Rhiza Blog Blog

WebMD Users May Not be Easily Fooled

In accordance with John Oliver’s request to bring back the true meaning of April Fools Day, Rhiza has decided to take the Last Week Tonight No-Prank Pledge. Instead of celebrating April Fools Day with pranks and hoaxes, we decided to conjure up some interesting data visualizations to prove that using data to tell a meaningful story is not a joking matter.

In the spirit of April Fools Day, we decided to find out what US regions have the highest populations of gullible people. After quickly looking through some Simmons Local data, we were able to generate a report of individuals in the US who claim to be easily swayed.

To take it one step further, we were also interested in drawing location-based comparisons between people who are easily swayed and those who are frequent users of a product or a service that has a reputation for being incredibly persuasive. So we turned our attention to WebMD.com. WebMD has received past criticism for persuading users that their medical symptoms could be signs of something more serious, and has even been referred to as a “prescription for fear” by the New York Times Magazine. So the question is: are states with the most gullible populations also the ones with the most WebMD users?

First, we used Simmons Local data and the Rhiza platform to figure out which areas of the country might be the most susceptible to April Fools Day pranks. We then overlaid the data across a map of designated marketing areas (DMAs).

The most significant conclusion is that the south is the most gullible region of the country, while the suspicious people of the northeast claim to be absolute in their beliefs. Areas of the southwest and small pockets in the northwest also rank above the national average.

Next, we used Simmons Local data to determine what DMAs have the most individuals who used WebMD.com in a 30 day timeframe.

The north and south swapped, while the west remained the same. Apparently the easily-persuaded states in the south aren’t as likely to use WebMD to be checking up on their symptoms, but the less gullible folks northeast are the heavy frequenters of the site.

Since the south contains the largest population of people who consider themselves easily swayed, then its low percentage of WebMD users might be a good thing. Otherwise, there might be a huge population of hypochondriacs beneath the Mason-Dixon line. Likewise, perhaps WebMD’s most productive users are in the northeast, where residents might be less likely to be convinced that minor aches and pains are signs of a terminal illness.

Based on the large population of easily-swayed people, one has to wonder if there is an increased number of April Fools Day pranks played in the southern states. If this is the case, then maybe we should all work hard to ensure the No Prank Pledge makes it way to the south in 2016.

Rhiza and CNBC Reflect on the Heinz-Kraft Merger

Earlier this week, CNBC reached out to Rhiza to leverage our expertise in data visualization.

Following the announcement of the Heinz and Kraft merger on Wednesday, CNBC wrote a fascinating story detailing the location of Heinz ketchup and Kraft macaroni and cheese consumers. It also highlighted the Rhiza Platform’s ability to quickly combine different datasets with geography based visualizations in order to discover interesting trends and give data meaning.

The Rhiza Platform, which allows users to generate location-based data reports, can be used to quickly identify stories that aren’t readily apparent in an Excel spreadsheet. And since the reports are generated on the fly, Rhiza was able to quickly provide data visualizations to supplement CNBC’s story in a matter of minutes.

The results allowed CNBC to publish an interesting article that proves the northeast and the midwest as the main markets for Heinz ketchup and Kraft macaroni and cheese, respectively.

States with the most Heinz ketchup consumers


States with the most Kraft macaroni and cheese consumers


Taking it one step further, Rhiza was able to overlay both datasets over a single map in order to reflect the states have the highest concentration of both Heinz ketchup and Kraft macaroni and cheese consumers. The results show that the midwest has a higher percentage of people who consume both products than the northeast.

States with the most Heinz ketchup and Kraft macaroni and cheese consumers


Because of our partnership with Experian, Rhiza offers a wealth of data. When that data is combined with our cutting-edge visualization platform, we’re able to help companies answer tough questions like never before and uncover consumer insights quickly and efficiently.

My Goodness, My Guinness!

St. Patrick’s day is an opportunity to celebrate Irish heritage in a variety of ways — whether by wearing green, watching a parade, or enjoying a variety of Irish beers. Of the Irish beers consumed on St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness, the popular Irish stout, traditionally leads the pack. According to WalletHub, over 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day in 2015.

