Anti-Cloud Based Tools for Personal Intelligence

Creating a personal intelligence platform for self tracking has never been easier.  While technology continues to push us toward the “cloud” and SaaS as a strategy of revenue generation, we cannot overlook the tried and true platforms available to keep data on your computer and away from prying eyes of Analysts.

As a data visualization and KPI development guru, I love finding those interesting trends in my own life that drive smarter, better habits.  If you are like me, you don’t feel comfortable sharing your dirty underwear with Mark Zuckerberg and you really wonder what Google is doing with all of that data they keep acquiring.   By maintaining a self database on my desktop computer which I can add to and tweak at a whim, I am able to give myself peace of mind and control over MY data.  Curious, about what KPI’s I track?  Stay tuned, that is a topic of another post.

Without further ado, here are some tools that you can use to create your own personal intelligence platform on your local computer:

  • Microsoft Excel
    • A stunningly powerful tool to use for even the novice user.  Create your own tables, link them how you want and design your own graphs and dashboards at your own pace and complexity.  Available for both Windows and Mac.
  • Numbers
    • A Mac only platform designed to compete directly Microsoft Excel which offers much the same functionality, but lacks some advanced capability compared with Excel.  The simplicity and robust visual que are 2nd to none, but as the data set grows, you may be wishing you chose Excel in the beginning.
  • Qlikview Free
    • I have been a fan of Qlikview for years.  I love the ability to create charts and dashboards from Excel spreadsheets and the gnarly level of interactivity that it provides.  The learning curve isn’t as steep as one might think and well worth a few minutes reading their documentation.   The limitation here is the limited number of shared files you can open.  Windows only.
  • MySQL / Apache / PHP / HTML5 / HighCharts
    • Ok, if you are going with this option, you are a true geek with coding ability.  This isn’t for the lighthearted as configuring MySQL, Apache, etc etc will take time.  But the advantage is you are left with an enterprise class database and a truly blank slate in regards to dashboards.  You can even create your own forms in HTML to add data.  Mac/Linux/Windows
  • Microsoft Access
    • If you need something in between Excel and MySQL to store data, Access is a great option and can interface with Excel graphs and dashboards.  With a mild learning curve, the ability to store any kind of data, and the convenience of a query builder UI, Access makes for a very robust solution. But, it lacks more advanced visualization, so be prepared to connect Excel to Access. Windows only and available with Office Professional.

As you can see, creating a Personal Intelligence platform off the cloud is possible.  You can take full control of your data and keep it private at the same time.  As data becomes more and more of a commodity and SaaS business models continue to nickel and dime everything, home based data management will be more and more appealing.  Excel is the perfect anti-cloud.

When a Farmhouse and Barn Collide

My creative side has been thinking about the architectural collision between a farmhouse and a barn.  While I am not sure what prompted this to consume my mind, but the problem I am trying to solve goes like this:

“You purchase a property, a former farm with rolling hills, trees, a creek, and two dilapidated structures; a barn and a two-story farmhouse.   To pay homage to the dwellings and the people who owned the land previously, you decide you want to keep the feel of the two buildings.  The problem is that you can only build a single structure and this structure needs to represent both the farmhouse and barn and must include salvaged materials. “

This problem has been at the forefront of my thoughts for a few days now.  So far, I have done a bit of research on barns and farmhouses as well as produced two quick sketches.  What I am keeping in mind is the structure needs to morph between the two structures.  What I see first is the farmhouse, but as the eye moves away from the front door (bright red, of course) the structure morphs into the barn to leave the viewer with the question, what is it, a barn or farmhouse?

I really think this presents an interesting dilemma as there are numerous approaches you can take to solving the problem.

  • For one, you can either start with the farmhouse or you start with the barn.
  • Second, you can focus on representing the barn through use of materials and let the farmhouse dominate the view.
  • Third, you can leverage the “rolling hills” and have a two faced structure such as a two story farmhouse on the hilltop and from the bottom all you see is a three story barn.

In both of my sketches, I started with the overall shape of a barn and appended farmhouse type features to it.  A farmhouse to me is represented by massive porches, multi-pane windows with shudders, white clapboard siding, and gables.   After looking at pictures of farmhouses, I added dormer windows to the list as well as brick fireplaces.

In sketch A, the basic barn shape exists and appends a massive front porch and white clapboard siding while the rest of the structure is in red barn siding. All first story windows match the windows on the front porch elevation.  The second floor windows are much more in tune with the simple square windows of a barn with 12+ windows placed in a row above the farmhouse roof line.  To represent the hay loft, I placed a massive window on the second story with a pulley above.  Out the back is an addition with a gable that represents a later addition to the simple farmhouse wrapped in white clapboard siding.   The interesting thing about this version is it appears to be a farmhouse pancaked with a barn on top of it.

Farmhouse meets barn... sketching the problem

Farmhouse meets barn… sketching the problem

In sketch B, I wanted to distort the rectangle shape of the barn, so I added a typical farmhouse gable to one side, extending out with a wrap about porch and front door.  Again, this is wrapped in white clapboard with black shudders and some type of wood shingle on the roof which would contrast with the metal roof of the barn.  The barn itself would be red and would feature a mix of square and rectangular windows.  One end of the barn would have massive wooden doors that open to reveal glass doors.   Out the back of the barn (opposite side the gable) would be an additional structure, possibly made of stone that features a scaled down gable.   After taking a look at this version, I see a barn with a farmhouse attached to it. Wether or not the barn or farmhouse dominates, depends on the size of the front gable as the sketch’s gable is not the right proportion for my vision.

What is missing from both of these sketches are dormer windows and the brick fireplaces.   It would also be interesting to think of the lot the structure would sit on.  In fact, a number of questions pop into my head that can help this take on more detail:  Is there a creek nearby?  What is the terrain?  Where would the driveway go?  How can the interior layout leverage the transitions between spaces?

As I develop the idea, I am more inclined to find a middle ground between A and B.  I like the pancake nature, but I would like to break away the barn shape.  Again, leveraging material type and color would be key to taking this ho-hum to an awesome home that belongs on a magazine cover.

As I continue to develop this idea, I will post more.  For now, think about the complimentary nature of farmhouse and barn and how they come together and where they don’t.   If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.