Books – December 2015

I have finished the books I mentioned in my earlier post regarding books of Nov 2015 except for Deadhouse gates (Malazan book 2) which is still ongoing and shows no sign of nearing completion.

As a part of my travel during the winter break, in Phoenix, I visited an old bookshop where I picked up the hardcopy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel namely – The Remains of the Day. The bookshop was really old school, one like which I had never come across before. They accepted only cash and had paperbacks that would be the dream of any book collector. Although I was tempted to buy many of those books, I did not as I have decided not to get too many hard copies unless I have a bookshelf waiting for them back in my home.

I will be reading only this book for most part of January 2016 and hopefully be able to read more and better the upcoming year than I already did.

Also, I sent out mails to friends of mine asking what was/were their facorite read(s) of 2015 so that I could make a to-read list for 2016 that was rich in diversity. Once I hear back from a decent number of them, I will create a blog post here with the names of the books they replied back.

My favorite reads for 2015 have been the following books

1. A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces: Extraordinary Short Stories from the 19th Century to the Present by David Davidar

2. Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts by P. Sainath

Both these books are filled with short stories, some of the best I have read and they are sure to stay with you for a very long time after you have read them.

Fall semester ends – Half master

The fall semester of my masters course ended a few days ago taking with them a couple of courses that definitely helped me learn more. They also helped me gain an understanding of what I don’t know and thereby did more good than they were supposed to.

In one of my previous posts I was supposed to write about Andy’s talks and what I liked about it.

To begin with, Andy is a tableau zen master for this year and works at ‘The Information Lab’ which is situated in London. Out of the various aspects of his talk, two points really stuck with me and something I’d implement if I can, in the future situations.

1. Presentation
His presentation was the kind that was not overloaded with information and instead, it was made to hold the viewer’s attention at the max possible level. And I daresay it did its job very well. Also, he did not really care about how serious/official the presentation should be and what kind of formatting should go into it. That is what helped him all the more in delivering his points across as he was more focused on story during the deck than its cosmetics.

2. Interview process he takes
In his previous firm (if I am not wrong) and the current place of work – The Information Lab, the itnerviews for prospective candidatestake place in a fashion that I really like. Interested folks are asked to send in their applications along with a piece of work as a sample showcasing their skills and passion. You often want to hire individuals with both these because the ones having both these qualities rarely apply to all places. This stuck with me and I would really like to part of an org which does interviews like these because the platform they are providing and the thought itself show how foreward thinking they are towards hiring not any individual but only those who exactly fit their requirement of skill and passion levels. You don’t have to be a genius to get into these places, but you sure as hell should be ready to keep improving your skill with hard work. And that indeed is a rare quality.

So, these two aspects of his talk stayed with me since then and am not going to forget them anytime soon.

Regarding data visualisation course, that was offered here at the fall semester for me, the most important outcome that I gained out of the course was that I can now understand what an user is trying to convey using any form of visual (need not necessarily be a tableau dashboard but any form of visual). And I am able to form a picture in my mind about how well this visual has been made in terms of getting the message across in the most simplest way possible. It is often a difficult task to do so, as most of us while making the visuals either have lost the idea of the exact message it is trying to convey or are too engrossed into the minute details that when stitched together, the visual looks like a piece of art rather than solving its purpose of getting across a story/message.

I think this quality would stay with me throughout my life and I will be able to critique and/or appreciate all forms of visualisations that I will come across in any presentations from now on be it in class/company/public forums. In addition to this, the course also helped me gain the basics in tableau. It is of no use complaining I could not get good at tableau with the help of this course. A good teacher always teaches you the design and the way you implement this design depends on your ingenuity. He cannot teach that, it is your thought process that makes you ingenuine with your work outputs. I am thankful I got to learn from such a distinguished individual (Prof. Jeff Shaffer – tableau zen master for 2016 and also a close friend of Andy about whose talk I have discussed above). Both of these folks are really active in the dat avisualisation community and they are trying some amazing stuff pushing the limits of their work. Also, what adds to this is the way in which tableau responds to the feedback of its users. I am yet to come across a software/tool/platform whose updates are so relevant to the user requirements and needs whichw ere not fulfilled in the previous versions but would make really valuable additions to the updated versions.

The fall semester end update ends thus.