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Sidekick Beta Strengths, Limitations, & Roadmap
Sidekick Beta Strengths, Limitations, & Roadmap

In this article, you'll learn what you can and can't do with Sidekick.

Jennifer Curtis avatar
Written by Jennifer Curtis
Updated over a week ago

Sidekick is both new and a work in progress. Because of this, the list of Sidekick's capabilities will continue to grow, so please check back often.


Sidekick is designed to understand and answer your questions about the communities you're interested in, using data from mySidewalk's library for accurate responses.

Sidekick's current strengths include:

  • Sidekick can offer data recommendations, such as what data to use when:

    • Applying for grants (based on a description of the grant)

    • Conducting needs assessments

    • Understanding health disparities

  • Sidekick uses mySidewalk's extensive community data library to answer fact-based questions about places. For example, here are some of the kinds of requests that Sidekick can handle:

    • Tell me the life expectancy for ZIP code 64131

    • What’s the diabetes rate in Manhattan, KS?

    • How many vacant houses are for rent in Jackson County, MO?

    • What’s the median household income for Black residents in Kansas City, KS?

  • Sidekick can create interactive maps based on a user's request. For example, Sidekick will create a map when prompted like:

    • Create a map of homes without air conditioning by neighborhood in Memphis.

    • Create a life expectancy map for counties in Florida.

  • Sidekick can draft data stories. For example, Sidekick with generate the first draft of copy when prompted to do things like:

    • Briefly describe what a map is showing

    • Highlight key takeaways in plain language

    • Draft a memo around an actionable insight

  • Sidekick can show you the steps it took to answer your queries

    • Click "Show work" when Sidekick responds to a query to see the list of steps it took, and expand each step for additional information including things like:

      • The exact search terms it used to search the data library

      • The exact location for which it retrieved data values

      • A link to the data source page for data used in a response

Other capabilities Sidekick has:

  • Sidekick can compare and rank places based on:

    • A specific metric (e.g. median household income, graduate degrees)

    • A particular data topic (e.g. access to healthcare, affordability)

  • Sidekick can calculate proportions or percentages:

    • Sidekick can normalize data and, therefore, return proportions or percentages.

      • In some situations, this is not possible (e.g., if the data returned is a ratio).

  • Sidekick can refine or adapt responses based on:

    • Additional information

    • Context (e.g., what it is needed for and why)

    • Instructions that you provide

Limitations (What we’re working to improve)

Sidekick is early in its development, and we have a lot of exciting features and enhancements planned for the future. However, it is important to note how Sidekick is currently limited in some ways, including:

  • At times, Sidekick might be slow.

    • As is common generally with LLMs, even simple queries require a lot of steps to find, retrieve, and construct an answer. In addition, sometimes, the third-party AI tool we use experiences unforeseen issues or slowness.

  • Currently, Sidekick will only return the most current data in our data library.

    • This means that historical and projection data are not currently available, though we're currently working to add these data.

Tip: Use the "Percent Change" datasets to explore trends.

Even though historical data points are not yet available in Sidekick, you can use numerous "percent change" datasets - like "Percent Change in Housing Units" and "Percent Change in Population" - to explore some trends.

Find a recommended list here.

  • Sidekick will occasionally answer questions with irrelevant information or data, and can erroneously fail to retrieve available information.

    • We are actively working to reduce these issues. When this happens, we ask that you please submit feedback. (Here’s how.)

    • If you believe that data is available but Sidekick is having trouble retrieving it, you can ask it to try again. (As odd as it might sound, this can work!)

    • At this time, we do not recommend that you use Sidekick to retrieve data for important documentation (for example, data used in a grant application) – unless you are able to fact-check it first (for example, using Seek.)

  • Sidekick cannot do complex calculations, like correlations.

    • We will improve Sidekick’s ability to answer more complex questions over time.

  • Sidekick struggles at times with the variable geographic availability of data in the mySidewalk library.

    • Sidekick should tell you when data is not available at the requested granularity and provide you with alternatives. However, sometimes it may tell you that data is not available when it actually is — just not at the requested geography. If you suspect this is happening, tell Sidekick to look for a different geography.

    • Refer to the data catalog if you need to check the availability of a dataset.

  • Sidekick performs better in shorter conversations.

    • If you notice performance degrading after a few “turns” of conversation, start a new conversation. A good rule of thumb is to start a new conversation for new topics or when you want to explore a new geography.

  • Sidekick may occasionally tell you it can’t do something that it can.

    • If it’s doing this when you know it can do the thing you asked for - like the ability to map data - don’t be afraid to tell it to try again. Sometimes, like humans, Sidekick needs a little explicit encouragement!


Our roadmap will be directly influenced by users, so it is subject to change as the beta continues. At this time, however, here are a few features we're prioritizing next:

  • The ability to share links to visualizations generated by Sidekick

  • The addition of historic data values, which will increase the number and type of questions that Sidekick can answer, and pave the way for time series visuals

  • The ability to send data suggested by Sidekick to a Seek workspace for more in-depth exploration and analysis

If you have ideas for the roadmap, please share them here.

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