Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Two New SPSS Videos #67

A brief post to launch two more YouTube videos on how to use SPSS in Statistics. This week in class I will be covering Student's t-Test which compares two samples for statistically significant difference. There are two forms of Student's t-Test: one for independent (unpaired) samples, and one for dependent (paired). Below are embedded videos showing how these tests are done in SPSS. Not my best videos (they took me so many takes to make), I have videos about this topic in Excel and how to do by hand - it seems a bit of overkill to do again in SPSS. Anyway, hopefully my students will find them useful. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mastery-based Learning via @KhanAcademy #68

Salman Khan is a very inspiring educator who has made a difference to the lives of many people since he set up the Khan Academy in 2006. I have followed with interest his activities, and last year he spoke at a TED Talk on mastery-based learning. Khan asks the question: "Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation?". When learning skills like judo and music, learners must master one level before they move on to the next - why not do this when learning skills like maths?

Khan uses a great analogy with comparing learning with construction. If we get 75% in an algebra test, that is considered good (despite not knowing 25%) - and we move on to the next level. If we only did 75% of the foundation of a house, and then moved on - eventually the whole structure would collapse. Despite identifying the gaps, we continue to build on learning in an old-fashioned way.

With "grit and perseverance" students can take better control of their learning to achieve mastery (or what Khan calls "agency over their learning"). Technology is the enabler of mastery-learning with  (for example) on-demand video and adaptive learning tools. It will take time, but I agree with Khan that mastery-based learning is closer with the use of technology - certainly in the future.

The video is almost 11 minutes long, take the time to hear this rock of sense tell us what the future in education is going to be like.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week of Learning from @Linkedin #69

Last year Linkedin acquired and instantly had a huge library of learning content - I genuinely hope it goes well for them as I feel it is a good match. Today Linkedin have launched a "Week of Learning" where they are providing free access to a wide range of courses in many categories. Recommended for me (I assume based on my Linkedin profile) are courses in:

...these are the only two out of the top 8 courses recommended for me which are not about Moodle. The only mention of Moodle in my profile is that 67 people have endorsed me for Moodle. I think Linkedin have still got a bit of work to do in making recommendations (if they are) based on one's profile.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, every week should be a "Week of Learning"! Although it is a concept from Linkedin that I like, we learn all the time and don't need them to remind us. Clearly, this is a marketing exercise to get people to sign up (and good luck to them). The last week in October seems to be an odd time to do this, but it would be interesting to see if more Linkedin members enrol on more courses. A "Week of Learning" sounds like a lot, but it is hard for folks to find extra time to learn while still having work to do. Nevertheless, Linkedin's offer of free courses for a week is too good to pass up - I recommend trying it out for at least a few minutes a day.

I've signed up for "R Statistics Essential Training" - it's a whopping six-hour long course. I would like to learn more about using R in statistics and to get some tips for my own classes. There is a lot of basic content about setting up R and using RStudio - so I can skip a lot of this and move on to the interesting stuff such as using colour and plotting charts.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Great Day with Mum, Dad, and Family #58thWeddingAnniversary #70

Yesterday was my Mum and Dad's 58th wedding anniversary, and we got together today in Ballingate to help them celebrate. For only the second time this year, all the O'Loughlin Family were together, and we had a great time chatting and catching up. There's nothing like family get-togethers, and we are lucky to be together on a day like today. 

Joe, Kathleen, Mum, Dad, me, and Brian.
Happy 58th Wedding Anniversary!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Great Grandmother Anne McCann #71

Finding details about our ancestors is certainly getting easier, thanks to the millions of records published by Irish Geneology. Today I have been looking up information about my Great-grandmother Anne Cullen (née McCann) - my Mum had asked me to check her our as she wondered if Anne's mother was from Wales (I found no evidence of this). She is the mother of Kathleen Cullen, who is my mother's mum. Here's what I have found (all links will take you either to original documents or to Google Street Maps/Views).