So do states with the higher Irish populations drink more Guinness? Over at Rhiza, we decided to celebrate the holiday by finding out. According to the U.S. Census Report, nine of the top 10 states with the largest Irish-American population are in the northeast. Massachusetts ranked number one with 22.5% of the state’s population having identified as having an Irish ethnic origin.

Using Simmons Local survey data, we were able to generate visualizations that display the percentage of survey respondents who self-identified as Guinness drinkers. So is Massachusetts also number one in terms of Guinness consumers?

Figure 1
Figure 1: Who drinks Guinness the most – Northeast states

Interestingly enough, despite ranking 6th in Irish-American population, Vermont lands the number one spot for Guinness enthusiasts with a 4.7% of surveyed respondents claiming to enjoy the Irish stout. This is not only the highest percentage in the northeast, but also the highest across the country. Massachusetts is close behind with a 4.4%.
Based on Figure 1, it is definitely clear that there is a direct correlation between regions with a high Irish-American population and those who claim to enjoy Guinness, as the northeast leads the nation in both.

So how does the rest of the nation stack-up?

Figure 2
Figure 2: Who drinks Guinness the most – Midwest states

In second place is the midwest with the top three Guinness drinking states being the northern most: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. An interesting pattern that is evident by the first two figures is that the percentage Guinness drinkers decreases as we move south. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Who drinks Guinness the most – West Coast

As we can see in this figure, Guinness isn’t as popular on the west coast as it is on the east coast, and there is generally a smaller Irish population present in these states as well. However, Colorado possesses a fairly high percentage despite ranking 17th on the Irish population list.

Figure 4
Figure 4: Who drinks Guinness the most – Southern States

Home to both the smallest Irish population and fewest Guinness fans is the south. The biggest Guinness drinking state is Florida with a 2.8%; however, it is also true that Florida is home to many transplants from the north.

Based on the survey data, we can definitely confirm that Irish-Americans enjoy Guinness, and maybe even assume there is a direct correlation between Irish populations and Guinness consumption, and since the majority of Irish-Americans live in the north, Guinness drinkers in the south are a bit more sparse.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Breakfast at Rhiza: Small Businesses Can Eat Well Too

IMG_4102I had a wonderful and healthy breakfast this morning (see the photos I took this morning). All ingredients that I used when I prepared my meal were organic and provided by local farmers. Why am I sharing the details about my breakfast this morning? If I were at home, this would be no big deal, but I’m not. I’m at work at Rhiza, a software company that I lead as CEO.

We’re all used to hearing about the fancy chefs at Google, Facebook, etc. but there are ways that smaller companies can reasonably provide healthy food options for their employees without breaking the bank by opening restaurants in the workplace. At Rhiza, it’s part of our culture to encourage healthy lifestyles for our employees. We believe that healthier employees are more productive, engaged and in general, happier. So how exactly can you achieve those goals without breaking the bank?

The first and best decision we’ve made as a company was to establish a relationship with Isidore Foods a food subscription company in Western Pennsylvania connecting local farms directly with consumers. It would be unrealistic for Rhiza to establish individual relationships with all of the different farmers that would supply the eggs, milk, cheese, meats, fruits, vegetables, bread and the variety of other items we want to have in the office. Isidore Foods already has all of those relationships established. Our office manager lets them know what we want and quantities, and they deliver it all to our office on a weekly basis. Any food that isn’t consumed in a reasonable time goes home with employees and shared with their families.

IMG_4103Since we want employees to be able to prepare this fresh food how they like for breakfast, lunch and snacks, the second part of this approach necessitates having a real kitchen in the workplace. We have a full kitchen with oven/stove and all of the utensils and pots/pans a person might need. Yes, that’s an upfront investment but it is really a minimal cost when looked at in the big picture.

What about cleanup, you ask? We see that as another way to emphasis our company values. If you made a mess (in coding software, in the kitchen, etc), you need to clean it up if you can or ask for help if you can’t. While there are always hiccups along the way, we’ve not noticed any serious problems.

We’ve found a great way to have our company’s values of caring about people, planet and profit reflected in our kitchen. Employees can be healthier, we’re supporting local organic farming and continue to have fun at work.

     by Josh Knauer   Blog   1 Comment

Did Texas Make 50 Shades a Record-Breaker?

