Learning Tracking September 2017

I’m trying to give myself at least half an hour during the workdays (or at least blocking two hours or so a week at least) to learn something new – namely taking classes on Treehouse, which I still have a membership to, reading job related articles, and reading job-related books. Tracking notables here as a self commitment and to retain in memory.


UX Basics Key Takeaways

  • Gather data about user behaviors, goals, and needs
    • Do this with user interviews, quant data (logs and analytics), and surveys
    • Be sure to analyze behavior types, and not just audience segments
  • Always answer the Q: “What is it the product we are working on provides for this behavior type?”
  • Manage content inventory: What exists (eg form values), gaps, and analyze

Ajax Handling Errors Key Takeaways

  • XHR request object contains important info about errors

Articles + Three Takeaways

Paying Down Your Technical Debt

  1. “If the debt grows large enough, eventually the company will spend more on servicing its debt than it invests in increasing the value of its other assets.”
  2. “Accumulated technical debt becomes a major disincentive to work on a project. It’s a collection of small but annoying things that you have to deal with every time you sit down to write code. But it’s exactly these small annoyances, this sand grinding away in the gears of your workday, that eventually causes you to stop enjoying the project.”
  3. Becomes a source of fear, dread, and loathing for teams so you should periodically service your debt

Evidence Based Scheduling

  1. Break tasks into hours (nothing longer than 16 hours) so it forces you to figure out what to do
  2. Keep timesheets tracking data for historical use
  3. Simulate the future

“But you can never get 4n from n, ever, and if you think you can, please email me the stock symbol for your company so I can short it.”

Reddit and Facebook Veteran On How to Troubleshoot Troublemakers aka “Debugging Coders”

  1. Job is not getting stuff to do people for you, it’s figuring out how to do something together.
  2. ‘The exact behaviors that make it so that the organization can stay alive, move fast, be scrappy can be exactly the same actions that cause a negative disruption later in the life of your company,” says Blount. “Troublemaking brings signs of large tectonic shifts, releasing pressure into the atmosphere. Specific rumblings are almost all borne fundamentally of some kind of frustration: moving too fast, not moving fast enough, taking too few or too many risks. These are signals — and opportunities — to assess underlying changes and growth in an organization.”’
  3. For nostalgia junkies (people who like the company that ‘way it use to be’), focus on the question: “What about next week bothers you?” and for the Trend Chasers – gotta measure the risks, what happens with this route over the next year, deploying it and rolling it out?

How do managers* get stuck?

  1. Failing to manage down: need to delegate, train team, pay attention to process, and say no
  2. Failing to manage sideways: build peer relationships, look for additional tasks, create a vision, become someone you’d like to report to
  3. Failing to manage up: attend to details, complains but doesn’t fix, drags outside of comfort zone, show yourself professionally to higher ups

How do individual contributors get stuck?

  1. “Everyone has at least one area that they tend to get stuck on. An activity that serves as an attractive sidetrack. A task they will do anything to avoid.”
  2. “When you know how people get stuck, you can plan your projects to rely on people for their strengths and provide them help or even completely side-step their weaknesses. You know who is good to ask for which kinds of help, and who hates that particular challenge just as much as you do.”
  3. “Knowing the ways that you get hung up is good because you can choose to either a) get over the fears that are sticking you (lack of knowledge, skills, or confidence), b) avoid such tasks as much as possible, and/or c) be aware of your habits and use extra diligence when faced with tackling these areas.”

Run Towards Something, Not Away. Learning from Talks Summary: C-Suite Meet with Jacki Kelley, COO, Bloomberg Media

I went to the C-Suite Meet with Jacki Kelley, Chief Operating Officer, Bloomberg Media with She Runs months ago in May, but I’ve thought a lot about her advice and carried these notes in my bag and mentally for the last few months.

The biggest takeaway, “Run towards something and not away.”  

This year, I had the opportunity to buy a dream co-op in NYC and job opportunities that would have paid more than I am making now. I walked away from those because deep down I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, remembering these words and with the encouragement of friends and mentors. It was really difficult, especially as a daughter of immigrants and as someone who never thought I’d have what I have now and these opportunities. Sometimes the opportunities are wrong. Listen to your gut.