She was born on 24th December 1874 - the birth was registered in Gorey. Her parents were James McCann and Catherine Walsh (name possibly confused with Wales) - they lived in the townland of Kilnahue just outside Gorey. Below is a copy of the registration of her birth (click on lick in the caption to go to actual document).

The photo to the right was taken for her 21st birthday (1895). She married Richard Cullen on 12th November 1905. She was nearly 31, and he was 35 years old. The register shows that they were married in St James's Church which is on James' Street in Dublin. You can see on the register that she was known as "Annie". Her address was 13 Gambier Terrace in Liverpool, England (you can see that the 21st birthday photo of her was taken by the Electric Light and Daylight Studios based in Liverpool). My Mum tells me her sister lived in Liverpool. Her bridesmaid was Margaret Cullen, Richard's sister, and known as "Aunt Maggie" in our family. The Best Man was Jas(?) McCann - I'll need to check with Mum who he is.

She and Richard lived in 5 Ashford Cottages, which is in Arbour Hill in Dublin 7. I know from my Mum that they had previously lived in nearby 6 Ivar Street. This is where they are listed as living in during the 1911 census. Anne died on 4th March 1952 in St Kevin's Hospital in Dublin. The cause of death was "Hypertensive Heart Failure". She is buried in plot A2-624-23450 in Mt Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Source: Irish Geneology.
Source: Irish Geneology.

Source: The National Archives of Ireland.
Source: Irish Geneology.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What are the most valuable Data Analysis Skills? via @coursera #Analytics #HDSDA #72

Cousera, which provides on-line courses from top universities for free, has examined data from sources like PayScale and to identify ten of the highest-impact data analysis skills and the average pay boost achieved from learning these skills. Here is their ranked list:

Skill     Average Pay Boost       
  #1 Machine Learning
  #2 Data Mining
  #3 R (Programming language)    
  #4 Data Modelling
  #5 Business Analysis
  #6 Research Analysis
  #7 Bioscience Data Analysis 
  #8 Investment Management 
  #9 Valuation
 #10 Business Forecasting

It's interesting that "Machine Learning" comes out on top of the list and also has the highest average pay boost - clearly this is a very valuable skill to develop if you want to succeed and earn decent money in Data Analytics. It is also good to see skills like "Data Mining", "R programming", and "Business Analysis" high up on the list - these are subjects we cover on Data Analytics programmes in the National College of Ireland for the past four years (so good to know we are keeping up!). We haven't yet moved into the area of Bioscience or Biometric data, but I feel this is inevitable given the massive rise in wearable technology that is capturing more-and-more data from our own bodies. 

Data analytics is here to stay!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Name on a Headstone #73

I wonder what anyone called "John Smith" thinks when they walk through a graveyard? What do they, or anyone think when they see a headstone with their name on it? Does the old "someone walked on my grave" thought come into their mind?

Image source: Historic Graves.
Recently while researching some family history I was checking to see if I could find the grave of my great-grandfather Joseph O'Loughlin who we know is buried in Clonfert cemetery near Newmarket in Co Cork. My father's ancestors come from the area around Newmarket, though his own Mum and Dad left for Carnew in Co Wicklow in 1929. On a visit to this cemetery with my Dad in 2008, we could not find the grave, though we did find the grave of my maternal great-grandparents (Thomas and Bridget Hurley).

Clonfert Cemetery was surveyed as part of an IRD Duhallow Leader funded training project in November 2012 - each grave headstone was photographed, cataloged, and displayed on the Historic Graves website. While searching for O'Loughlins on this site I came across the one to the right with my name on it "Eugene O'Loughlin, died December 11th 1954" (CO-CLFT-0832). It's an odd feeling. 

