Me and Paul Cohen sitting down to an ordinary, run-of-the-mill raw meat lunch. For some reason the pictures of me dying of salmonella didn’t make it into the press pack.
Starting this month you might see me in some odd places. Was that Jake getting hit by a bus? Did I just see Jake eating raw meat? Is that Jake robbing a bank in a Nixon mask? Your eyes do not deceive you. I will be doing all of those things and many more as part of a new National Geographic TV show that I’ll be hosting called The Numbers Game!
The show consists of 3 1-hour long episodes about how the latest scientific studies guide us to living better lives. We cover everything from what to drink in the mornings to live longer, to what techniques work best for negotiating, to how to avoid road rage. In the process, I get to meet a ton of wild characters, get hit by large things, and try all the while to teach you a thing or two.
Now for those of you who have been writing to me excited that Big Data is finally getting its own TV show, I should point out that this show is a lot more like a science show than a show about data. You won’t find discussions about Hadoop, machine learning, or even the basics of correlation vs. causation here. Instead, the show tries to make the latest statistics accessible to a wide audience of people who may just be dipping their toes in to this new world of data. It’s more Guy Fieri than Carl Sagan, but it’s a blast.
So please do watch the show, staring 4/22 at 10PM EST, and let me know what you think! Do you love the show? Let me know! That would make me feel all kinds of good. Do you hate the show? Let me know too! While my host duties didn’t extend to writing the content, communicating science and statistics is *tough* and I’d love to engage in a conversation about it with you all. Who knows, if enough of you tune in there may be future seasons that we could make even better, if that’s even possible. Either way, I’d say there’s a 100% chance you’re going to have a good time watching it (this is why they wouldn’t let me write the show).
See y’all on the small screen!
I grew up in a very mannered household. Pleases and thank yous were used for every request. My brother and I were shuffled to the end of the driveway to wait huddled in the Massachusetts cold for rides to school, lest our friends’ parents had to turn into the driveway or, god forbid, honk. My mother used to talk-whisper the phrase “This is Jacob Porway, I’m calling for Travis DiRuzza: Is he aVAILable?” in exaggerated movements every time I picked up the phone to call my friend, anticipating my slovenly caveman grunt of “Hey, is Trav there?” My family has been late to events because no one will walk through the door first.
I am a far cry from the 1950′s gentleman my parents tried to raise me into, but I owe it to them that I still try to bring the appropriate gifts to social events or pay for the meal if I invited the other person out. As my social life has increasingly moved online, however, my manners have not migrated with it. I reply to email days late. My blog lies fallow for months at a time (read: years), and I regularly leave texts and tweets unreplied to. I am the digital equivalent of that guy with the unmowed lawn and the rainsoaked La-Z-Boy in the front yard. My mother would be rolling in her grave if 1) she weren’t still alive 2) she knew the Internet existed outside of Hotmail.
Mirroring social graces from the physical world is actually pretty easy – there’s no excuse for leaving email unreplied to for weeks at a time nor for leaving people hanging in social media silence, but there are distinct electronic interactions that don’t seem to have a physical equivalent that I’m having trouble navigating. For example, I recently followed a close friend on Twitter. His response: ”You’re just following me NOW? Some friend you are.” Apparently you can now be a bad friend for: 1) stealing your close friend’s girl/boyfriend 2) sharing a confidential secret 3) not occasionally seeing links to BuzzFeed slideshows of cats that look like famous philosophers that your friend liked.
So help me out, Internet. Help me help myself. Where’s the Emily Post for 2013? As a reminder, Emily Post wrote the authoritative manual on etiquette in the 1920′s. She didn’t merely outline do’s and don’ts though. She wrote beautifully florid descriptions of proper behavior that took into account a wide and complex array of social, political, and business mores that not only made the reader more polite, but sought to engender a more civil society overall. Take for example her advice on discussing your wife’s affairs:
“A gentleman never discusses his family affairs either in public or with acquaintances, nor does he speak more than casually about his wife. A man is a cad who tells anyone, no matter who, what his wife told him in confidence, or describes what she looks like in her bedroom. To impart details of her beauty is scarcely better than to publish her blemishes; to do either is unspeakable.”
Pretty badass (ignoring the low-grade sexism).
I don’t want to be a cad. I’m sure someone has already updated Emily Post but, if they have, I’d love to see the full volume. From discussions with other people who use the Internet a bunch, I get the sense there’s no agreed-upon rule for how to respond to that person who REALLY wants to have coffee with you but that you simply, erm, don’t. Putting these niceties down doesn’t just help make it easier for the individual to act appropriately, it also creates a context that we all agree to and are aware of as a whole. That way maybe persistent coffee guy learns that two polite emails about being “out of town” means it’s time to look elsewhere. The best example I’ve seen of this so far is the Email Manifesto (HT Aurelia Moser), but where’s the definitive guide for all the other online interactions?