Much better opportunities and life paths have presented themselves to me in the interim, and I’m so glad I did the hard thing to walk away.

This piece by public intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates resonates me with a lot:

Some people come up expecting to win. We came up hoping not to lose. Even in victory, the distance between expectation and results is dizzying for both. The old code remains a part of you, and with it comes a particular strain of impostor syndrome. You have learned another language, but your accent betrays you. And there are times when you wonder if the real you is not here among the professionals, but out there in the streets.

Obviously, I have to caveat that the specific experience he writes about has clear differences from mine, I’m from a much more privileged context, but it expresses the disorientation of how I feel in my circumstances now as Manhattan professional versus what my life could have easily been had I taken a few wrong turns and people didn’t intervene at key points in my life. (And to all the Women of Color who might be out there reading this, yes I still feel like I don’t fit in these spaces everyday, and probably never will. I still do it for the culture though).

My mentor told me in my moments of self-doubt this year, “There’s better for you. And you deserve it.”

I think most of us at least moderately-successful professionals will come upon these inflection points, where you can feel like you need to check-off certain life boxes (degree, house, ring, kids) or are presented with opportunities that are good for the money, but don’t feel right. Most people chose to do what they think should do because of societal or cultural expectations, because it’s hard to walk away from that. I’ve done that before, taken jobs to just to get away from a current situation, and and almost did all that again this year, but I’m glad I held out for the better even though it’s caused considerable existential dread, Asian guilt, and feeling of being ungrateful, especially in these sour times we live in politically and economically.

Some other key points from the talk/handwriting clarification:

  • She also mentioned “Life is not a to do list. Smell the roses.” Cliché, but at this phase of my life and career, I’m no longer in my frenetic twenties grasping at opportunity, but rather settling into a life and career that’s a marathon and not a sprint, and to enjoy the journey.
    • Also be there for the stuff that matters and plan out personal and professional life in tandem. She specifically mentioned planning out having kids (this isn’t something that’s a make or break for me), but we have all different milestones and wants to not be neglected
  • Sponsors v Mentors: need to find both. Sponsors are those people who advocate for you in your company or industry. Coaches/Mentors are your sounding boards and give advice, etc
  • Build cultures and processes to remove obstacles and allow people to do their best work
  • Understand people’s desires in a company and try to align with your goals and that of the organization
  • Ask yourself, how have you invested in someone you believe in?
  • Pick Learning > Promotion
  • Find work you love with people you love to work with
  • Connecting data, communication, and media is the key to survival for agencies (I’m not as bullish on this one and the agency model as it is, but it’s an insight worth thinking about)

Tableau Practice: Los Angeles Water Usage

Playing with a little Tableau using open data from Los Angeles Open Data on “Residential water use by month averaged for fiscal year. Numbers represent Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF) of water use.”

Couple of observations with the data:

  • Water usage seems to correlate with residential density, eg. the high water usage in Downtown and Central City that have more high-density apartment blocks versus suburban tract homes that make up most of Los Angeles.
  • Water usage dropped dramatically in Fiscal Year 12/13, I’m almost wondering if that data was never fully populated. Either way, there seems to be a good downward trend which is good because of the CA drought and just being a region where water is scarce.
  • Tableau’s sum filters can be puzzling for those who aren’t familar with the platform when you filter the data – eg suddenly the scale is off so you have to reduce that filter to see the values.

A few process notes

  • I had to pivot the raw data a bit before bringing it to Tableau
  • I imported a custom shape for the water drop effect
  • I used the area chart for trend overtime to kind of hit home the point the amount of water usage rather than a simple line to show time series.

