Data vs Reports

I’m sure I’ll have to spend a lot more time trolling the DataBC site before I have discovered all the jewels therein amongst the dross, but one thing I noticed while searching for “birth” was a large number of entries like this entry from Vital Statistics: “Table 25 - Infant Mortality by Gestational Age and Birth Weight, British Columbia, 2005”

Is this data? Kinda. There’s numbers. It’s an Excel sheet. But let’s get real here, this is a report. It’s a summary. That’s why Vital Statistics has hundreds and hundreds of “data set” entries like this in the catalogue instead of the number they should have: ONE.

There is one database of births and deaths in the province. Strip out the names and addresses, leave the causes, dates, ages, postal codes, and release THAT please, instead of the hundreds of year-by-year (not even longitudinal summaries! arg!) summaries.

Guh, Goh!

Remember Google Wave? Maybe not, but you might remember the hype. The 1 hour video introduction, the breathlessly handed out friend-of-a-friend invitations. Google Buzz, similarly. Google Health. Orkut. Knol. The list goes on.

The upside of trying lots of things is that you sometimes catch a winner, I guess. Maps and location were winners, but they have a natural synergy with the search / advertising business.

The downside is that Google has burned up all it’s cachet. When 80% of the products you launch bomb, people eventually assume everything you launch is going to bomb. Which, in the self-levitating bootstrapping world of network services and network effects means they have already bombed. Google+, we hardly knew thee.

Visualizing Progress

Data visualization gets (from me) a bad rap, because so often it is used as a way to make fundamentally unsexy things just sexy enough for management to buy, without reference to whether the item in question is, at core, useful or effective.

Caveat aside, this graph from the GeoTools JIRA side made my hair stand on end.

Yikes, do you close more tickets than get opened? There’s a visualization that lights a fire under my butt!

Even when I’m in full ticket-hunting-mode I feel like I sometimes am not making forward progress, since Regina gets into bug-finding-mode and starts opening them up on me faster. And the last year of adding features to PostGIS (raster, topology) while altering core structures (serialization, indexes) has created an avalanche of tickets. More than fits on a page. Time to get closing!

To the Cloud!

David Pogue has a little mini-rant today on the use of “cloud” as a generic term to mean “internet” which I found fun, if only because it reminded me of the odd origins of the term.

As far as I can guess, the term leaked out of white-board shorthand used by folks drawing up high-level architecture diagrams. Who it was who popularized that diagram convention is a mystery, probably it is an elaboration on some even earlier trope. Now, thanks to Microsoft marketing, the term means… nothing? everything? kung fu music? computers-can-magically-solve-anything?

IT as Obstacle

Getting the re-tweeting rounds today, an article on why business are moving to the cloud. The answer? To avoid their own IT departments.

Their top reasons for going around IT? The need to respond quickly to changes in the market, self-sufficiency of their IT-savvy workforce, and the easy availability of top-quality it services that can be bought without long implementation or testing (cloud and SAAs apps, primarily).

Watch out, the natives are restless.

Update: Check out the comment thread in the posting of this article for the good, bad and ugly of IT reaction to being sidelined. Ranges from “stupid users” to some thoughtful comments on the nature of organizations.