If anyone wants to get started, here are some of the digital decisions that I anxiously face every day:
Email replies: When is it OK not to reply to an e-mail, if ever? LinkedIn requests: It’s an easy call to write off strangers with a quiet “Ignore”, but what about ex-students? Ex-professors? Friends from high school who are in Ratt cover bands (obviously Accept)? I don’t use LinkedIn very rigorously so my filter is to pretty much accept anyone who doesn’t have a weapon in their profile pic. Maybe I’m doing it wrong though. Facebook friend requests: The old debate of friending close friends vs. 4th degree friends is less important to me than the strategy to avoid accumulating a horrifying mix of ex-coworkers, family members, conference attendees, and future employers who are privy to my duck face selfies. FB strategy = !LinkedIn strategy. Following back on Twitter: I’ve totally transitioned my following list from curated news feed to social network (due in no small part to comments like the one from the friend above). I’ve started following anyone I know, but using a Twitter list of the accounts I actually care to read as my main timeline. This is probably old news to anyone who’s dealt with this issue, but I find it funny that I’m drastically changing the way I use Twitter so as not to inadvertently offend. Friend promotion on Twitter: Hilarious tweet, dude! Favorite it? Retweet it? Reply with a flat “hah”? Laugh to myself alone for 2 seconds and then move on with my life? No idea. Self promotion on Twitter: It’s cool that you tweeted that we had an awesome breakfast conversation today. Do I favorite that? Retweet it? Am I actually tweeting out to the rest of the world that someone else thinks they had a good conversation with me? As notable as I know that is, I cannot imagine anyone else caring. Will you care if I don’t? The few times I’ve been in that situation I have literally sweat through Philip Roth levels of anxiety before clicking “Retweet”.
There are tons more, but these have caused my fingernails the most suffering. I am fully aware of how frivolous and ridiculous these questions sound. I am desperate enough that I do not care. I will endure the embarrassment of confessing my sins on a blog if you guys will help me fix them. Unless that’s a faux pas, in which case this is going to take longer than I thought.
Feel free to weigh in in the comments as politely as you dare.
I love Evernote. It is the repository for all of my daily tasks, intermittent journalings, todo lists, random thoughts, email templates, celebrity crush names, unsent letters to exes, movies to watch, books to read, and pretty much everything else that passes from forehead to fingertips.
That said, there are a TON of annoyances with formatting in Evernote. If you just live within Evernote you’ll probably be fine, but copying and pasting from Evernote it into other programs (at least on Mac), is a headache. I often want to email notes or messages to people from Evernote and am caught off guard by my rage at the unintended double spacing that occurs. Here’s the situation – I write a wonderfully formatted note in Evernote like this:
Simply highlight, copy, and paste into Gmail and you get:
Grr, terrible. Double spacing all over the place. What’s worse is that, even if you want to correct this in Gmail, you have to select everything, remove all formatting, and then delete the double spaces that were inadvertently created by hand. Very annoying.
After Googling for a quick fix, I found that this is a known and unsolved problem in Evernote, much to the chagrin of the commenters. Most solutions tack closely to what I used to do by hand – copy and paste from Evernote into a different text editor like Sublime Text, clean it up, and then copy and paste the message from there into Gmail. As you can tell from the length of this sentence, that is an annoying solution for people who enjoy using computers to make life easier.
So I decided I’d come up with my own solution. NOTE: This is a super dirty solution but, heck, it works. We’ll use Mac’s built-in Automator program to write a service that can intercept text copied from Evernote and convert it to plain text.
1. Pop open Automator and create a new service:
2. The Automator service we’ll create is going to be super simple. The default action “Service receives selected [text] in [any application]” should already be there. We’ll then add in the “Run Shell Script” action, which, wouldn’t ya know it, already has our default action in it (“cat”), followed by the “Copy to Clipboard” action. So easy.
This service is insanely simple – it intercepts the text we copy from the program, pipes it through “cat”, which literally just prints the input back out but without any formatting, then copies that to the clipboard. Done and done.
3. Save the service with a snappy name. I used the imaginative “Copy as plaintext”.
4. We’re technically done but, if you want to get fancy, you can add a keyboard shortcut under the Keyboard section of the System Preferences.
5. Now, back in Evernote, we should see the new “Copy as plaintext” option in our context menu (or you can use your keyboard shortcut).
6. Hop over to Gmail and paste and, voila! Plain text in Gmail!
* Because this script converts everything to plain text, you’ll lose any other formatting too (bold, bullet points, images). I don’t usually use Evernote that way so if you guys do maybe this isn’t that helpful.
* If you copy/paste from Evernote into Gmail first the formatting will forever be messed up in that email, even if you copy-as-plaintext/paste after.
* This service will work with any application if you need to copy plain text from other programs.
I hope that helps anyone else who’s had this issue. Feel free to post your corrections / comments / clever improvements. Enjoy!