My Mum tells me that when I was being Christened in October 1959, there was an expectation that I would be named after my grandfather PJ (Patrick Joseph) - instead, I was named after Pope Pius XII (real name Eugenio Pacelli). Even in the O'Loughlin household, the Pope ranked higher than my grandfather! However, PJ did point out to my Mum that there was a Eugene O'Loughlin in the family (his cousin or uncle). I wonder if the Eugene above is the man he was referring to? A little more digging will hopefully reveal more.

On that morbid thought - it's on with the rest of the day!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jobs for Data Analysts/Scientists #Analytics #HDSDA #74

Over the past year, I have written several posts about data analytics and have reported several times that these are exciting days of opportunity for anyone studying data analytics. Are there job opportunities? Here is what I have found in searches for jobs on Irish job sites today:

Searches for "Data Analyst":
  • - 2 jobs
  • Jobs Ireland - 0 jobs
  • - 513 jobs
  • - 246 jobs
Searches for "Data Scientist":
  • - 402 jobs
  • Jobs Ireland - 0 jobs
  • - 65 jobs
  • - 26 jobs
Image source: Analytics for Insights.
So - this is a very un-scientific survey of just four job sites, but the findings are interesting. Jobs Ireland is clearly not the place to go if you are looking for work in the data analyst/scientist category. There is a clear distinction between the roles of Data Analyst (more entry level), and Data Scientist (more deep diving position). has 2 positions available for the former, and 402 for the latter. The reverse is the case in both and, where "data analyst" is the dominant position available.

I'm sure there is a lack of consistency with terminology which might explain the differences between sites. But between the two roles: scientist/analyst - there still seems to be a lot of opportunity for graduates. Hopefully, this will continue and that NCI graduates will continue to do us all proud in jobs for a wide variety of companies. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Data is the new oil - Someone forgot to tell the teachers" via @SiliconRepublic and @MrJohnFKennedy #Analytics #HDSDA #75

There's an interesting article published last week by John Kennedy in Silicon Republic entitled "Time to educate teachers about data science". Kennedy pulls no punches in stating that our new young teachers are undervalued, and points the finger both unions and Government for this valuation (or lack of it).

Image source:
Clip Art Kid.
I agree with much of what Kennedy states - there is a need for greater value placed on young teachers to keep them in the profession and to inspire their students to do well in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. He is correct in the "data is the new oil", though often there is an over expectation that data will yield treasure troves of information and solutions to problems. Every modern business is a digital business, and teachers will need to play their part in preparing students for this.

Of course, in our public systems, the front-of-line teachers do not decide policy or the curriculums taught in our schools (they do contribute, but in the main are not the decision makers). It is therefore up to the Department of Education and teacher advisory bodies to form teaching for the 21st century. And in turn to prepare (and value) our teachers to drive digital learning in the digital economy. 

But... just how far do we go? 

I am in favour of education as a general preparation for life. We do not teach (yet) programming in schools, yet this is a skill much in demand and many school leavers will end up in the IT sector. We don't teach driving in school, yet many school leavers will end up as taxi, bus, truck, and van drivers. We don't teach nursing or caring for the sick in our schools, yet many school leavers will end up in the healthcare profession. We don't teach crime prevention in our schools - yet many school leavers will end up in the Guards. My point is that we can't provide a school system that focuses on specific areas, but what we can focus on is in enabling students with the skills to adapt to a wide variety of opportunities. I agree with John Kennedy that "tech skills and data science skills in particular will always be in demand" - so we need to build this into our curricula for existing subjects before we start to think about introducing new subjects. Data science skills have still to be developed, but tech skills I believe are very good amongst our your people. Schools all over the country are using technology in innovative ways like putting up videos on YouTube of their activities - all with the help of teachers. Here's a brilliant example of what students in Bush Post Primary School (on the Cooley Peninsula near Dundalk) are doing mixing fund-raising, traditional music, and technology - our future is in safe hands:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Data Analytics Success for EY Ireland #Analytics #HDSDA #76

While listening to the RTÉ Business News on Morning Ireland today, I heard an interview with EY Managing Partner Mike McKerr who was talking about EY Ireland reports market leading double-digit growth for the third consecutive year in their financial year to 30th June 2016. McKerr reported that EY Ireland's "data analytics business....was growing very strongly indeed". I liked a comment he made about data in that companies are "really aware that they have this latent asset....and how do they actually use that to try to gain competitive".

