Where has Civility Gone on Social Media?

At one point, having a civil conversation was just how things went.  Neither side had anything to prove and the conversation likely enlightened both sides.

Today, one Twitter and Facebook, too many accounts interact with zero respect.  They rush to a reactionary judgement based on a few words, judge you, and then attack you.  This can happen whether it is a tweet about how excited I am about attending a conference or even a comment I made on a cycling video.

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There are too many accounts out there preloaded and ready to dish it out with no respect to the subject matter nor with respect to having a discussion.  This one sided “anonymous” like bullying is disgusting.  It makes me want to argue social media is causing the downfall of respectful conversations in America and, perhaps, around the globe.

Reflecting back on my experience with my personal Twitter account over the past few months, I have to question why I bother.  The respectful conversations are almost non-existent. If I post a comment, I don’t get any reply.  Other times, I post a comment and I become the target of shameful comments.  In the end, I mainly get headlines and news from Twitter, which I could get elsewhere.

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So, I deleted my personal Twitter account.  Gone! Well, I have 30-days to reactivate it if I want to.   But I won’t.  I have other Twitter accounts I use for more professional purposes including this blog.  While those accounts also not being maintained, I wonder if keeping them will be worth it.

Either way, I am keeping my eye open for a respectful social media platform where sharing information and having a conversation is civil.  The 10-year olds not allowed, the bots not allowed.  Does it exist?  Not yet, although Facebook comes close if you are willing to give your life Zuckerberg.

Going Spatial: Creating a Map of Prop 37 Votes

When charts bore you, create a map!

Spatial Analysis is increasingly importantAs I continue my sabbatical, one of the projects I am working on is earning a certification in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  Why?  For much of my career I have been creating charts… charts showing revenue growth over time, charts showing sales rep performance, and charts showing the health of a SaaS startup.   After 15-years of charts, I felt it was time to explore another form of data visualization.

I enrolled in the GIS Specialization offered on Coursera and created by UC Davis.  I am all too familiar with data transformation, data management, and blending of data, so I was really curious how different a GIS would be compared to the likes of Salesforce.com of Tableau (which does offer mapping).

The Fundamentals of GIS course itself is much more about learning to use ArcGIS and ArcMap.  We did learn about projections, GIS best practices, what spatial analysis really is and how to open the ArcMap software.  Aside from learning the tool and file types, there really wasn’t much different from what I already knew as a data and insights analyst.

Take the final peer-graded assignment for Fundamentals of GIS as an example.  The course provides data including a counties data file defining counties in California.  The course also provides a second data file including voting precincts and the voting results for Prop 37.   The goal is to combine the two data files and create a normalized map showing the ratio of Yes votes to total votes. Seems simple enough?

It was fairly simple.  As with any data related project, the first thing you do is to download and validate the data.  Can you open the zip files?  Is the data there in its entirety? Once you know the data is usable, get to know the data.  Look at the metadata to see what fields are included and what they mean.  Since we have two files which need to be combined, we need to find a primary key to join them.

While it took me a few minutes to review the data, it took a bit longer to understand the connection between the two data sets.  It was clear that we needed to have a one to many join and a spatial join.  There are a few different ways to do this. I first decided to summarize the precinct data and output a table which showed the total votes per precinct.  I can then join this table to the Counties data as a one to one join.

Alternatively, you can join the two data sets using the Spatial Join Tool.  Instead of joining on a common key (I joined on County number), you can join them based on their proximity such as an intersect or contains.

Prop 37 Voter Map created with ArcGISOnce the data is ready to display on the map, you can use “Symbology” of the joined data layer to display a normalized ratio.  Showing absolute numbers of Yes votes does not really tell the whole story as some precincts and counties have greater populations. Normalize the Yes votes by calculating the ratio of Yes votes to total.  This produces the map we were looking for.  Once we add the required metadata, scale, etc, we can export it. (view my map online here)

What did I learn from taking this course?  Spatial analysis is a specialized field which does not differ too much from more traditional data analytics.  The course taught me the special files formats, terminology, and ArcGIS basics.  What is most interesting to me is this map could be made with other platforms like Tableau and PowerBI.  The only difference is the data must be manipulated outside the software (in Excel, maybe) and then visualized.

This brings up a great point.  In traditional analytics and business intelligence, you work with specialized tools which handle a specific part of data.  From the ETL (Talend or Kettle) to analysis (Excel or Python) to visualization (Tableau or Qlik), each segment of the data journey required different software.  Today, the lines are blending a bit.  Solutions like Alteryx combines ETL with analysis, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of visualization.  Tableau is also able to connect to and blend a variety of data sources, but leaves some to be desired in analysis.

