Data Analytics for Managers, Live!

Six Phases of Data Analysis

Slides for Data Analytics for Managers are now live! (web | github)

I recently teamed up with Richard Dunks (Datapolitan), who has been teaching this class to city employees through the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services for the past two years. Our goal: get this class online and revise and scale it for broader audiences, while continuing to meet educational needs of NYC employees.

We used Remark.js, a very simple tool for putting slides online, worked with Matt LeMay at Constellate Data to help guide our revisions, and I got to break out my new set of Sharpies to do the illustrations.  All in all, a great project.

We’re looking forward to continuing to update this class and others next year, so please let us know what you think!




2016 Reading List

In launching Tiny Panther Consulting this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to pull together everything I’ve learned as a community organizer, data librarian, researcher, and facilitator into a coherent practice.

And in the past month I’ve been thinking a lot about what Trump (and perhaps more importantly the people who voted for him) mean for my work.

Here are some of the writings that have guided me this year:

  • Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates —

    Much has been said about the importance of this book to not just understanding but feeling the trauma of racism in this country.  But have we talked yet about how formative the Howard University library was for developing Coates’ sense of identity?

    I delighted in the passages in which Coates described his hunger for reading, how books opened his eyes to fresh perspectives, old histories, and a deeper truth. Reading helped Coates break free of the American narrative, which devalues his life, and gave him the words to confront the hypocrisies of the American dream.

    As a librarian, I’m thinking about how important it is to value and protect access to multiple narratives, and to protecting spaces where people can do the reading, write new stories, and help us move us forward.

    And in the weeks after the election I’m feeling a need like the one Coates describes, to reexamine our history, go beyond the media narrative, and really understand how racism, misogyny, and so many other factors got us to where we are today.

  • Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil —

    Speaking of overly simplistic models, Cathy O’Neil does a fantastic job of exposing the social consequences of bad data analysis in her newest book.

    In my work, I tend to think of data a tool for building bridges.  Numbers and spreadsheets give us common ground for understanding problems, discussing interpretations and finding solutions.  I was great influenced by that scene in Carl Sagan’s Contact, when the scientists realize the aliens are communicating with us in prime numbers!

    I want to believe that data analysis and community building go hand in hand, and that with universal data literacy, we can effectively use data to build our communities together. But life’s not really that simple…

    O’Neil reminded me that data can be used to build fences too, and that algorithms can reinforce bigotry, discrimination and segregation.

    This year, I’ve been working to develop a model for human centered data analysis, that involves working with community members to co-create data practices within an organization.  I just started working with the fantastic folks at COOP and look forward to refining and iterating on this approach in 2017.  My hope is that the more people who participate in the creation of a data model, the more accountable it will be.

  • The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

    Lines from this poem have been running back and forth through my brain since Election Day:

    … Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity…

    Yeats wrote this in 1919. Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart in 1958. Didion used the last line of the poem to name her essays Slouching Towards Bethlehem in 1968. And the Wall Street Journal tells me I’m not the only one remembering Yeats’ words in this trash-fire year.

    In the last ninety seven years, things have fallen apart again and again and again and we’ve mostly managed to put them back together again. Sometimes we even manage to make them better than before.

    It’s helpful to remember that we’ve been here before.  With hard work and determination I bet we can make it out again.

At the end of this Thanksgiving Weekend, I’m grateful for wise and uplifting words, for projects with clients who believe in a better world, and for the birth of Tiny Panther. Looking forward to continuing this learning and this work in 2017.


Seeing the Trees

Photo Credit: Noel Hidalgo (Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Photo Credit: Noel Hidalgo (Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Before the leaves actually change color, I should post some of the work I did over the summer with NYC Parks and BetaNYC.

The TreesCount! Data Jam brought together the civic tech community with TreesCount! volunteers– New Yorkers who’d gone out to collect the most accurate street tree census in our city’s history.

I teamed up with Annarita Macri, a GIS specialist and LaGuardia Community College professor, to lead a one day “Digging into TreesCount! Data” workshop. We introduced TreesCount volunteers to NYC Open Data, interesting fields in the data they’d helped to collect, and how to visualize that data in Google Sheets and CARTO.

Check out our slides and workbook (freely available!) here:


And to read more about the DataJam, organized by BetaNYC, click here.

Facilitating Focus Groups

Just led a workshop at METRO (Metropolitan Library Council of NY) marrying two of my favorite topics: how to gather and use data AND how to facilitate inclusive conversations.

Check out my slides here and resource sheet there.

There was a great mix of people in the room, and a lot of great questions and ideas. One of the workshop participants shared his vision for a walking focus group to gather feedback on a physical space. His idea essentially married a focus group with a planning charrette. I love the idea that there’s no wrong way to do a focus group, as long as you’re empowering your participants to share and learn together.