Valentine’s Day weekend offers plenty of opportunities to spend money: expensive dinners, chocolates, flowers and diamonds. This year’s holiday offered one more—Fifty Shades of Grey. The premiere of the controversial film, based on the novel by E. L. James, came the day before V-day. And whether out of excitement or morbid curiosity, people flocked to the theaters in droves, earning the film $81.7 million at the opening weekend box office. More than the money, however, the rush earned 50 Shades the title of 4th biggest R-rated premiere in movie history, as well as highest-grossing Presidents’ Day weekend opener ever.

How a film does on opening weekend shapes the conversation around its success. But what do these numbers actually mean? Is the amount of money a film pulls down on opening weekend really a marker of America’s feelings, or just a way to say if the studio made their money back? Turns out, it depends on where you live.

Figure 1. When do you usually go: Opening Weekend

Obviously, not everyone runs out immediately to see a new movie. But in some places, opening weekends are a bigger priority than in others. According to Experian data published in 2014, there are regional preferences for when people see a movie—on opening weekend, within the first two weeks, or even later. The data doesn’t break down by specific film, by genre or even by season; it’s a macro trend for all films across the entire country for the entire year.

The data suggests that the Northeast, for instance, really couldn’t care less about seeing a movie on opening weekend. In the counties shaded lightest—primarily New England and the northern Midwest—less than 3% of moviegoers see a movie on opening weekend. The Southwest, on the other hand, finds opening weekend much more important. Laredo, Harlingen and El Paso counties—all in Texas—have the highest proportion of opening-weekend junkies in the country, followed closely by Bakersfield and Monterey-Salinas, California. In fact, Texas, New Mexico and Southern California are about the only places in America that care to see movies ASAP. After that, the wind of interest blows steadily from south to north.

Figure 2. When do you usually go: After Second Week

Sure, there are people in the Northeast who will stand in the midnight lines, and people in Texas who prefer to wait. But even though the proportion of people in Texas who waited more than two weeks to see a movie is, at its lowest, still 5% higher than the proportion of people who go on opening weekend, the fact that such a small section of the country is buying such a large portion of opening weekend movie tickets means we have to rethink what these numbers mean.

Have these trends continued into the New Year? More specifically, has 50 Shades played to the trends? If so, when it comes to the film’s 2015 Valentine’s weekend success, either we are to assume that the Southwest has a disproportionate interest in BDSM, or simply a greater interest in spending their weekends in a movie theater. If the Southwest is significantly more likely to see a movie on opening weekend than the rest of the country, as the 2014 Experian data suggests, maybe opening weekend revenue isn’t predictive of a movie’s worth, but only whether it appeals to a few counties in Texas.

Introducing the Rhiza Ratio!

At Rhiza, we know that the best way to use data in a compelling way is to tell a story. But before all of that, you need to form a hypothesis, pull the numbers, run analysis, and then confirm or reject your hypothesis based on the conclusions reached.

While we have posts on our blog that do all those steps to tell a compelling story, and our customers use the Rhiza Platform tool to do that everyday, the Rhiza Ratio is an opportunity for you to explore data around interesting data points and current events so you can then draw your own conclusions. We’ve used our tool to quickly wrangle the data, but we leave it up to you form your own to ask follow up questions and draw your own conclusions.

With our inaugural Rhiza Ratio, we looked into the car brands that have consistently advertised during the Super Bowl over the past five years (Audi, Honda, Kia, and Volkswagen), and their market share four months after the game.

Again, rather than creating a hypothesis and drawing conclusions for you, we’ve provided the data so you can create your own story. Because the less time you spend pulling all your data together, the more time you can spend analyzing, exploring, and crafting your story.

Check out this month’s Rhiza Ratio.

Rhiza Ratio

Is there data you’d like to see to help build your story or ideas for a future Rhiza Ratio? Leave us a comment down below.

Pittsburgh’s Tech Startup Scene – The Atlantic Magazine


“Pittsburgh has one of the liveliest technology ecosystems in the country.”

With all the hustle and bustle of the past holiday season, you may have missed a great article in The Atlantic about ‘How to Create a Tech Startup Scene If You’re Not in Silicon Valley‘ (say it ain’t so!) – which shines a spotlight on Rhiza’s very own hometown: Pittsburgh.

