for MapLight.org for their ‘Remote Control’ report.
    “It is exciting to be able to leverage our global database of legislative districts and GIS analysis tools to promote good government and nonpartisan redistricting,” said Robert Cheetham, Avencia’s CEO. “It is a process that can be easily manipulated to protect incumbents and discourage competitive races. Our goal with this new site is to both educate the public early in the Census 2010 cycle, and to create software tools that will promote a more open, citizen-driven and transparent redistricting process in 2011.”
    Political geography is at the center of several ongoing projects at Avencia.  The white paper analysis of compactness of election districts was made possible by Avencia’s Cicero product, a legislative district matching and elected official lookup web API, developed for local governments, unions, businesses, and non-profit political and advocacy organizations to match citizens with their local, state, and national elected officials.  Cicero taps a global database of legislative district maps and information about politicians, legislative bodies, and election events.  Initially beginning with only a few cities, Avencia has grown the database to include national, state and local legislatures for the United States and several other countries and made an interactive version available to the public.

     

    About Avencia
    Avencia is an award-winning, Philadelphia-based geographic analysis and software development firm specializing in the creation of innovative location-based software tools to enhance decision-making processes.  Avencia believes these location-based technologies can help promote the emergence of more dynamic, vibrant communities. For more information, visit www.avencia.com

    Update on 2010 Census Media Campaign: October 15th Deadline

    Monday, October 5th, 2009

    Check out the following press release/call for media companies to do biz with the Census Bureau:

    The 2010 Census will provide a once-in-a-decade snapshot of the nation’s population which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The information collected during the census assists government leaders in making historic decisions, such as the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The data are also used to help distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds back to state and local governments each year. Information from the census is used to determine where to fund infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and schools.

    The 2010 Census will be “short form-only.” In March, households will receive a form that asks just a few questions, such as number of people in household, race/ethnicity and age.

    • Announcement Letter: March 8th – March 10th
    • Initial mail out of form: March 15th – 17th
    • Replacement Questionnaire mailed: April 1st – April 10th
    • Reminder Postcard mailed: April 22nd – April 24th
    • In-home follow up to non-responders: May 1st – July 10th

    In order to inform everyone about the 2010 Census and its importance, the U.S. Census Bureau has developed an integrated communications campaign (ICC) that includes paid media, earned media, a national partnership program and the Census in Schools program. The three goals of the ICC are:

    1. Increasing mail response
    2. Improving accuracy and reducing the differential undercount
    3. Improving cooperation with enumerators

    Our prime contractor, DraftFCB and their partner agencies have developed the Paid Media Plan, described in this document, to make the 2010 Census the most pervasive message everywhere, especially during the mail-out/mail-back phase in March and April 2010. The Plan was created with the work of eight partner media agencies, will encompass multiple languages and reach into every market across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

    Paid Media Plan Summary

    The Paid Media Plan encompasses all media types and is skewed towards those segments of the populations that are considered hard to count (HTC; less likely to respond). The media habits and interests of these population groups drive when and where media will be purchased.

    Paid media will be purchased for:

    • Television
    • Radio
    • Interactive
    • Outdoor & transit
    • Print (Newspaper and Magazines)

    Paid media materials were developed in multiple languages to ensure that everyone is reached with relevant communications. DraftFCB, in concert with the partner agencies below, developed paid media plans designed to incite mass participation in the 2010 Census.

    • Mass audience, all English – DraftFCB
    • African-American/Black African/Caribbean/Haitian – GlobalHue
    • Hispanic (Spanish Language National) – GlobalHue Latino
    • Hispanic (Spanish Language Local)- d. Exposito & Partners
    • Asian – IW Group
    • American Indian/Alaska Native – G&G Advertising
    • Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander- G&G Advertising
    • Emerging Audiences (Russian, Polish and Arabic) – Allied Media Group
    • Puerto Rico – DraftFCB Puerto Rico

    Local Market Coverage

    National efforts will cover all the markets however specific local markets will be identified for incremental support designed to reach the Hard to Count populations as part of the RFP process.

