People I Read: Vital Signs and Statistics

In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

This post’s person I read is everyone at Vital Signs and Statistics.

I’m an advocate of data. The choices we make in congregations and other nonprofits tend to be better when we have a firm grasp on what is happening in our communities and organizations. And good data is a vital tool in making sure we have that firm grasp.

But raw data by itself isn’t very useful. In order to make it useful, we need to contextualize it, interpret it, and turn it into information. The distinction between data and information is important: data is raw, information has a context. For example: the number of visitors to your website, broken down by country, is data; knowing that your number of visitors in the United States is going down is information.

What does that have to do with this post’s person I read? Vital Signs and Statistics is the blog of the United Church of Christ’s Center for Analytics, Research, and Data. These are the fine folks who collect data on a variety of topics from throughout the United Church of Christ. For example, they maintain Access UCC, where I can look up any congregation and see financial data, membership information, and so on. At Vital Signs and Statistics, they make the data that they collect – and data from other sources – and turn it into information. If you want to learn how a pastor spends her time, the benefits of youth programs, or how a church welcome affects people, among other things, this is the blog for you.