According to the EY press release, their Advisory Division "reported revenue growth of 11.6% to €147 million in FY16, reflecting the high level of demand from clients". Broader assurance services such as Data Analytics (plus Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services) grew "by more than 30%".

Since June 2016, 140 new hires have been taken on by EY - several of NCI's graduates now work for EY. All of the above is good news for graduates - especially those with data analytical skills. The outlook for our graduates has never been better and is a real incentive for students to work hard and get the good results needed to succeed in companies such as EY. So the message for any students reading this - CHOP CHOP!!!

Image source: Irish Independent.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Advertising "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" on Amazon #77

On August 3rd last I published "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" to the Kindle platform on Amazon. While the book was also re-published as a paperback a month earlier, I had the problem of how could I generate sales if no one knew it existed. When the book came out first in 2014, I had the publicity of two radio interviews (RTÉ and Newstalk), lots of Tweets, it was the first book about the WAW, and there was also lots of publicity from Fáilte Ireland as they officially launched the WAW that year. Now there are several books, including one by David Flanagan and Richard Creagh who stole my title (apparently that is allowed, there is no copyright on titles). August is also late in the year to release a book about the WAW.

In order to let people know that the book was available again, I first decided to try Google Adwords. However, this is for businesses only and I would have had to set up a website dedicated to the WAW book from which I would have to sell the book from. It was not possible to point Google Ads at a page on Amazon. Then I discovered that Amazon sells advertising, and I decided to try out a short ad campaign with a budget of $100. It was really easy to set up:

I ran the campaign from the 8th of August to the 7th of September. The ad was displayed 41,697 times, but only generated 266 clicks. It is only when a computer user clicks on the ad that I have to pay for it - you can see above that these 266 clicks cost me $62.10. So did this campaign work? Sort of.

The sales for the Kindle version of the book during the campaign are charted below. It shows 19 books sold (red line) and some readers who accessed the book through Kindle Unlimited (blue line). 

The revenue from the sales above fell just short of campaign spend - the book is very cheap (£3.77) on Amazon. Since the campaign ended on Sept 7th, I have sold just four books in just over a month. It is safe to conclude that advertising generates sales, though not enough in my case to cover the cost. I will give it another go around May/June next year when tourists might be planning a holiday on the WAW - I may need to adjust the price upwards a little to cover costs.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Pint With My Dad in the @TheDyingCowPub #78

Today my Dad and I went to a pub that neither of us had ever been to before - the Dying Cow near Tinahely in South Co Wicklow. It is not often that I have my Dad to myself, and I very much appreciated the moment (and the pint!). Dad had heard of "creamy pints" in this pub near Tinahely, so in the interests of research, we decided to judge the creaminess of these pints for ourselves. 10/10 - brilliant!

This pub will be known to many who travel on the Wicklow Way. It also must be one of the smallest pubs in Ireland. In no time Dad and the proprietor (Mrs. Lil Dolan) were chatting about people they knew - and it was enjoyable listening to them. When I think back on our conversation today, it was mostly about family. We talked a lot about his Dad (PJ), and also about Newmarket in Co Cork where his Mum and Dad came from before they moved to Carnew in 1929. 

I am 57 years old, and most men that I know that are the same age as me, have lost their Dads - I am so lucky. Dad is just about the coolest 85-year old man in Ireland, and I love him to bits. I look forward to many more pints in out-of-the-way pubs like The Dying Cow.