After taking this course I am left with a profound sense of how specialized GIS is. I can understand why it is well worth investing in, especially for geospatial analysis consisting of multiple data layers.  When you consider ArcGIS (or GIS in general) is capable of global level analysis, it takes your breathe away.

My eyes are open to how I can leverage GIS and merge it with my interest in History. Perhaps creating a historic spatial database which illustrates the speed at which Manifest Destiny occurred?  Maybe we can start with a map of Texas and how it was settled over time? Stay tuned…

Thinking Spatial

Thinking Spatial

Spatial analysis has come of ageAs time goes on, our world becomes more and more global.  We also capture more and more data as each day goes by.  Linking the location of this data with time and other attributes, can reveal very profound patterns; patterns at various scales like community to global.

We can answer numerous questions about a lot of different things using GIS software like ArcGIS.  Using the concept of data layers, we can start to analyze data in exponential ways.  We can go beyond statistics on a data table and evaluate changes over geographic space.  We can also use GIS to find the best locations and features with certain characteristics.

For example, Whole Foods uses many different data layers to identify the best locations for their store fronts.  They want the best location which has a population of 200,000 within 20-minutes. They also look for locations with at least 20,000 sq ft, a decent sized parking lot and ease of access along with highly visible (source).

Thinking spatial about some of my own interests, I have come up with two focus areas. The first being related to the “walkabout” I have been on over the past few years.  Where do I want to live as my forever place?  This GIS would take into account numerous data layers such as population, elevation, incomes, education, and access to parks and rivers. Using these data layers, and a few more, I can begin to scientifically hone down where I could settle down.

The second spatial project centers around my love of history.  I am currently reading a book about Red Cloud titled, “The Heart of Everything That Is.”  What piqued my interest was the impact of European Settlers had on the spatial and temporal changes in the new world.  With the arrival of settlers in the east, drove waves of Native Americans west as they fled.  But they fled with muskets, blades and disease.   As the book described this change, I was mesmerized trying to visualize this on a map and in the context of the time.  Throw in some explorers, desperadoes, and outlaws and you have quite a story. But I want to build an interactive story map to illustrate these profound changes.

To think spatial opens the mind, builds the curiosity and becomes a book of its own right. What ways can spatial analysis impact your life? Your curiosity?

 

A Pending Economic Shift

Climate change is here. The Federal Government is corrupt and politicians are out of tune with their constituents.  Corporate America cares far more about profit than well-being for their country or their employee.  Our economy is breaking and we are heading toward a major economic shift.

Why is our economy breaking?

  • The fossil fuel based economy is a primary driver of climate change.
  • The economic gap is the widest it has ever been in modern times.
  • It is harder than ever for a citizen of the US to start their own business.
  • Lawyers outnumber doctors in the US.
  • The economic conditions favor stockpiling cash.
  • Competition is squashed by buyouts due to stockpiled cash.
  • The tech industry is automating everything, increasing unemployment and creating a society of lazy, dumb people. (We don’t want to be an idiocracy.)
  • How we measure economic health is flat-out wrong.
  • Everything, housing, internet, healthcare, has become a privilege.
  • Poor mental health is on the rise, suicides are up
  • General happiness is at an all-time low.
  • Innovation and manufacturing in the US has stopped growing.
  • A mad-man sits in the oval office who doesn’t know what he is doing.
  • The global economy matters more than ever. Nationalism is suicide.

I don’t mean to paint a picture of doom, but we are heading for a shift in our economy.  The economy we have today can’t keep going the way it is.  We must solve the economic gap, we must make sure everyone has access to housing, to healthcare, and equal access to basic needs.

What sort of an economy do we need?  We need an economy that flips the power of money on its head.  We need the concept of worker co-ops, where businesses can be managed by employees and those employees reap the rewards of the business.  Currently we have too many 1%-ers reaping the rewards of the work of millions of employees.  That is wrong.

We also need an economy which respects our need for a health environment to survive.  We must move away from fossil fuels and long commutes to one of the renewable energy, self-sufficiency, and walk-able commutes.  We must reorganize our society to align with a healthier environment.

The economy must represent the global needs.  Nationalism must take a back seat to global well-being.  What happens in China and Japan, for instance, has consequences for those living in the US and Brazil.  The new economy must connect local communities across the globe and respect local solutions.  National and Global legislation can be detrimental to local economies.  We need an economy which favors environmental responsibility and general well-being for all above all else.