Well hey there! It’s been almost exactly a year to the day since I last wrote anything here. I feel like a deadbeat blogger, but I swear it’s because a whole heck of a lot has happened since then, namely:
I left the inimitable NYT R&D lab (boo!)
I founded and now run the plucky upstart DataKind (yay!)
We’ve gotten a bunch of cool media coverage from all over.
I throw random tidbits of what’s been occupying my time on Tumblr and Twitter or over at the DataKind blog.
One day I imagine this page will either be resurrected or chopped up into little pieces to be farmed out to whatever happens to be the dernier cri for web media. Until then, catch up with me through the many streams of social media into which I occasionally grudgingly wade.
I was honored to get to give a talk at PopTech about Data Without Borders as one of their Social Innovation Fellows this year. It was an incredible experience that I can never thank the good people at PopTech enough for. My 5 minutes of fame above!
Drew Conway and I are going to be speaking about Data Without Borders Friday morning at 8:50AM at Strata 2011. This is a super awesome opportunity for us to share this amazing idea with the data world and we’re really in debt to Edd, Alistair, and everyone at O’Reilly for giving us time on their stage. They’ve already done a ton of great stuff for us with their Datashirts campaign, so this is really overly generous of them. If you’re at Strata, come bright and early tomorrow to see the talk live or, for those who couldn’t make it, you can watch all of the keynotes streamed live here.
Wow. I am incredibly honored, humbled, and excited to announce that I’ve been selected as a 2011 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow for Data Without Borders. Ever since I first heard about PopTech I have been hugely inspired by their mission of fostering world-changing ideas and bringing technology to bear on some of the world’s most pressing problems. I am extremely honored (and, frankly, almost embarrassed) to be given the opportunity to mingle among the incredible people there who are finding new and innovative ways of improving the world. I can’t thank PopTech enough for this and am going to spend the next month feeling like a kid trying to sleep the night before Christmas (Why can’t it be October _now_???)
The fellowship program is of course followed by the wonderful PopTech Conference, the focus of which this year is “A World Rebalancing”. If you or anyone you know is up near Camden, Maine October 19th-22nd and likes awesome things, come join us!.
“A table is nearly always better than a dumb pie chart; the only worse design than a pie chart is several of them…Given their low density and failure to order numbers along a visual dimension, pie charts should never be used.” – Edward Tufte, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”
We here at Data Without Borders fancy ourselves relatively savvy data visualizers. We have been doing data visualizations for some time, and have worked with many different kinds of data. We believe that a carefully crafted visualization is the most powerful way to convey insight from data. That said, one visual device we would never use is the pie chart. As Tufte eludes to in the above quotation—they suck.
In our eagerness to pull together Data Without Borders, however, we violated our own cardinal rule when designing the DWB logo. As you can see, while the logo is compelling, at its core it is a pie chart. It took us a few weeks to admit it to ourselves, but this error must be corrected. Unfortunately, none of us are designers. Put us in front of gigabytes of data and an R console, and we can make it sing. But, put us in front of Photoshop and Illustrator and we are useless.
We need your help.
Today we are announcing the Data Without Borders Logo Contest. Starting right now, we are accepting logo submissions. Here is some basic information:
The logo should convey the core mission of DWB: bringing together data scientists with non-profits and NGOs to generate value for both communities. But most importantly, to serve humanity through data analysis. The contest starts now, and runs until 12:00 AM September 6, 2011. Submissions should either be in PDF or PNG format. NO PIE CHARTS!
Along with being showered with accolades by the DWB team, the winner will win a $100 Amazon Gift Card
Please send entries to email@example.com, and please contact us if you have any questions at @DataNoBorders or DWB on Facebook. We’re really looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with and, seriously, no pie charts.
This has been an incredibly exciting week, with tons of you writing in to offer your services, your support, and your skills to launch this project. I couldn’t be happier with the turnout and I never cease to be amazed by the energy of this community. On that note, some quick updates on Facebook / Twitter accounts, a call for a web designer, and local event planning.
Continue reading Data Without Borders Update: Momentum
Well that was awesomely unexpected. What I thought would be a casual blog post about a project I hoped to quietly roll out in the fall became a lightning rod for some of the most enthusiastic, engaged, and socially conscious data folk than I ever could have imagined. As of my writing this, over 300 of you have shown your interest in this initiative by signing up to stay in the loop on the Data Without Borders email list. Considering I envisioned 20 of us sitting around a borrowed office to tackle this problem, that turnout seems incredible to me. In addition, I have been inundated with emails from around the globe from people with amazing socially conscious tech projects and an unbridled enthusiasm for using tech and data to help others. To all of you, whether you’re an excel ninja working with disenfranchised communities or just an interested observer, thank you for signing up and getting involved.
Continue reading Data Without Borders Update: An Exciting First Day