Click here or on the visual below to take a look:


Weekly Data Decomposition: The Robot Rampage

Weekly data visualization decomps to keep a look out for technique and learning: The Robot Rampage from BloombergGadfly 

Decomposition of a Visualization:

  • What are the:
    • Variables (Data points, where they are, and how they’re represented):
      • Units of robots per country and by forecasted year
        • Bar chart
      • Jobs that could be automated by country, definite and theoretical
        • Stacked bar chart
      • Concentration of industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers per country represented on cartogram
    • Data Types (Quantitative, Qualitative, Categorical, Continuous, etc.):
      • Quantitative, Categorical
    • Encodings (Shape, Color, Position, etc.):
      • Color hue for different forecasts on bar charts
      • Color hue for different regions
      • Sizing on cartogram and colors for region
  • What works well here?
    • Showing a narrative about the rates of robotization across different regions and the potential effect to workers
  • What does not work well and what would I improve?
    • I like these a lot – I think it would be cool to have more population charts proportional to the size of workforces in the middle graphs. It’s hard to see human impact there.
  • What is the data source?  Do I see any problems with how it’s cited/used?
    • International Federation of Robotics and the World Bank
  • Any other comments about what I learned?
    • I liked how different data sources were combined for a cohesive narrative


Weekly Data Decomp: Country Quiz

Weekly data visualization decomps to keep a look out for technique and learning.

This week is the Guardian’s How Well Do You Know Your Country Quiz

Decomposition of a Visualization:

  • What are the:
    • Variables (Data points, where they are, and how they’re represented):
      • Numerical values on a x-axis scale using position
      • Lines showing gap in perception
    • Data Types (Quantitative, Qualitative, Categorical, Continuous, etc.):
      • Continuous
    • Encodings (Shape, Color, Position, etc.):
      • Position
      • Line Length
      • Color Hue for position
  • What works well here?
    • Showing difference between three possibilities
  • What does not work well and what would I improve?
    • Being able to compare with a filter of different countries side-by-side
  • What is the data source?  Do I see any problems with how it’s cited/used?
    • Ipsos Mori survey
  • Any other comments about what I learned?
    • I like how this is a combination of what would traditionally be a survey or quiz with data visualization elements for interactivity and exploration


Weekly Data Viz Decomp: Global Sea Ice Level

Weekly data visualization decomps to keep a look out for technique and learning: Global Sea Ice Level I found on Reddit’s DataIsBeautiful 

Decomposition of a Visualization:

  • What are the:
    • Variables (Data points, where they are, and how they’re represented):
      • Months on a radial axis
      • Sea level area scale on radial area
      • Lines along radial to represent sea ice level
    • Data Types (Quantitative, Qualitative, Categorical, Continuous, etc.):
      • Quantitative, Continuous
    • Encodings (Shape, Color, Position, etc.):
      • Color hue and position for line
  • What works well here?
    • The animation and showing the change through time is particularly effected as the overall area shrinks
    • The color hue change to a lighter color for current years is particularly effective
  • What does not work well and what would I improve?
    • The colors seem to be a little off theme – maybe personal nitpick but I would have picked a blue hue or something that relates to the water more
    • No sure how much the seasons adds to this chart, but I like the use of the area on this chart rather than one with a simple xy-axis
    • Maybe add an interactive filter for years to see contrast
  • What is the data source?  Do I see any problems with how it’s cited/used?
    • Cites what looks like a scientific journal – would have liked a link or publication, but I’m not familiar with this subject area
  • Any other comments about what I learned?
    • Makes me want to use a radial chart for something when I get a use case for it


Why I Can’t Find Recycling Bins in NYC (visualized)

Although I love NYC, as a Californian transplant the one big pet peeve I have other than the lack of Mexican options and fresh avocados is the lack of recycling and general awareness of doing so. Yes, I’m that Californian who brings the reusable bags to the market and carries a water bottle at times in NYC.

I couldn’t help noticing walking around how many people buy items like bottled water and have no place to recycle them even though NYC has a lot more public waste baskets than a lot of other cities. Taipei, I’m looking at you and all those days I carried my trash for miles.

I played with some of the NYC Open Data in Tableau and did confirm how few Public Recycling Bins are in NYC.

For some reason they’re particularly absent in Queens, outer Brooklyn, and Upper East Side. Population density seems to have no impact. Shrug, come on NYC, you “progressive bastion,” get your recycling on! It kills me seeing how many people here buy beverages in containers that could easily be recycled and toss them into a regular trash bin. It’s crazy.

Click here or the image below to see the visualized data: