The government awards trillions of taxpayer dollars every year in contracts, grants, and loans, and it’s nearly impossible to keep track of where that money is going. Thousands of new businesses are created in the US each year, and it’s hard for those young companies to know where to start if they’re interested in applying for government contracts, grants, and loans. Even the experts who spend their time constantly analyzing government spending reports have a hard time tracking the complete cycle of government spending.

For the past year, we’ve been focused on improving the research process one goes through when interested in learning about government spending. First, we launched Government Contracts, a database of the 9 million federal government contracts awarded since 2000. Next, we focused on building a Government Contractors topic that created profiles for the more than 600,000 companies that have provided products or services to the government since 2000.
Today, we’re announcing our next major topic that will help people truly understand the full cycle of government spending with the launch of our Agency Spending topic, which includes profiles for the more than 300 government departments and agencies that have awarded contracts, grants, or loans since 2000.

On each profile in the Agency Spending topic, users can see the breakdown of contracts, grants, and loans awarded by each department or agency. Users can research a department or agency’s top award recipients, information about the products and services they procure, where their awards are being performed, recent awards, and more.

Our Agency Spending topic was built using data from the federal government website USASpending.gov, launched in December 2007 as a result of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, which required the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a website with free and searchable information on every federal award. The data is provided by federal agencies through the Federal Procurement Data System, Federal Assistance Award Data System, SmartPay, and the Census Bureau.

To get more information about the various elements of the Agency Spending topic, please visit our Research Guide. We’ll continue to focus on improving the research process for those interested in understanding how the government spends money and plan to focus on grants, grant recipients, loans, and loan recipients using a similar process and methodology. If you have any suggestions, comments, or questions, we’d love to hear from you at inquiries@findthebest.com!

Today, we’re announcing our newest topic on the FindTheBest platform: Congressional Staff Directory. In recent months, the FindTheBest Government team has been focused on building out our government content to give people access to information that they’d otherwise have a hard time finding.

Until today, it was incredibly time consuming and expensive to find salary and expenditure data for congressional staffers. Our Congressional Staff Directory is the only free online resource that shows salary and expenditure data from both the House and the Senate. In addition, we’ve connected each individual to their relevant member of congress or congressional committee profile on FindTheBest to give researchers a more complete picture of each individual staffer.

When we started building this topic, we thought that it would mostly be utilized by policy advocates who didn’t have the resources to pay for the current offerings out there or who wanted a better source for expenditure data, but once we started digging into the data, we realized that this is a topic that should be of interest to every citizen of the United States. It’s for anyone who is interested in where their tax dollars are going, how much congressional staffers are making, and what they’re spending money on.

This topic was built using a few key data sources, namely the Statement of Disbursements of the House and the Report of the Secretary of the Senate. Salary information is derived from the most recent quarterly earnings that make up a full calendar year—two periods in the Senate and four periods in the House.

We’ll constantly be adding data and updating this topic as more information becomes available. If you have any suggestions for how we can improve our Congressional Staff Directory, we encourage you to contact us and let us know.

Start Researching Congressional Staffers Now

Starting today, you’ll see a couple of changes to FindTheBest Homes, the newest topic on FindTheBest.

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10 weeks ago, we launched Homes, a residential real estate research engine that included 105 million for sale, off-the-market, and foreclosed properties across the United States. The response from our users was phenomenal. People loved that we were bringing together all of the different things you think about when you’re buying a home—everything from information on the neighborhood, schools, local businesses, home specs, real estate market, and more—but there was one thing people kept asking for that we didn’t have: rental listings.

Today, we’re announcing our entrance to the rental market through partnerships with ListHub, the leading distributor of property listings and provider of performance metrics in real estate, Zumper, an online provider of real-time rental apartments, and AppFolio, a leading online property management software solution for rental property managers.We’re using the same approach we used with for sale and off-the-market listings and giving people all the information they need to understand what it’s really like to live at a certain address.

Competition to find that dream apartment can be incredibly challenging, so it’s more important than ever to have all the information you need to properly evaluate a property and contact the rental manager. We won’t cover 100% of the rental market on day one, but our partnerships with ListHub, Zumper, and AppFolio will provide the foundation that allows us  add additional inventory over time.

rental dd

The second update is a new feature that aims to simplify the way people research. We’re now able to provide quick insights on the true essence of something. Whether it’s a place, product, service or person, it can be incredibly enlightening to understand the distinguishing characteristics of any given entity. We’re calling those characteristics Insights and today, we’re rolling them out across Places, our collection of more than 200,000 geographies—everything from states, counties, cities, and neighborhoods.

Insights for Places will identify a place’s distinguishing characteristics to give people a better idea of what makes it unique. This research draws upon extensive geospatial analysis that we conducted on the 32 million companies & 19,000 industries included on FindTheBest Companies. Insights will be generated when there is an over-indexation of a given attribute as compared to the country as a whole. Take the Marina in San Francisco for example, if you lived there, you would know that there were a ton of restaurants, yoga studios, and bars, but if you lived halfway across the country, you’d probably have no idea.