How the Dying Cow got its name.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Great Presentation Tips from Business Insider #79

Every now and then we need and appreciate tips from experts on how to do things better. Today I came across a short video featuring Dananjaya Hettiarachchi who was the 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking. So he must be good, and he is. In this video, he shares four tips for better public speaking, which I can see could also be used by Lecturers to do their jobs better.

Hettiarachchi recommends:
  1. Don't cover your vital organs - keep your body open
  2. Open your palms to the audience
  3. Get comfortable with the stage
  4. Don't touch the podium (lectern)
Us Lecturers - we all want to be good presenters, even though it is not actually part of our job to be good at this. I have been to some shite lectures in my time (I'm sure some of my own students could say the same about my lectures!). Much of this is caused by very poor presentation skills. This is a shame, but there is no formal training or qualification in teaching required to be a Lecturer - so no surprise that some of us are shite at presentation.

Watch and learn and from an expert...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Google Translate in Class #Obvious #80

Recently I spotted two students in one of my tutorials using Google Translate to understand better the exercise I had set - I had not seen this done before in my class, though I'm sure it must have happened. When I think about it, it seems so obvious a thing to do for a student for whom English is not their first language. 

Image source: Circa Lingua.
I have no idea of the number of nationalities there are in any of my classes, or of the number of different languages that my students can speak. I can only speak one language: English. I did learn Irish, French, and Latin in school, but cannot converse in any of them and only remember a few words. On coming to the College, students may be required to pass an English Language test, but no matter how good your English is, it may not be quite as good as your native language. Think also of the case where English is not the first language of a lecturer - an extra barrier may make learning harder.

None of my course materials is made available to my students in any other language besides English. My lectures are in English, and my interactions with students in tutorials are in English. My exam papers are in English, as are assignments and projects. In short - I personally do not (nor cannot) provide resources for my students in any language other than English. The most important thing for a student to do in my class is to learn - and language should not be a barrier to this. 

As diversity increases in my classes, and will most likely continue to do so, it will surely become part of my preparation that my course materials should be easier for non-English native speakers to understand. So far I have not provided transcripts for my YouTube videos, but I'll need to consider doing this as text transcripts are easier to translate than audio. I'll need to be aware that course materials might be fed into Google Translate, so I have to be careful not to provide vital material in an image or in uneditable PDF format. This will become a challenge for all educators, but thanks to tools like Google Translate, I think that language will become less of a barrier.

This post translated into Chinese (Simplified) using Google Translate:


最近,我发现两名学生在我的教程的一个使用谷歌翻译,以更好地了解我已成立了锻炼 - 我没有看到ESTA前在我的课做的,但我敢肯定,它一定发生。当我仔细想想,现在看来,这么明显的事情对一个学生做的不是为谁英格尔他们的第一语言。

我没有国籍人数的想法有任何我的班,或者不同的语言,我的学生能讲的数量。我只能讲一种语言:英语。我没有学爱尔兰,法国和拉丁美洲在校学生,但在任何人不能交谈,只记得几句话。在来到学院,可以要求学生通过英语语言的文本,但无论你的英语有多好,它可能不会是相当作为您的母语一样好。也觉得的情况下英语不是讲师的第一语言的 - 一个额外的屏障,使学习更加努力。

我的课程材料概不就任何其他语言除了英语提供给我的学生。我的演讲是英语,我的相互作用与学生的教程都是英语。我的试卷是英语,因为是任务和计划。总之 - 我个人没有(也不可能),我的学生比其他英语的任何语言提供资源。一个学生在我的课上做的最重要的事情就是学习 - 和语言不应该是一个障碍了这一点。


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

SAS Analytics Forum #81

Today I attended the 2016 SAS Analytics Forum in Dublin - there were about 200 people at the Forum and we were well looked after by the SAS folks in the Herbert Park Hotel. As an academic, it is a good idea to keep up with what is happening in industry - hence my attendance today. 

