Out of Eden Walk

Of the many idiosyncrasies that define me as a person/individual, one of the most evident is the want to share anything good that I come across, with those around me, those not around me. But I often realize that there aren’t many who would appreciate what I want to show them (I am not saying that is good or bad – people differ, perspectives differ). Most of these ‘good things’ are articles/posts/pictures that I come across online and others are information that I learn from a book that I just finished reading, or a discussion that I want to have.

“Out of Eden walk” is one such thing that I would like to share to all those around me. It is one of the most amazing projects- or rather – ideas that I have had the luck to come across in the past few years. What I have come to understand over time is that – in order to appreciate an idea or an activity, your perspective needs to be aligned with that activity or the ideology. Without this, true appreciation is not possible and whatever your understanding of the idea/action only transitory and inadequate. This understanding has helped me to be non-judgmental (oh yes!) in numerous scenarios and when I have gone back to them after some time, I indeed have been able to look at them with a view that is wider in its scope and understanding and ability of perception. I have digressed a lot from the topic of this post already, so I would stop my random rumblings here.

“Out of Eden walk” is a walk that a journalist ‘Paul Salopek’ is undertaking. From an article on livemint (published  here), the walk can be described as:

It is a long, audacious and wondrous journey. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek is following what experts broadly believe is the trail followed by the first human migration out of Africa—the path traced roughly 60,000 years ago when we left the cradle of our origin and began to spread across the planet.

More about the walk can be found at these two websites –

http://outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com/

http://www.outofedenwalk.com/

Although the above site covers almost everything you would like to know about the walk, here are a few more interesting links that might be of interest:

http://pulitzercenter.org/projects/out-of-eden

https://instagram.com/outofedenwalk/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/22/paul-salopek-out-of-eden_n_4324375.html

I want to share more of my thoughts about this, but I should be moving. I hope to return to this in one of my upcoming posts.

P.S: On a similar note, there is another journalist who collects her experiences and posts them on the web – notably on the social media. Please note that I have called these her ‘experiences’. This is because, she often attaches a story to every post (most of them pictures – and she is an amazing photographer) which makes you connect with what the picture is trying to convey in a much better way.

Here are the links to her work and related websites (I especially like her Instagram feed – some amazing pictures interspersed with brilliant storytelling):

River diaries – http://riverdiaries.tumblr.com/

Instagram feed – https://instagram.com/aratikumarrao/?hl=en

Her twitter feed – https://twitter.com/AratiKumarRao

http://www.ficusmedia.com/

 

Upcoming posts

It is humorous (in a sardonic way) that I am writing a post about my upcoming blog posts. Anyway, below is the list of topics I intend to blog about in my upcoming posts. For the sake of book keeping, I will be updating this post once I tick off an item from this list.

  1. Business Intelligence Symposium – Part 1 (some thoughts on the event and other points discussed there) – Done Link to the post
  2. Business Intelligence Symposium – Part 2 ( On ‘The Informationlab’ – its hiring process, and how such a system inspires the passionate ones) – Link to the post
  3. Notes from data visualisation class – About what I learnt from what according to me was the best class this FALL – Link to the post
  4. Thoughts on fall courses at the program I am currently studying
  5. My attempts at storytelling using Tableau

Updates:

12 Dec – Added the links to posts for 2,3. I combined them into a single post. I am not really sure if I would be adding 4,5 anytime soon. Though something will come up for 5 as I have some vizzes that I am currently working on.

Business Intelligence symposium – Part 1

I attended the Business Intelligence symposium at the University of Cincinnati business center (more Info here). There were three sessions in the symposium:

 

  1. 84.51 explaining how they were structuring their analytics development program to meet the needs of the growing analytics market
  2. Andy Kriebel on what are the fine lines that differentiate a good analyst from a great analyst. He also gave us a glimpse of his workplace (The Informationlab – http://www.theinformationlab.co.uk/) – More about this in a future post, as I was particularly fascinated by this part of his presentation.
  3. Procter and Gamble

 

I should say I particularly liked the session of Andy the most. For starters, his presentation was amazing. And by amazing I mean, not even for a moment you thought of anything to complain about the powerpoint deck he made. No extra text, no unnecessary colors, correctly driving the story, brilliant sync between the horizontal and vertical logic of the presentation. So much so that one of the beginning slides was Rachel (of F.R.I.E.N.D.S fame) showing the middle finger from a movie I like – The office space (go watch it if you haven’t already).

 

Moving on, some of the points he focussed were indeed what an aspiring analyst should be thinking about if he wants to be a great data analyst (or atleast if he wants to very good at what he does). The points are as follows:

 

A good analyst is

  • not a yes man
  • knows basic coding
  • has good business acumen
  • knows basic stats

 

A great analyst on the other hand

  • understands the story behind the data
  • is interested in what he/she does (don’t think of it as a job)
  • is curious and imaginative
  • understands the context
  • builds good visualisations and tells great story from them
  • can decipher the message
  • is methodical
  • can spot trends and themes
  • is a great story teller

 

All the above points completely resonate with anyone who is passionate about analytics. These are also the points that were particularly stressed upon in my ex-company. Although many often fail to understand these in the context of solving an analytical problem and just try to finish their job, be done with it and go home for the day.

 

One point missing from the above for me was about identifying the patterns in the problems themselves and leveraging the solution of one or more previously solved problems in their company.

 

Understanding the interconnectivity of the problems is according to me an important aspect going forward as you keep on adding to the list of problems you have already solved using analytics. Not being able to do so will not only possibly lead to a suboptimal solution to the current problem at hand, but also might rob you of the opportunity to think about what other problems can be solved due to the solution of the current problem at hand. Both these aspects not only improve decision making in the companies but also have an immense impact on their attitude towards tackling future problems.

 

Treating any analytics project as a standalone entity is one of the major negatives currently in the analytics market as per my understanding. Another negative which I would try to talk about in a different post here is – the ability to reject/change the solution which you are trying to find for the problem at hand.

 

What I essentially mean by that is – often we get a problem to solve, and depending on the company we are a part of or the processes we follow, we set about solving that problem. In doing so, we already have an idea of the kind of solution that might be waiting for us at the end of this project. But, how many of the analysts out there have the ability, rather the courage to look back at what they have done, take a pause and think if they need to rethink about the solution they have been chasing. I have more thoughts on this which I will try to put together in one of my future posts.