Mind the gap

Good day viz fans!

Hoping you’re ok this fine morning. What’s that? How am I? Well glad you asked cos I’m annoyed. Very annoyed. You see nothing annoys me more than a bad viz and I’ve finally had enough. Here’s why.

Trekking into central London on our beautiful commuter service is a joy. Actually it’s not, it’s a colossal pain. But anyway, it gives the brainy marketeers of all sorts of companies a chance to display their wares in more elaborate and interesting ways. And that’s ok. There are hundreds of meters of blank wall to slap a fancy advert on, or let us know some cool fact or bit of info that’s going to make our day easier.

20131115_164924And there are lots. Adverts for the latest technologies and fancy holidays all of which are good enough and inoffensive, sometimes very well done. And then there’s London Underground. Now they own the damn place, so can display pretty much what they want, where they want it – you know for maximum impact. But what do we get. We get this (pictured left).

“Delays cut by 40% (Whoosh!)”

Well that’s inspirational. Really. London Underground get a load of grief for delays and such like, and there’s no doubt that a 40% improvement is something to shout about. SO SHOUT ABOUT IT! Tell me what you’ve done. Where are the biggest improvements? The Northern Line? The Jubilee Line? What time? Rush hours? What have been the benefits? Even draw me a little infographic or something. Anything more than a meaningless logo and a stupid tagline. What a wasted opportunity to really boast about the work you’ve done to the network to someone who walks past this poster 4 times every day.

And there’s more. Here’s another example.

20131114_165804This time banging on about their range of informative Twitter feeds. That’s great. Getting some up to the minute Tweets about the service would be just the ticket. Let me see – I’ll follow erm… and erm… ah.

So how much effort would it be to display what those hashtags or accounts actually are? I do quite like the graphic though I’ll give them that.

Utterly lazy and completely missing the value of the interested audience of tech-savvy people who pass by this poster hundreds of times a year. Sure I could go to the URL they’ve specified but still….

20131115_164857And here’s the final one. I don’t even think I can be bothered to comment on it as it makes my blood boil.

I often wonder how many of my fellow commuters are thinking the same thing as they walk past these non-information posters. We’ve all got a thirst for INPUT – I’m a total Johnny 5 these days, so I see things like these posters as massive wasted opportunities to put a positive message or useful information right in my face so I can’t avoid it. Years ago I would probably have been offended by that approach, now I’m annoyed that they haven’t at least tried.

Especially for an organisation that gets endless grief for performance. You’d think they’d be all over it. Clearly not.

Ah well that’s it for the rant. Have a good day everyone, and remember to use all available doors.

Regards, Paul

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Data Scientist? It’s a mindset, not a name

Good day to you Tabaholics,

kirkdThere I was the other day, merrily minding my own business playing with Tableau maps when I happened to read this tweet by @KirkDBorne. Did a bit of googling and came across this link regarding whether you should call yourself a “data scientist” or not, a subject that seems to be getting a fair bit of chat at the moment.

Now I think it’s a bit strong to refer to someone as a “fool” for calling themselves a data scientist. What companies like Alteryx, DataSift & Tableau have done with their splendid applications, is allow everyone to be a data scientist. Or whatever else you want to call yourself. I call myself a Ninja – believe it or not I’m not a real one, although I do have a black one-piece. What I am is a real scientist. I’ve got an M.Sc. degree in Molecular Pathology (and toxicology) and a B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences. None of that matters, I don’t get offended when someone next to me calls themselves a data scientist.

For me being a scientist is a mindset, not a qualification. It’s the mental attitude and aptitude to take on and solve problems through a process of hypothesis and experimentation. Your weapon of choice may be a bunsen burner or a Flow Cytometer or Tableau Desktop – it doesn’t matter. What matters is the desire for knowledge and understanding, even better if you’re of the mindset that you want to share it with everyone afterwards.

220px-William_Perkin

The process of scientific experimentation is what has driven invention for hundreds of years. It doesn’t even matter that you don’t get the results you expect – it’s the journey that counts. William Perkin (pictured) was trying to make synthetic quinine and ended up revolutionising dye making (and making a shed load of cash in the process). He also had a pretty impressive beard as well. Wonder if he dyed it… Even some items as seemingly complex as the human pacemaker was invented by accident – Wilson Greatbatch taking that one down. Other examples of accidental discoveries include the microwave oven, Teflon and Coca Cola.

So call yourself whatever you want. Call yourself a Ninja, or a Jedi or a Yeti or a data rockstar. I don’t care. Just keep on pushing the boundaries and discovering. You should be proud of yourself for trying.

Regards, Paul