X-Plane Logbook Stats for 2017

As an aviation geek and armchair pilot, I wanted to have some fun with Tableau Public and my X-Plane Logbooks.   Where have I flown the virtual skies in 2017?  The answer isn’t too shocking, but there are some interesting patterns.  X-Plane Logbook Tableau Data VisualizationCheck out the image below and then head over to the live workbook.

  • 90.7 flight hours with 73% flown in X-Plane 11
  • 57 unique aircraft flown across 178 flights
  • Top aircraft flown include the VSkyLabs Douglas DC-3, Carenado B200 XP11, and FlyJSim 727Adv (version 1 for xp10)
  • Most flights occurred during the day
  • KPAE and KBFI were the most flown airport pairs

Where will 2018 take me?  Not sure.  Perhaps getting out of the western US would be a start.  Maybe even a few international flights are in order.

And, if you need some help with visualizing your data, check out my Tableau page at Spiral Analytics.

 

Your Online Identity is as Permanent as a Tattoo

The digital age is here and technology is increasingly finding new ways to improve, measure, and interact with our lives.  Can you remember what it was like to organize an event without Facebook?  Can you remember what it was like to mail real photos to your grandmother in the mail instead of online?  It gets harder and harder everyday.

The digital world is keeping track of us.  Facebook has admitted to tracking your browser history even when you are not logged into Facebook.  Google indexes every tweet, every public Facebook post and every photo it can find of you.  Yahoo!, AOL, and your ISP are all joining in.

Have you ever thought about what it take to delete that awkward photo of you taken at a party one night which a friend put on Facebook?  How about that not so nice tweet you accidentally said your mind in about your boss?  What we post online is as permanent as a tattoo.  Check out the TED Talk below for more:

An Example of the Quantified Self: Steps

Wearable trackers are all the latest rage!  From a FitBit to a Microsoft Band to old school pedometers, the latest health craze is about steps.   Whether you joined the office fitness challenge or just want to get moving a bit more, the concept of tracking steps is the most popular metric of the quantified self in 2015.   What a perfect metric to start a series of posts showing examples of the quantified self.  The objective is to show the wide variety of metrics an individual can use to make their life healthier, more productive, and happier.

Tracking Activity: Steps

The graphic below is my steps history as recorded using an app called Argus on my iPhone 5S.  The app is simple, turn it on, and it does the rest.  It records steps as you move through the motion sensor.  Of course, the drawback is, it only records steps if the phone is with you and on your body.  For example, if I was on an elliptical, the phone would have to be in my pocket to record the steps, placing it on the machine doesn’t work.

Creating a Custom Quantified Data Visualization

To create the dashboard below, I entered my step data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, added a few formulas for day of week and location and picked a data visualization platform. While I could have created a few charts from a pivot table in Excel, I decided to give Qlik Sense a test drive.  Qlik Sense is a lighter, consumer oriented version of the powerful Qlikview data discovery and reporting platform.  Qlik Sense is easy to use, just select your data source (Excel in my case), select your dimensions and measures and you are off to the races.

quantified self data visualization

Using Qlik Sense to visualize steps data from Argus

Raw Data: Steps by Day

The top graph shows raw steps by calendar date.  While there isn’t too much to see here at first glance, you can see clear dips in the pattern which maybe the weekend.  You can also see the data at the right tend to be a slightly higher than the data to the left side.

Steps by Day of Week

By adding a dimension called “DayName”, we can average steps by day of week.  In the orange chart to the right, the most active day is Monday, followed by Thursday and Sunday.  The lowest is Wednesday.  Fitness improvements come with consistency.  Being the difference between highest and lowest is fairly great, we can focus on being more active on Wednesday’s.  Tracking the change over time will help us be more consistent with our activity.

Steps by Geography

I also added a dimension called “location” by tagging each day with where I was.  I often split time between Washington state and Santa Barbara with days in between flying. The green chart to the left shows a pretty interesting pattern, I am far more active when in Washington state compared to Santa Barbara, This is probably due to the recreational abundance in Washington, such as the hiking trails around Mt. Baker and the walking we do while downtown.  Santa Barbara is also a much more isolated location by comparison.  Perhaps, if I want to be more active, I should stay in Washington state.

The Fundamental, Visual Flaw

You might be asking, what flaw is there is there in the above dashboard?  It is hard to see because it is not there. One of the best CEO’s I ever had the honor of working for said, “if it is important enough to put on a chart, you better damn well have a goal indicator with it.”  I agree.

Throughout this post, I mentioned goals such as covering 10,000 steps in a day, and increasing Wednesday activity.  The charts above should include an indication of these numbers.  The charts are essentially naked without the indicators and the user viewing them loses the context of the rest of the data.

Always include a goal indicator when creating data visuals, the context is essential.

Conclusion

This is one example of using data visualization to improve personal life.  Activity is one of the primary factors in achieving and maintaining good health.  Using a fitness tracker and visualization tool like Qlik Sense can be effective.  Just understand the privacy policy and how the wearable tech company may use your private data.

