data anxiety

Some more personal take-aways from days 3 + 4 of eyeo 2014

Cesar Hidalgo

I was thrilled to see showcased at Cesar Hidalgo’s keynote on Tuesday night, my good friend Erik Hazzard is one of the founders of the company and their project has gone completely viral. Cesar’s talk was interesting, my main take away was to check out the tools he’s been building: Data Viva and Pantheon. He did come up with some interesting terms “daybyte, weekbyte, lifebyte” which are ways of quantifying the amount of information a person can produce in a given amount of time. He also introduced a “personbyte” which is a way of quantifying knowledge by how many people it takes to have it.

Kate Crawford

Kate Crawford closed out Tuesday evening with an amazing talk on Data Anxiety. She touched a nerve because I have certainly been feeling the anxiety she describes. She touched on at least 2 forms of anxiety we are getting from big data (she repeatedly used big data which I will forgive her for since she used it in a relevant and knowing way, it still makes me cringe). She may have spoken on more but I was already inebriated and didn’t have my notebook, but 2 stuck with me thoroughly:

1. Anxiety from knowing you are being watched (or tracked, or analyzed). Being familiar with the state of the art in data science and visualization means I’m keenly aware of the power certain people are wielding over me. There is a constant sense of anxiety that I am not doing enough to equal the scales (avoid being tracked online, encrypt more communications, replace software services with personal deployments). I’m anxious because I know I’m trading security for convenience and it’s probably already too late

2. Anxiety from there not being enough data. On the other side of the computer I also feel the anxiety that the data I have is never enough, never complete enough to give a perfect picture. Kate pointed out that if we continue to obsessively pursue the truth through data we will never be satisfied, and this is a constant source of anxiety.

Eric Fischer

Speaking of not having enough data, Eric gave a beautiful talk about his adventure collecting data from all kinds of sources, including manually counting people in the street himself. His dedication to understanding (and the resulting maps) are incredibly impressive and inspiring.

slides from his talk (pdf)

Augmenting Education

This was a panel, it was a cool discussion and the following list of items were my key takeaways:

  • galleries prove value
  • galleries provide a platform for expression (e.g. SCRATCH)
  • can only create an individual voice by interacting with other people
  • don’t try to get into schools top down, make cool stuff and people will try to learn from it
  • CS is boring by itself, learn something else and apply it
  • coders need to be less arrogant, engineering has “right” answers but most of life doesn’t

Show and Tell

Eric Rodenbeck

Eric runs, a well known force in data visualization. His talk was about data visualization in the mainstream and his journey along with it. By mainstream he means getting people to pay you to do it, and he shared the very personal challenges in doing so. My favorite takeaway was one of the reasons stamen is so open and engaged in the community:

raise the literacy level so you can work with connoisseurs

this helped me articulate the core of why I make tutorials and run meetups, it’s so I can have more peers to bounce my crazy ideas off!


Kickstarter had a couple awesome community managers give tips on making a good kickstarter campaign. Since my good buddy Eric is working up to launching one for his project I got to get some good info and feedback on his project! The main takeaway was that telling a compelling story (quickly) is really important. Preparation can also go a long way because you will want to engage (several) community a lot during the campaign and its hard to come up with cool content under the time pressure while communicating with lots of people.

Santiago Ortiz

Santiago gave a funny, touching and just straight up real talk. He shared with us his transformative hustle, starting from no reputation and no knowledge of javascript and just knocking out projects for 6 months. He revealed struggles with his health and life balance which he not only visualized, but truly shared. Santiago once gave me advice for a talk that has been the best one I’ve ever done (live coding the audience’s experience with Love & Death). His talk today hit home in multiple dimensions, and while other talks at the conference will make me a better visualizer, his will make me a better person.

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