    Paid Media Campaign Phases

    The paid media campaign will occur in three phases:

    1. January-February 2010 (Awareness/Education)
      Goal: Build immediate awareness and provide educational information
    2. March-April 2010 (Motivation/Participation)
      Goal: Inspire and motivate everyone to complete the census questionnaire
    3. May-June 2010 (Support census workers when they knock on doors of those households who did not return the census questionnaire. Also known as “non-response follow up)
      Goal: encourage participation with the census workers

    All target segments require awareness of Census benefits and prompting to participate, but specific communication strategies are needed to ensure highest participation levels.

    Paid Media Buying Phases

    • 2010 Census Paid Media negotiations will occur in two phases:
      1. Census Upfront – Appropriate Contractors will negotiate multi-platform deals with large companies such as Time Warner, Disney ABC, etc. to negotiate the best pricing, placements and added value for the Campaign. These negotiations will begin in May because of the longer lead time needed to develop integrated programs and is in line with industry practice for national television negotiations.
      2. All Other Media Buying – Given the number of potential media vendors, Contractors will begin their outreach efforts to solicit information starting in June. Negotiations and commitments for all other media such as “scatter” national TV, local TV and radio, magazines, newspaper, Internet and outdoor will not be finalized until October – November.

    All media vendors will have a fair opportunity to submit proposals via a questionnaire (provided below). This questionnaire and other request for proposals will be part of the buying process. If you are interested in participating, please fill out the following questionnaire. The deadline to submit your information is: October 15, 2009.

    (Click here for link to questionnaire)

    Full disclosure: As the only private web site in the world that focuses its content on the 2010 Census, MyTwoCensus.com just applied to be a media partner with the 2010 Census, as this would satisfy our original stated goal of creating the most accurate 2010 Census possible, particularly because we trust this site as a source of information and ads more than we trust other media companies.

    Will the CIO bring about changes in the Census Bureau’s tech spending?

    Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

    Check out this post from the New York Times’s Bits Blog:

    The Nation’s C.I.O.: Government Needs a Dashboard


    By Saul Hansell

    Vivek KundraHO/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Vivek Kundra

    It is sadly too easy to find examples of federal technology projects gone awry. To Vivek Kundra, the nation’s new chief information officer, one seems to stick in his craw: An effort to build a handheld computer for examiners conducting the 2010 census was abandoned last year, wasting $600 million. Mr. Kundra, who when I met him earlier this month was juggling both a BlackBerry and an iPhone, is shocked that the government could not simply find a way to use an existing smartphone or similar device.

    Mr. Kundra’s job is to manage what will be $76 billion in spending to maintain 10,000 government systems as well as 800 active projects to build major new systems (those costing $50 million or more). I asked him how he could possibly keep tabs on all this to prevent the next $600 million albatross. He had a one-word answer:

    Dashboards.

    By the end of June, Mr. Kundra hopes to start yet another federal Web site that will give officials and the public a window into all of the active government technology projects. For each project, it will show the purpose, schedule and budget. It will show the name and photo of the federal official responsible and the names of which contractors are working on the project, a fact that Mr. Kundra says oddly has not been made public before.

    Live-blogging Philadelphia’s 2010 Census hearing…

    Monday, May 11th, 2009

    12:57 – 25 people at this meeting…poor turnout…90% work for the Census Bureau…Sen. Carper not here…will it start on time?

    1:04 – Sen. Carper doing introductions…he shook my hand and introduced himself earlier.

    1:05 – Sen. Carper discussing stats about 1.4 million Americans working for Census Bureau (largest peacetime hiring effort)

    1:06 -  6 million people missed in 2000 count. 1.3 million people counted twice.

    1:07 – Hispanics miscounted 4 times as often as whites in 2000 says Carper

    1:08 – Mayor Nutter going to speak…he’s in a rush and has to leave in 10 min.

    1:10 – Michael Nutter says Philly will lose $2,300 per person not counted in 2010 Census

    1:12 – Challenges for Philly: Locating households, encouraging people to return their forms…accurate address listings from US Postal service very important.

    1:13 – Nutter: Master list doesn’t have 56,000 addresses that Philly City Gvnt reviewed and updated for Postal Service

    1:15 – Nutter: Afro-Americans disproportionately represented in economically disadvantaged and Latinos in linguistically challenged areas

    1:15 – Linguistic issues must be addressed by Census Bureau. INS and deportation issues must be addressed.

    1:16 – improve response rate: 1. issue exec order 2. city-wide campaign 3. establish multicultural network

    1:17 – Only through raising public consciousness that we can make this work – Nutter says his office will help out.

    1:17 – Nutter leaves, Sen. Carper thanks Nutter

    1:18- 3 minute video will be shown now…forgot my popcorn

    1:19 – This is the same propaganda video stuff that’s available on YouTube on the Census Bureau’s channel…but informative!

    1:21 – Still awake, still here…they’re playing sentimental “a photograph, a portrait of hopes and dreams” theme song…is Sen. Carper shedding a tear?

    1:23 – De. Congressman Castle talking…discussing differences between allocating $ based on population rather than earmarks and pork legislation etc.

    1:26 – Boring Del. Congressman Castle talking about why people don’t respond…this is called preaching to the choir, everyone here works for the Census Bureau

    1:30 – Now Mayor Baker of Wilmington is speaking…making jokes, got no laughs

    1:33 – 50% of Wilmington residents live in rented homes…this=bigger problems for counting.

    1:34 – Mayor Baker thinks door to door messaging is important…like political campaigns.

    1:36 – They make Joe Biden jokes about talking off the cuff…

    1:37 – Baker says, “Who cares what Rush Limbaugh and FoxNews think” now that they’re in the minority…

    1:38 – Baker makes more jokes and finishes his statement. Back to Sen. Carper…

    1:39 – Philadelphia Managing Director Camille Cates Barnett is speaking…really sad story about her: http://www.kyw1060.com/pages/1430697.php?

    1:40 – Barnett: Census data helps draw City Council districts…she cites 2007 Brookings study – $377 billion allocated based on 2010 Census

    1:41 – Barnett: For every person we miss counting, $2,263 in funding lost…

    1:44 – Barnett whips out 1 page strategic plan for Philly census…

    1:45 – Add 75,000 residents in the next 5-10 years=Goal for City of Philly

    1:46 – Since 2000 Philly has added 22,000 converted housing units…56,000 additional addressees have been handed over to Census Bureau from Philly.

    1:48 – Economic downturn=people get displaced…complicates counting process.

    1:49 – Only 23% of AfroAmerican Philadelphians have high school diplomas and 13% have college degrees.

    1:52- Barnett repeats every single thing Mayor Nutter already said…eyelids shutting…

    1:53 – Barnett finished with positive message…back to Sen. Tom Carper

    1:55 – Carper asks Barnett what she learned from 1990 and 2000 Census.

    1:56 – Barnett says major issue in previous Census operations=accurately ensuring population growth is properly recorded

    1:59 – Congressman Castle talking about working with clergy…he references US Marshalls getting ministers to have criminals confess.

    2:01 – Castle asks if clergy can be of help to get people out…Barnett talks about faith-based groups for outreach.

    2:03 – Congressman Castle asks how landlords can help w/ Census. He admits he doesn’t know the legality of this.

    2:05 – yadda yadda yadda – hopefully MyTwoCensus gets to ask some HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS. EVERYONE is falling asleep (woman next to me)

    2:13- Carper’s aide just passed him a note…he’s now ending with Barnett and Baker…maybe abruptly ending mtg?

    2:16 – New panel now on the Dais — Tom Mesoundbourg (acting Census Director) speaking…invoking founding fathers. Also on the Dais now: - Pat Coulter, Executive Director, Philadelphia Urban League

    - Norman Bristol-Colon, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, State of Pennsylvania

    - Wanda M. Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware

    2:20 – Mesounbourg LIES! he says operations are going smoothly and address canvassing in philly almost done! – (THE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT FROM MAY 09 DISAGREES) READ THE MOST RECENT UPDATE: http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/

    2:25: Mesounbourg concludes “Our operations are not intended to count many of us, they are intended to count all of us.”

    2:26 – Norman Bristol Colon now talking…he has a heavy Latino accent…hard to understand!

    2:27 – More Puerto Ricans living in USA than in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

    2:30 – Colon urges Census Bureau to have a plan to count undocumented and documented residents in the same way and counts EVERYONE.

    2:31 – Colon insists that Census data remains private and is not released to the INS or other immigration officials.

    2:33 – This is pretty much turning into a pro-immigration rally…Colon passionately speaking…only 20 people remain in the room here.

    2:34 – Colon says that redistricting will help Latino populations so they can have more representation in gvnt.

    2:36 – Colon finished speaking…now hearing from Pat Coulter, head of Urban League Philly – Urban League and Census Bureau have worked together since 1970.

    2:37 – Coulter just quoted Dick Polman, my journalism Professor at Penn!

    2:38 – Here’s the article Coulter quoted from: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/americandebate/Head_counts_and_head_cases.html

    2:42 – Coulter finished speaking, now last but not least, Wanda Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware

    2:46 – Wanda Lopez is very well spoken, but unfortunately no new information added.

    2:49 – Congressman Castle asking questions then “calling it a day” as Sen. Carper put it.

    2:53 – Congressman Castle asks if celebrities can do public announcements to promote the Census…Director Mesenbourg says the Bureau is pursuing this.

    2:54 – Mesenbourg says a PR firm has been hired to do this…which firm is this? Coulter mentions Oprah as possible spokeswoman.

    2:55 – Wanda Lopez suggests using local radio in addition to ads on Univision.

    2:56 – Castle thanks panel. Carper ending mtg. now…NO HARD-HITTING ISSUES ADDRESSED!

    2:57 – Carper says President and First Lady and possibly Sasha and Malia could be used to promote 2010 Census…Wondering: Will they be counted in Chicago or DC?

    2:58 – Carper acknowledges problems with handheld computers and asks Mesenbourg to weigh in on correction of problems.

    2:59 – Mesenbourg: Handheld only used for address canvassing NOT the non-response follow-up operation in May 2010. Too risky to do that he says

    3:01 – 8 million addresses given to Census Bureau from state/local gvnts says Mesenbourg

    3:02 – “introduced risk mitigation strategies” – aka 5 different strategies to reduce risk for address canvassing…

    3:03 – Mesenbourg says in this economy only 12% of hired applicants didnt show up once they were hired.

    3:03 – This explains why we are so far aheadin our address canvassing operation…”highly skilled work force” enables us to finish operation earlier than planned.

    3:04 – Carper addresses the Inspector General’s report from earlier to Mesenbourg about failures that we mentioned earlier (top article on http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/)

    3:05 – Mesenbourg acknowledges that in 6 out of 15 locations that Inspector General visited, the Census Bureau employees were not following orders.

    3:06 – Mesenbourg deflects the criticism that Carper addressed — saying that all employees received a text message on their handhelds to follow procedures more closely.

    3:08 – Sen. Carper asks more hard-hitting questions (finally)! Impressed that he addressed these issues, though not satisfied w/ responses…

    3:13 – Closing statements from Castle and Carper before they “call it a day.”

    3:14 – Carper quotes Richard Nixon: “The only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything.”

    3:15 – Carper says his office was originally worried about lack of technology used in this headcount, but his fears have now been alleviated.

