In this season of making resolutions (and hopefully sticking to a few of them) we invite you to join us for a year long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks.
TAG is a term we have coined to describe the use of simple web programming tools and techniques to do basic gut checks on data - big and small. TAG does not replace data science, rather it complements it. TAG empowers you - the development professionals - who rely on the story the data tells to accomplish your tasks. It does so by giving a you good enough idea about the data before you delve into the sophisticated data science methods (here is a good look at the last 50 years of data science from Stanford’s Dr. Donoho). In many cases it actually allows you to add your own insights to the story the data tells. As the series progresses we will talk a lot about TAGs. For the eager-minded here’s an example of TAG usage in US politics.
In this series, we will use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data. Just in time learning, as the name implies, is all about providing only the right amount of information at the right time. It is the minimum, essential information needed to help a learner progress to the next step. If the learner has a specific learning objective, just-in-time learning can be extremely efficient and highly effective. A good example of just in time information is the voice command a GPS gives you right before a turn. Contrast this with the use of maps before the days of GPS. You were given way more information than you needed and in a format that is not conducive to processing when you are driving.
What you get
If you stick with us for the next 11 blogs (over this year) we promise the following:
- You will gain some programming skills to gather, process and analyze data. At the end of the year, you will have enough know-how to approach data analysis systems and their output with confidence and be able to do TAG checks of your data. You will, however, not gain the skills of a professional programmer. Contrary to what some of the “hour of code” websites suggest, coding is a skill that is difficult and time consuming to master. Here’s some thoughts on the challenges of mastering programming from Peter Norvig of Google.
- You will be in a position to make an informed decision on a self-paced, just-in-time learning strategy as it applies to busy professionals. You may become a critic or you may become a supporter. But you will have a sound, defensible opinion.
Why do you care? And why do we?
Information technology as we all know (or at least like to believe) is about empowerment and equality. It levels the playing field and removes middle man and by doing so, fosters a world where the power of your idea is more powerful than the idea of someone's power. A world where merit and industriousness successfully challenge institutional power. Everyday. Ebay allows anyone to become a retailer, Youtube allows anyone to become a star, and more recently Uber is transforming the definition of the word “taxi.”
Can technology be a game changer for development professionals in the area of data science? Can the development professional do a TAG check of the data before being told what the story behind the data is, by a data scientist? Can the “unscience” of TAG checks empower professionals to add their own voices to the stories they tell professionally?
We do not claim to know the answers to the above. We hope through this year-long engagement with you, we will collectively gain some insight. This is our motivation. The series is a “dia-blog” i.e. a blog that is a dialog. Each blog will have an interactive component (and some will have optional “assignments”) using online surveys, quizzes, games and videos. While the series has a very specific theme each blog will be sufficiently self contained.
A high level view of things to come
We will devote the first few blogs delving into the mechanics, intricacies, challenges and usefulness of various self paced online learning tools from a busy development professional’s perspective.
We will highlight the key challenges of a self paced (free and web based) learning program : 1) asking the right question 2) providing the right answer (to a software). We will show that they are not as easy as they may appear on the surface. We will suggest concrete ways of asking the right question and providing the right answer in a web based, free for all environment. We will take a critical look at some of the contemporary knowledge exchange/learning formats (like animated gifs and videos). Do they teach or entertain? We will investigate if interactivity (for example gaming, which is touted as a key learning enabler) is more of a distraction.
Once we have learned the mechanics of various self paced online learning tools and have developed an informed opinion of what works and what does not work for busy professionals we will get into using some of these tools to learn about TAG checks.
We will do TAG checks of emails - do they tell you who your “true” friends are? Does your boss’s emails indicate who are the people influencing him/her? We will show techniques to identify the emerging theme of a document you are working on. We will do bit of web programming to collect data from the web. We will also collectively choose a theme (for example, transparency, influence, buzz, productivity) and then collectively do a TAG check of the select data as the final project
Interactivity - the ‘dia-blog’ thing
Before we say goodbye - till next month
A quick roundup before we say goodbye - in this series, overall, we will use a just in time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data (TAG being the use of simple web programming tools and techniques to do basic gut checks on data).
This will involve looking at the mechanics of self paced online learning tools and its suitability from a busy development professional’s perspective. Then we will delve into the nitty gritty of TAG checks. This will involve some basic web programming. Finally, we will end with a TAG project with a crowd-sourced theme.
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Photograph of mediated reality running on Apple iPhone by Glogger via Wikimedia Commons