The entire article was, in fact, all about how Pittsburgh’s vibrant startup scene sets a great example for other cities. At Rhiza, we know the importance of having a dynamic and supportive startup community, which is why we’re proud to call Pittsburgh our home.

Rhiza’s Resolutions – 2015


As we begin the new year, many of us continue the annual tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. While we all might have personal New Year’s Resolutions – to stay fit and healthy, to lose weight, to enjoy life to the fullest, or to spend less, save more – you should also start thinking of your business resolutions.

And there’s one resolution in particular we think you need to make: Start using your data.

Almost every organization that’s worth its salt has been collecting data, so much so that organizations and industry mavens now reference their “big” data, but very few are using that data effectively and at scale to solve real-world business challenges. Most of the time we hand over all of this data to our IT Department or the Business Intelligence Department. Are they really the ones you want creating your business presentations and visualizations? Data needs to be in the hands of the people on the ground, the ones who actually know the business and make decisions – executives, managers, and sales and marketing teams – not the quants and researchers who never let data out the door.

The idea of giving data to decision makers is not a new one, but adoption has been slow. That makes sense because most syndicated data is hard to set up and use, while enterprise data tools are even worse. According to a 2013 report by Accenture, only one in four executives uses data to make decisions. The other three use their gut instinct. And the numbers are even worse for Sales and Marketing. This absolutely needs to change in 2015.

So how do we get the people who actually understand the business to use data to inform their decisions? We need tools that are easy to use and understand, tools that present data in a way anyone could use. Find the right tools at Rhiza.com or give us a call at 412-488-0600 – we’d be happy to give you a demo.

Rhiza CEO talks Big Data


We have all heard of Big Data. You must have been living under a rock for the past 5 years if you have not heard the phrase. And if that’s the case, you surely have many more important things to get catch up on. I suggest starting with Modern Family.

But now that we have Big Data, what are we going to do with it? How can we make smart, informed business decisions? Rhiza CEO, Josh Knauer, sheds light on how we can actually start making sense of big data. And taking action. And making smart business decisions that impact the bottom line. Check out his interview in the current issue of teQ Magazine.

Pittsburgh Saves Christmas


On Thursday of last week, news broke that several local charities were coming up short to provide holiday cheer for hundreds of kids throughout the region. Word spread fast and the response was swift and immediate. Links showed up in my Facebook feed repeatedly as friends of friends of friends reached out for help and resources.

Obviously, toys under a Christmas tree from some Guy Named Santa aren’t necessarily in the same category as food on the table and roof over your head. Many people don’t even celebrate That Guy. But these are the holidays, and whatever you celebrate, there’s some miracle woven in there somewhere. And surely good will towards our fellow humans and joy are things we can all get behind, right? Right. And Pittsburgh got behind it in a pretty big way. Like Steelers-Nation-yes-I’ll-be-your-neighbor kind of big.

A Facebook group and Crowd Fundraising Campaign was started to create a virtual base of operations with requests and responses growing by the hour. I mentioned the story to several co-workers who immediately opened their wallets to chip in without waiting to see if I was even asking for contributions. On Saturday my kids and I delivered the contributions to Most Wanted Fine Art, an art gallery turned Santa’s Workshop, and spent a few hours helping to sort and pack. The phones didn’t stop ringing and people kept showing up with gifts and money to contribute to the cause. We learned of more groups who were coming up short, and people just stepped up their efforts even more. What started as toys grew to include a holiday meal and handwarmers for homeless youth.

As of Monday morning, it looks like well over 2000 families received some holiday cheer from hundreds of neighbors through the ‘Burgh. In a matter of days, more than $10K was raised on top of the toy contributions. And since it’s only December 22nd, the work continues, and the seeds have been planted to leverage these pathways to continue to provide much-needed resources in 2015.

In my own flurry of last minute holiday scrambling and end-of-year work deadlines, I’m filled with gratitude. I’m grateful that I work with the kind of people who will dive into an effort like this without being asked. I’m proud to live in a city where a call for help doesn’t go unanswered. I met so many amazing people both virtually and in-person this weekend, and I feel lucky to be a small part of it.


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