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We plan to roll Insights out across our platform to really help people better understand the distinguishing attributes of any given entity, whether it’s a smartphone, college, dog breed, or the thousands of other topics we have on FindTheBest.

 

One month ago, President Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) into law, after it was unanimously passed in both the House and Senate. As a company who relies on government data to power some of our most visited topics, we’re excited to see how the DATA Act will transform the ability to access and understand federal spending data.

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This isn’t the government’s first push to improve the transparency of government spending — in 2007 USASpending.gov was launched in response to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act’s (FFATA) requirement to create a website with free and searchable information on all Federal awards. Though USASpending.gov was a good start, we’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult to navigate and far from being easily digestible.

USASpending.gov focuses on individual transactions which makes it impossible to look at an entire contract, grant, or loan since they often involve multiple transactions. These shortcomings result from the government’s inability to adopt consistent data standards to identify awards, recipients, and programs. We’ve also found that USASpending.gov is incomplete — FFATA addressed grant and contract data but ignored administrative spending, so the website fails to illustrate the full government spending life-cycle.

USASpending.gov simply doesn’t bring full clarity to federal spending, which is where the DATA Act comes in. The new law requires government-wide data standards to make all aspects of federal spending fully searchable. It also expands the scope of spending transparency to include administrative spending as well as grants and contracts.

 

We’re Starting Now

FindTheBest is eager to take advantage of the new data standards and broader scope to deliver more accurate, more detailed, and more complete federal spending information to the 23 million people who visit our site each month. There’s no way to know how long the DATA Act will really take to get started, but we’re not going to wait for it to take full effect.

A year ago, we expanded into a new category—Companies. FindTheBest Companies includes listings for more than 30 million registered companies in the United States. As we were working on launching the new project, we realized that the interactions between companies and the government was often unclear. We realized that we could use the FindTheBest platform and our cutting edge technology to shed light on the relationships that exist between companies and the government. Since then, we’ve been focused on developing a suite of content that revolves around government spending: how much the U.S. government is spending, what they’re buying, and who they’re buying from.

So far, we’ve added four new topics to the site: Government Contracts, Government Contractors, Open Grants, and Contract Opportunities. We’re constantly improving on these topics and we’re in the process of building two additional topics: Government Grants and Loans & Agency Spending. Each of these topics is reliant on government data — today, we’re using data from USASpending.govGrants.gov, and FedBizOpps.gov to power our government spending topics.

 

Our ultimate goal is to detail the full life-cycle of government spending — from taxpayer dollars, Congressional appropriation, Treasury allocation, and agency obligation to payout. With today’s data landscape it’s a challenging, and ultimately impossible, task. The DATA Act will help to not only improve current data, but to make additional data available, allowing us to fulfill our goal of detailing the full life-cycle of government spending.

To read more about what we’re doing with government data, read the full post by Nina Quattrocchi on the DATA Transparency Coalition Blog.

Four years ago, I was frustrated. I wanted to find the best ski resort for a family vacation, but the information online was a complete mess. Even the so-called “experts” I found on search engines were secretly just advertisers, recommending the resorts that paid them the most.

I started noticing the same problem across several different categories. Which dog breed would be the best for my family? Which college was the right fit for my son? Sure, you could find a bunch of quick answers on the web, but it was tremendously frustrating to sort fact from fiction, and I kept wondering if I really had all the information. Had I missed something? It was impossible to tell. It finally occurred to me that these types of problems—choosing a ski resort, picking a dog, researching a college—are actually very similar. How you make a complex decision is the same, just with different data. My entrepreneurial side realized that this big problem was a big opportunity.

So we started FindTheBest. Our team began collecting data—hard facts about all sorts of things you might be interested in—organizing all the information you’d need to research with confidence. We ended up building several different sites, from FindTheBest (products and services) to FindTheData (reference information) to FindTheCompany (business information).

We quickly realized that our initial project was far more massive than we thought. We were expanding in all kinds of directions, each time exposing new insights by connecting topics—but this information was now spread across our different sites. Organizing it in this way didn’t make sense.

Things just got a lot easier. We’ve combined all of our websites—that’s 726 million listings and 59 billion facts across 2,000 topics—to create the world’s largest research engine. What exactly is a research engine? It’s one place that has exhaustive data on almost anything you’re interested in. We collect facts from the most authoritative sources so you don’t have to bounce from blue link to blue link on a search engine trying to gather and make sense of all the information.

And today, we’re taking another big step toward delivering on that promise. We’re expanding into a new topic, real estate, one of the most highly-considered purchases a person will ever make.

Try it out at homes.findthebest.com.

Welcome to a better way to research.

Kevin O’Connor, CEO

Which headphone brands are worth the money, and which aren’t worth your time?

We spent weeks compiling data on nearly 3,000 pairs of headphones across dozens of brands. We then scored each pair out of 100, based on expert reviews (75%) and raw specifications (25%). Finally, we determined the average score for 18 popular brands (we left out lesser-known brands and brands where we had a sample size less than 25 pairs.)

How did things turn out? We’ve got good news and bad news.

The Bad News –>

weird_ship

For most folks, 10 days at sea is enough, regardless of how many hot towels and Mai Tais the ship’s staff slides your way. But for the intrepid adventurer (read: wealthy person with nothing better to do), even a month-long cruise just isn’t enough.

We compiled data on over 2,000 cruises, including every major cruise line. These 9 cruises stood above the rest as the longest of all, each many times the average cruise length (10 days). You’ll never believe just how long or pricey #1 is…

#9 Longest Cruise

Auckland_Yellow_pages

So you own a business, and you know that hardly anybody uses the Yellow Pages anymore, but you’re not sure how to help people find your company. The first step is to make a website. Once that’s done, one of the most effective ways to get your company found is through search engine optimization.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of increasing a website’s exposure to internet users through improving its rankings on organic (unpaid) search results. Good SEO is critical because over 90% of clicks on search engine results come from the first page.

If you own a glass repair shop, for example, you’ll want to be sure that when somebody near your business searches for “glass repair,” you appear as high up on the first page of results as possible.

How to achieve great SEO

It is difficult to identify how search engines determine rankings, because major ones like Google, Yahoo, and Bing don’t specify exactly how their ranking algorithms work. But people have ascertained enough to know that algorithms evaluate factors such as site content, structure, and inbound and outbound links (links leading to or away from your website).

It’s possible to manage SEO yourself, or hire somebody to do the job in-house, but many people choose to hire an SEO firm.

Qualities to look for in an SEO firm

Effective SEO companies identify what is required to obtain a first-page ranking, and then cater their SEO strategy to meet these requirements.

You’ll want to find a company that:

  1. Runs a comprehensive site analysis to determine what parts of the site need optimizing, as well as strategy for optimization.
  2. Runs a comprehensive keyword analysis to identify what keywords should be targeted for the site.
  3. Enhances your Google PageRank. Google PageRank can range from 0-10 (with 10 being best), and is based off of a page’s authenticity and number of inbound and outbound links.

You’ll also want to consider:

  1. The firm’s tracking features: can they monitor how traffic to your site is increasing?
  2. The firm’s typical client business size: do they cater to small, mid-size, large, or enterprise businesses?
  3. Pricing platform: firms charge in various ways, including flat rate, hourly, monthly, and per project.

Because Google PageRank is such an important part of SEO, we wanted to know which SEO firms have managed to create a good PageRank for themselves. Because who wants to hire an SEO firm that has not excelled in its own SEO? Many firms have a noteworthy ranking of at least 6, and two firms, Submit Express and AT Internet, rank at 7.

Compare all SEO firms

BC

Birth Control Efficacy

If you fail to follow the directions for a cake and forget to add an egg, the worst that will happen is that you’ll be left with a crumbly mess.

But fail to follow the directions for birth control, and you might be left with a whole lot more.

Birth control failure rates increase dramatically when contraceptives (that are otherwise highly effective) are used incorrectly. Rates of failure for condoms, for example, rise from 2 to 18 percent, and failure rates for the pill rise from 0.3 to 9 percent.

There are also contraceptives, like sugarless, flourless, carbless cake, that are so bad they make one wonder why they exist at all.

Take spermicide and sponges, for example, with failure rates in the high to mid 20’s, these methods are shining examples of forms of contraception that one should not seek.

So how much risk is too much? We can’t tell you that, but we can give you the data and let you decide for yourself.

Note, the graph below shows the 16 types of birth control with the highest failure rates by typical use, or how a method or birth control is commonly used in practice. It also includes perfect use, or failure rates when a method of birth control is taken exactly as instructed.

marijuana_leaf

The majority of Americans (54 percent according to a recent Pew Research Center Study) support the legalization of marijuana.

But until more states join the ranks of Washington and Colorado, which legalized the sale of marijuana in 2012, the only way for most law-abiding Americans to get the drug is to buy it at a dispensary.

Browse all 2,919 medical marijuana dispensaries

We wanted to know (obtaining a medical marijuana card aside), how difficult is it to find marijuana in the 20 states that sell it?

It looks like a piece of cake in California, where there are more than 2,000 dispensaries. But the establishments aren’t so common in all states where medical marijuana is legal. Check out the top 10 states by number of dispensaries per square foot in the graph below.

Note this graph is based on a database that our users helped build. We’re always welcoming new entries. To add a location we don’t have yet, visit the comparison here, and scroll to the bottom of the page, until you see the “add listing” button. Thanks!