    3:17 – Carper thanks everyone who joined us and Census Bureau staff. Carper quotes Lamar Alexander “hearings should be called talkings.”

    Census.gov says ‘Page not found’

    Monday, May 11th, 2009

    jobs-small

    During this economic downturn, we can only imagine that most visitors to the Census Bureau’s web site seek information about employment and jobs with the Census bureau, as the Bureau will hire more than 1.4 million Americans during the 2010 Census, including the 140,000 who have already been verifying addresses across America.

    At MyTwoCensus, we regularly browse and comb the www.Census.gov.

    Naturally, we had some questions that needed answering, so we clicked on “FAQs.” This brought us to a special section of the Census Bureau’s site devoted to answering Americans’ questions about the 2010 Census through a list of Frequently Asked Questions and an interface to submit questions to the Census Bureau.

    On the top of any FAQ page, there is a list of navigational links, such as “Jobs” and “About 2010 Census.” Very disappointingly, both the links to “Jobs” and “Timeline of Activites,” which likely appear on hundreds of Census Web pages, are completely dead links.

    deadlinks-small

    Not only that, but visitors are not brought to a standard 404 error page, which any teenager who knows anything about HTML could build. Instead, browsers reveal a message that the page doesn’t exist, and visitors must figure out on their own that, to find a job, they need to navigate all the way back to the Census home page, where they can find a working “Jobs” link.

    This experience is extremely user unfriendly for job seekers, many of whom are likely older individuals who may not ever be able to figure out how to find the correct “Jobs” page. Just how many potential Census Bureau job applicants were lost because they couldn’t navigate to the proper Jobs page?

    Even though these broken links reside within the FAQ section, –which is powered by RightNow Technologies, a firm whose software MyTwoCensus staff has used for other endeavors– when any part of the Census.gov site is updated, the first task should be to ensure that all links lead to the right place.

    Here are our recommendations:

    • Fix these broken “Jobs” and “Timeline of Activities” links
    • Set up a proper 404 error page, which will lead anyone who does stumble upon a dead link to a page that helps them find what they’re looking for (check out some 404 inspiration)
    • Run a dead link checker, to ensure all dead links are fixed across the site.

    Anything else wrong with Census.gov? Let us know! We’ll follow up in the coming weeks with additional thoughts on how to improve the Census Bureau’s site. For now, fixing broken links should be the top priority!

    Profile: Robert M. Groves

    Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

    TIME Magazine just released its profile of our new Counter-In-Chief-To-Be (pending confirmation):

    Fast Facts:

    •Originally from Kansas City. Earned a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, followed by master’s degrees in statistics and sociology and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan.

    • Joined the University of Michigan’s Sociology Department in 1975. Has also taught at the University of Maryland and at schools in Sweden and Germany.

    • Served as an associate census director from 1990 to 1992.

    • Helped develop surveys for groups ranging from the American Lung Association to A.C. Nielsen and Co.

    • Has written several books and dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters on survey methods. Much of his work focuses on boosting response rates to polls and surveys.

    • Worked as a Vermont prison guard during college.

    Quotes about Robert M. Groves:

    • “He’s generally well liked and well respected in the profession” and “very good at dealing with human interaction.”
    —Eugene Ericksen, a Temple University sociology and statistics professor and former classmate (Detroit Free Press, April 2, 2009)

    • “He is a respected social scientist who will run the Census Bureau with integrity and independence.”
    —Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (AP, April 2, 2009)

    • “This is an incredibly troubling selection that contradicts the Administration’s assurances that the census process would not be used to advance an ulterior political agenda.”
    —Rep. Darrell Issa (New York Times, April 2, 2009)

    • “For those tempted to label Groves as the pawn of partisans in the White House or the Democratic party, I have a warning: the notion of Bob Groves yielding to partisanship is laughable. As in rolling on the floor laughing out loud laughable.”
    —Mark Blumenthal, publisher and editor, Pollster.com. (April 5, 2009)