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

We are in a new era of America’s economy and it will take your breathe away.  Jobs are a thing of the past.  Earning money is now up to you.  You must find a way to offer a service on the open market in exchange for money to survive.  Corporate America, technological innovation, and global immigration have scalped the American workforce.

The Economic Shift

With the economic decline of 2009, Wall Street and the corporate world sent the citizens of America a clear message: jobs are a privilege, not a right. No longer was the massive corporate engine driving America going to give Americans jobs for the sake of employment. Profits are number one, not national employment rates. While I was lucky to stay employed throughout the economic decline, I watched many of my friends lose their jobs, their homes, and the alleged “American Dream”. America was changed forever.

At the same time, corporations started the conversation of revising the immigration policy to make it easier for American based companies to employ “talented” foreigners. Add in the tech sector’s quest for automation and America’s unemployment situation seems irreversible. Jobs filled by human beings are being replaced by software programs. Jobs which require specialization are filled with foreigners and corporate profits are now at record labels. Either you are a have (job) or you are a have not (unemployed).

Solution

The solution? The solution is DIY employment, create your own job! With sites like Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour, and Fivrr, access to paid projects is very good, albeit competitive. In addition, solutions like vTiger, FounderSuite, and even KickStarter enable anyone with a decent business idea to take control of their lives and create their employment/business.

How do you know what business to start? Pursue your passions. Books like the Lifestyle Entrepreneur have a great set of tools to help you identify the intersection of your passions, hobbies, and interests. For me, I love data, finding the patterns in the data and producing visualizations to communicate findings. I also love measuring businesses (I develop KPIs for executive teams). I also have a soft spot for fitness and helping people become healthier. The intersection of all of these is the quantified self and creating a business around self data. TrainingMetrix is my first company and focuses on analytics for triathletes.

You also have to decide which type of business to create and how involved you want to be. A restaurant will likely be a 24/7 “job” until it is established, profitable, and you are able to hire managers to run it for you. On the other end of the spectrum, potentially a much more hands off type of business, is a tech company where you can outsource development, customer service, and marketing. With just an hour per day, you can run a successful and profitable online tech business.

Empowering Yourself

DIY employment is not as scary as it may seem. Today, it is easier than ever to start earning money for no one but yourself. Every action you take when you create your own business is all about you. Empower yourself today, embrace the DIY employment economy and create a business to change the world, or just your part of the world.

Triathlon Intelligence: A Calendar View Template For Triathletes

For the past few years, I have been not only training for triathlon, but also talking to fellow triathletes about triathlon performance.  The concept of triathlon intelligence is alive and well in the minds of anyone looking to improve their triathlon finish times.  Not finding much excitement with the training and workout logs on the market, I created TrainingMetrix  (out of business – Oct-2015)to explore the intersection between data and triathlon, as well as data and fitness in general. From usability and access to data to creating KPIs for workouts and nutrition, TrainingMetrix took an open exploration of this often overlooked intersection.

Our latest template, based on feedback from our users, is a modification of our free Triathlon Foundation Template and adds the ability to view both workouts and training plan in a calendar view.  Now, you can see your workouts compared against your plan! This is in addition to the powerful performance dashboard already a part of the free template.  The new Calendar View Template also allows you to build your own training plan.

calendar view triathlon workout and training log

Track progess, merge your plan and workouts into a calendar view, and create/modify your own training plan, the Calendar View Template is a powerful for triathletes

I am excited to show off this latest template.  We are combining a number of KPIs for triathletes into an easy to use template which resides locally on your computer, so your data is private and protected.  Being based in Excel, the template provides a foundation for you to customize and create your own charts and data views.  The power of workout progress and trends come alive.  The ability to create and modify your training plan is another powerful tool.  Lastly, the comparison of training plan to actual workouts is the intelligence the triathlete needs to stay on track, plan ahead and adjust as necessary.  For more information, please visit the Calendar View Template website.

What’s next for TrainingMetrix and I?  A lot, stay tuned, we are just getting started with understanding this intersection, data and triathlon.

Update 10/15 – TrainingMetrix was shut down in October 2015 due to increasing costs and lack of an effective business model.

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.

Why Hierarchies of Data in a Business Matter

thData, business, sales, insights, and revenue are popular keywords found in abundance around the internet these days.  As a Founder of my own company, I can certainly understand the need to focus on such keywords in daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly discussions.

But, as a Data Analyst, not all keywords are created equal for each role in the company.  Let’s simplify and break the business hierarchies down to three levels, which have a direct impact on how data can be used:

  1. Executives: The top of the chain that defines long-term strategy, implementation, and overall decision making.
  2. Manager: The mid-level staff responsible for action of strategy, interfacing between the needs to the subordinates and the Executive teams.
  3. Operational: The largest population of the business with the responsibility to make it happen by pushing the buttons, interfacing with customers, and carrying out decisions hour by hour.

This three tier pyramid of decision making in a business is streamlined to illustrate key areas that any serious Data Analyst should have Continue reading