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Answering questions about places

How to craft queries to get the answers you need

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

Sidekick can accurately answer simple, fact-based questions about any place using the mySidewalk data library. Places can be any of the 16 types of geography where you can typically find data in mySidewalk, including states, congressional districts, cities/towns, ZIP codes, city council districts, neighborhoods, and census tracts.

When to use this capability

Anytime you need quick access to facts about one or more places. Sidekick enables data analysts, researchers, policymakers, and anyone working on community-based projects to get accurate information on-demand.

Example use cases include:

  • Fact-checking statistics for a report

  • Responding to ad hoc data requests from colleagues or constituents

  • Getting decision support data for a program, project, or policy proposal

  • Exploring datasets for a geographic region before starting an analysis

Example questions and responses

User Query

What's the average commute time in 66215?

User Query

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

User Query

What's life expectancy in each Kansas City, MO council district?

Advice for effective prompting

To get the most accurate, relevant response from Sidekick:

  • Ask specific, clearly-worded questions about a geographic place. To maximize the effectiveness of your query, be as specific as possible. If possible, specify the metric and geographic location you are interested in. For example, "What is the median household income for Black residents in Memphis, TN?"

    • Use the full name of your geography to avoid ambiguity.

    • The more specifically you can define the metric you're after, the better (e.g., "vacant houses for rent" rather than "available homes").

  • Request a single, quantitative fact or statistic per question. Sidekick works best when asked clear and discrete questions. When asked to perform several requests within the same query, it can return mixed results. Instead, try asking one request per query, and follow up with additional questions as needed.

  • Ask Sidekick for help narrowing a broad topic, like health, economics, or housing down to something more specific to help improve your query. For example, if you say something like "What data should I explore on housing affordability in Miami?", Sidekick will suggest datasets, which you can then use to ask a more focused follow-up question, like “How many cost-burdened renters are in Miami?”

  • Review Sidekick’s Response. Sidekick will process your question using the mySidewalk data library and provide a concise answer based on the most current data available. You can review "Sidekick's work" to ensure that it pulled the right data for your target geographies. See the article on Checking Sidekick's Work for more on how to use this important feature.

  • Use additional features for deeper insights. If desired, you can request more detailed data or ask follow-up questions to dive deeper into the topic. Sidekick can also generate visual data representations like maps to help illustrate the data more effectively.

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