Another swing at the bat, another EDT home run

For anyone not sure if Easy Data Transform is a powerful tool, here’s an example.

I protest absurd property tax appraisal. I also tilt at windmills, spit into the wind, peek under that old Lone Ranger’s mask, and if Superman got annoying, I’d tug on his cape.

But not without Easy Data Transform.

Getting appraisal data from our local tax district is like pulling teeth. Other tax districts politely post appraisal database dumps whether anyone asks or not.

This time it appeared I needed to let those folks know that inscrutable dump files are quite transparent with the right tools. I needed to show proof I could make sense out of data.

A nearby county posts their appraisal data. It was about 51,000 lines of text, each line about 9,500 characters in length. An accompanying spreadsheet listed the field lengths, one row in the spreadsheet per field in the database.

I added spreadsheet columns for start and ending positions, computed from the field lengths. There were about 500 fields of which I really only wanted about 30.

A checkbox column in the spreadsheet let me select the fields I wanted. A couple more columns computed start and end positions, either for an individual data field that I wanted to see, or an aggregate block of multiple consecutive fields I wanted to ignore.

Launch plus probably five minutes at this point.

Fixed lengths were copied into EDT’s fixed length specifiers from the 30 fields I wanted and about 20 “ignore me” spans.

Launch plus ten minutes (got a phone call).

Drop the fields not needed with EDT’s remove columns transform, rotate the spreadsheet to make one column per field, and the stack transform added column headers to the fixed length data.

Filter for only “real” property. Add a percent change column with Javascript and stat transforms for average, maximum, and minimum. Remove the data rows, leaving the three stats rows. For tidiness, rename the columns.

Launch plus 30 minutes and now I know “real” property appraisals in Wise County went up an average of 54.33%, at minimum dropped 93.73%, and at maximum went up a whopping 20,747.50% (probably due to new construction on a previously vacant lot).

So, why did that take 30 minutes? I did a couple of what-if scenarios along the way.

There are times when I figure I get the full value out of EDT’s license cost on a single run. Please don’t quote me on that, I like how affordable EDT is.

But it’s really worth the money. It is amazing for pulling truth out of data. Or log files, that’s a cool trick, too.


It’s almost as if your local tax district doesn’t want you to look at the numbers!


By the way, many thanks for the interquartile method in the outliers transform.

I was in the middle of working out how to implement that, thinking fondly of Python, then I saw “outliers” in the list. Point, click, and yet another smoking gun emerged.

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Kind of giddy, here. I won my property appraisal appeals based on what I uncovered with EDT.

I’m not helpless. I could have done my data analysis in Python, Java, C/C++, Javascript, or hand coded assembler on a day of true self-loathing.

The speed and flexibility of Easy Data Transform is a clear winner. Once again, a single session with EDT more than justified its price.

Thanks, Andy!

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A followup to this tale of Appraisal District hijinks is in order.

There was no acknowledgement of problems by the Appraisal District so I used Easy Data Transform, desktop publishing, and my trusty Nikon to create pamphlets highlighting insane appraisals. True tinfoil hat stuff, admittedly, but effective. Things changed.

Evidence emerged. I played the role of whistleblower and the Appraisal District kind of imploded. The Chief Appraiser had known all along property valuations were wonky in the extreme.

The Appraisal District Board terminated an appraisal vendor considered part of the problem. The Chief Appraiser abruptly resigned. Virtually all appraisals in the county were adjusted down by 50%.

A relatively massive trove of appraisal evidence and other records disappeared. No backups exist. Thousands and thousands of government records, gone like overdue homework down a mean dog’s gullet.

The story continues to unfold.

Texas Appraisal District Board members are elected by taxing authorities including school boards, hospital districts, the county, and other entities.

That vote was just held. I was elected to an available position without campaigning for it. I start Tuesday. It’s not likely there will be additional funny business, but if there is EDT will alert me. In turn, I’ll alert officials and fellow citizens alike.

Easy Data Transform can change the world. I’ve seen it happen.


Cool story! Thanks for sharing.