Economies do not change overnight.  Unless we are invaded or a government coup occurs, we are unlikely to wake up tomorrow into a totally new economy.  We must take one step at a time and move toward a more favorable, happy economy for all.

 

Do Not Let Technology Take Your Life

Technology has been on a path of freeing individuals from repetitive work, making our lives safer, and opening up a new world of connectivity to us.  Tech, has turned poor college students into billionaires.  Tech is on a rat race to automate as much of our world as possible while making as much money possible.  This race is a good thing for everyone.

Find Moderation

No Tech Zone for sanityHowever, we can’t let Tech push us aside. we cannot let Tech increase the income gap.  We can’t spend our lives living behind a computer. We can’t spend our days a slave to our smartphones and notifications.

My friends think I am weird.  I have turned off all notifications on my phone.  I have deleted numerous social media accounts.  I rarely do anything with Facebook these days. I don’t play games.  I do use my phone to glance at email. I do use my phone to make phone calls.  I do all of my planning in my own version of a Bullet Journal.

Time Slips By

About a year ago, I realized how much of my life was spent behind a computer. You wake up, go to work and spend the day behind a computer in the name of accomplishing something.  Then you commute home and find myself again behind a computer for a few hours to accomplish the personal stuff.  Before you know it, the neighbors have moved out, Donald Trump is President, and my awesome car has hit nearly 130,000 miles.

Life can get away from you.  You can watch it from behind a computer melting your eyes or you participate in it in real life.  Find a balance. The real world isn’t for everyone.  Actually talking to people outside work is a scary thing.

Your Challenge

I challenge you to do one or more of the following at least one per week:

  • Turn your phone off for 24-hours – it is hard, but I assure you the world will not end
  • Go for a long hike – Vitamin N is a mineral we don’t get enough of, so get more of it
  • Have a picnic in a park – Sure, there are scary homeless people at the park, but a picnic can be a peaceful, sublime experience
  • Drive to a new town and explore it – A change of scenery is good for the soul
  • Paint, doodle, dance, or just observe – all of these can meditative and help to rebuild the soul

Try it out and report back what you did and how you felt.  We can’t let technology steal our lives from us.  There is an analog world out there to enjoy.

Perspectives in Analytics

Implementing Analytics is a lot like making pizza.   The end result is fabulous, a very yummy pizza with our favorite toppings.  But how we make that pizza, can vary quite wildly.  Even the ingredients we use can vary as do the toppings.

If the goal is our favorite yummy pizza, businesses have the goal of building an analytics program which represents their business model and their strategy.  These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can vary wildly, even for businesses operating in a similar market.  The KPIs are our toppings.  Pepperoni for some and others avoid the anchovies.

How we support those KPIs can be vary as well.  What type of dough do you like?  Do you make the dough from scratch or buy a premade dough?  What do we add to the dough for interest?  Basil?  The dough is our technology stack.  You can build something completely custom with anjular.js and d3.js or you can buy something off the shelf, like Google Data Studio or implement Alteryx and Tableau.  There are no right or wrong answers, just the best decision for the needs of your business.  Low-budget frozen pizza to high-end gourmet pizza cooked in a pizza oven, the flavors vary.

The best advice I can give is to consider the sustainability of any stack before implementing.  Knowing the complexity and amount of data will ever increase is crucial. Being able to modify reports and deploy new ones fast is key to success.  Don’t forget KPIs can evolve as well and need to be reviewed regularly.

Happy Pizza Making! Er… happy analytics developing?

 

 

Reframing a Dysfunctional Life

Reframing a Dysfunctional Life

Patterns and Creativity of a Dysfunctional LifeIt can be risky letting yourself by vulnerable.  It can hurt at times, but it can also be superb.

As I embark on a new project to write a book, I ask for your patience, acceptance, and open-mind.  As I look back over my life, I see some awesome experiences, some not so great times, and I see a childhood rooted in dysfunction.  This dysfunction made me who I am today, for good and bad.

In “Patterns and Creativity of a Dysfunctional Life”, I hope to share my life along with some educational and restorative exercises to help anyone who is willing to try them.  Having grown up with the false sense of what a perfect life was supposed to be, I struggle a bit to create the life I want and dismiss this concept of perfection.

While we are all different with varying needs, various interests, and equally varying skills and personalities, defining success isn’t so hard as it is time consuming.  The life you create does not have to be based on the learned behaviors of a dysfunctional environment.  In fact, the life you create must be based on your true soul, your true passions, and not from any other source.

Join me on Patreon (cancelled) as I begin this journey.  It seems a bit scary, but the product of being vulnerable will have an impact on our society.  A positive impact, I hope.