Image source:
The story of SAS is a good one - we were given a short history to open the event. This was followed by the launch of two new products: SAS Viya, and SAS CI 360. These seem to be powerful tools, but we were not given an example of them in action. This was a recurrent theme throughout the day for me - the lack of examples of data analysis. The best parts of the day were testimonies from clients of SAS: AIB, Sport Ireland, and the Dept of Social Protection told us about SAS in their organizations and expressed great satisfaction of its use. Only Sport Ireland provided sample charts - an interesting example of one athlete's immunity levels and stress with follow-up actions.

After lunch, I attended two breakout sessions. I completely misunderstood what "Platform Management and Administration" was about. The first part turned out to be about Technical Support which I had no interest in. The second breakout session was much better with the SAS speaker telling us about Machine Learning and Deep Learning - very informative, though light on examples. Other sessions gave us tips about how to manage data projects and how to build a data analytics unit within a company - not what I had come to see.

Even though I am not a SAS software user, overall it was an enjoyable day with some learnings for me to take home. I would certainly like to have seen some examples of SAS software in use, though I understand that there might have been data protection and privacy issues preventing this.

An interesting observation for me was that the attendance was mostly made up of men. There was only one woman speaker (a former data analytics student of NCI). Our education system needs to adjust to get more women into STEM type courses - analytics is not just for men, it's for the ladies too!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Number of Overseas Visitors by Irish County (via @poloconghaile) @Tableau #Visualization #Analytics #HDSDA #82

Writing in today's Irish Independent, travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile tells us about the "Irish counties most (and least) visited by overseas tourists" plus the revenue from such visitors. The data are sourced from Fáílte Ireland. Visuals are not provided, just a table - so I thought it might be interesting to use Tableau to view the data in a different way. 

I have not yet cracked how Tableau handles Irish counties on a map. For the moment I am using Packed Bubble Charts to compare all 26 counties - no surprising information, just another way of looking at simple data. Here are the two charts side by side (click to enlarge):

Overseas Visitors

No surprise that Dublin is the biggest bubble in each chart. Cork, Galway, Kerry, and Clare are the next biggest - along with Dublin these are the most popular and profitable counties in Ireland for Overseas visitors. The figures do not include Irish holiday makers - if they did I suspect that Wexford and Donegal would be relatively bigger. Counties on the Wild Atlantic Way seem to be doing well, while the mainly midland counties are lagging behind in both numbers and revenue. Something for Fáilte Ireland to work on, maybe Ireland's Ancient East might bring more visitors in the next few years.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Good advice for everyone in IT - Learn to say "No" via @DesTraynor #83

I've just watched an excellent video presentation by Des Traynor (Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Intercom) on product strategy and about saying "no". The video is both entertaining and informative. I understand that this presentation was part of a competition in MIT in 2013, from which Traynor was disqualified for using too many slides. Apart from that, there are lessons for all Project Managers from Traynor's thoughtful musings. 

In my Project Management classes, one of my favourite statements that I make is in relation to scope creep: "If it is not on the Scope Statement, don't do it!". Change has to be controlled by developing processes to deal with change requests and managing its effect on the project - but sometimes the best way to control scope creep is by just saying "no". 

"No" can be a wise word!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Book Review: "Alexander Hamilton (Great Lives)" by Ron Chernow #84

Seldom have I enjoyed a biography as much as I did with Ron Chernow's brilliant book about the first Treasury Secretary of the United States - Alexander Hamilton. Most will know of him from the $10 bill (a recent plan to replace his image with one of Harriet Tubman has been reversed - she will replace the slave owner Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill instead). There are two reasons in the main why I enjoyed this book: first, it is very well written and easy to read, secondly, Hamilton was a fascinating character who crammed in so much into his short 49-year life.

Image source: Amazon.
Much is made of his rise from being an orphan born out of wedlock on the island of Nevis in the West Indies to being one of the founding fathers of the United States. He certainly was a self-made man who used his own initiative and brilliant brain to climb the political ladder. Inevitably he made enemies along the way like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Aaron Burr. He was a brave soldier during the Revolutionary War seeking to command as well as provide George Washington with advice that he both needed and valued. His setting up of banks and his steady hand at the helm of the Treasury Department ensured that the early days of the United States were successful. An abolitionist, slavery was always at the back of policy - he predicted 60 years before it eventually happened would end up causing a Civil War. His needless death at the hands of Aaron Burr in a duel cut short the life of one of the greatest Americans.

The award-winning musical "Hamilton" (based on Chernow's book) has also renewed interest in Alexander Hamilton. Is has been one of the most successful musicals ever on Broadway, and also one of the hottest tickets in New York. Some are available for next year - one seat will cost you $849 on Ticketmaster.

What stands out for me about Alexander Hamilton is his honesty and integrity - he never sought to benefit financially from his Government work, frequently going pro bono. His enemies accused him many times of corruption, but he died in debt and never had the riches he could have taken. Compare this to our politicians today and the candidates for the Presidency of the United States - a man like Hamilton would be a shining stand-out beacon of honesty and hope who would have always put his country first.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

New Fitbit #85

Having written a lot about data this week I am now going to create lots more data as I have received a Fitbit as a pressie. I am amazed at the amount of data that this little gadget collects - not just steps taken. I have had the Fitbit App on my phone for a few months now and find myself regularly looking at my activity (or non-activity!).

Image source: Walmart.
In reality, we don't need a gadget like this to tell us how active or fit we are - we all know this already. However, I find that in highlighting inactivity, that it does motivate to do a bit more - if I get near the recommended 10,000 steps a day, I feel challenged to try to get there. My Fitbit will now track not just my number of steps, but also my pulse, sleep patterns, calories burned, distance travelled - plus a lot more. If I wear this for the rest of my life, imagine the amount of data that it will gather? It will take a bit of getting used to. I now have my watch on one wrist, and the Fitbit on the other - I can already see the attraction of a Smartwatch that could do both (but I love my Nixon watch!). 

Data gleaned from Fitbits and such gadgets like this will inform the medical sciences about people's health in more ways than before. Writing in The Irish Times last week, Ciara O'Brien asks Does wearable technology deserve clean bill of health? She tells us about a new six-year study in America where 3,200 overweight and obese women have been given the same Fitbit as mine to wear. The aim of the study is to see if losing weight can help prevent early stage breast cancer from returning. No study will have had as much data like this before. 

For data scientists, this is an exciting new period for data analysis - what can we see that has not been seen before. Will it be possible to find a cure for cancer by examing data instead of developing new drug treatments? If I develop heart disease in 10 years time, will my 10 years worth of heart data be of use in treating me, or in helping to develop treatments for others? While traditional treatments and research will, and must continue - we will back it up with a lot more data than ever.

If there are research studies out there looking for a 57-year-old male with a Fitbit to take part in a study - I'm up for it. As I wrote yesterday, new GDPR regulations due in 2018, are targeted at personal data like genetic and biometric data. Fitbit the company is now collecting data on me, presumably they commit to not sharing it (I didn't read the Terms and Conditions - does anybody?). However, with my consent, I should be able to share it with my GP or a doctor treating me. The day is not far away when biometric data will become part of our patient history files. There are of course lots of data privacy and protection challenges - but data scientists should be ready for a whole new era of opportunity with data.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Warnings from Data Protection Commissioner via @IndoBusiness and @AdrianWeckler #Analytics #HDSDA #86

Helen Dixon is Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, and in today's Irish Independent Adrian Weckler reports that she was "speaking at a seminar on Europe's upcoming data law which will introduce fines of up to €20m on companies which don't comply with tighter data protection rules, known as GDPR". Dixon is quoted as saying that with "May 2018 fast approaching I would urge businesses that now is the time to commence their GDPR-readiness activities". So I decided to take a quick look at what this GDPR is.

Image source: Irish Computer Society.
A&L Goodbody provides a guide for businesses so that they can start taking steps now to prepare for implementation of the new rules. The first thing the GDPR does is broaden the definition of personal data and sensitive data, for example, to include genetic and biometric data. Businesses will be impacted by this. The GDPR also introduces a new concept of accountability, which requires data controllers to "be able to demonstrate how they comply with the data protection principle" - the business impact will be that organizations will have to "implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to demonstrate that their data processing is performed in accordance with the GDPR". Amongst other things, DPOs (Data Protection Officers) will have to be appointed in public bodies. In private companies DPOs will be needed where their "primary processing activities involve large-scale systematic monitoring of data subjects (e.g. companies carrying out online behavioural tracking or profiling activities as their core business); or involve large scale processing of sensitive data or data relating to criminal convictions (e.g. cloud companies, who store medical records or other sensitive data, as their core business)". 

I would certainly echo the Data Protection Commissioner's warnings in this matter - GDPO is coming down the road and we all better be ready for it.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Days of the week cycle data compared #Analytics #HDSDA #87

A final look at cycle counter data from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council compares the mean daily number of bicycles passing by the counter at Blackrock Park on the Rock Road on the way into Dublin. This time, I have taken the totals for each day of the week for 2015 (excluding the first and last incomplete weeks of the year), and plotted them on a bar chart (using Excel) as follows:

You can see Tuesday is the busiest day of the week with an average of 669.5 bicycles passing per day. Wednesdays and Thursdays are almost identical, with Mondays and Fridays trailing behind. Weekends have the lowest figures, with Sunday being the quietest day on this road.

So what can we read into this? We can't blame the weather for reduced cycling at weekends! No surprises, but it would appear that (along with other traffic) work days are busiest with people cycling to in the main to work and College. Why the difference between the days of the week? Cycling is, of course, a physical activity, and perhaps us south Dubliners are tired after a weekend. Friday is also a quieter day when many of us leave our bikes at home. 

I wonder if these patterns are replicated at other cycle counters elsewhere in Dublin and in other cities. Might be a nice student project for someone?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Cycle Counter Data for 2013/2014/2015 #RockRoad #Analytics #HDSDA #88

Following up on yesterday's post about bicycle data from a counter on the Rock Road in Dublin, I took a quick look at three years of data and used Excel to compare data for 2013, 2014, and 2015. A simple line plot was too messy, so I used a four-point moving average to smoothen the data for easier visualization. Here's what three years worth of data looks like:

Click image to enlarge.
For the most part, there is not much difference between the three years - it seems that the numbers of bicycles passing the counter on the Rock Road are consistent and not showing growth over the three years. Without using trendlines (pointless in cyclical data), it appears that 2015 (blue line) and 2014 (red line) are close together throughout the year. 2013 (green line) seems to vary a bit more - especially during March where the figures are consistently below 2014 and 2015. 

Click image to enlarge.
Image source: Met  Éireann.
I checked the Monthly Summaries and Bulletins page for data for March 2013 at Met Éireann who reported that it was the "COLDEST MARCH ALMOST EVERYWHERE". Dublin Airport reported a mean temperature of 3.1°C, its coldest March since the weather station there opened in 1942. If you look closely at the rainfall map for March 2013 you'll see a particularly dark patch (indicating rainfall 200% to 250% of normal) for the South Dublin and the Dún Laoghaire area. Perhaps us South Dubliners are averse to a bit of cold and wet weather? It's no surprise to find a weather impact on cycling data on a daily or even weekly basis, but a prolonged period of a month where day-after-day there was wet and cold weather clearly has a longer term effect. If you look closely again at the chart above you'll also see that the data for 2013 (green line) during April lags behind similar figures for 2014 and 2015. Perhaps a weariness with bad weather forced South Dubliners to jump into their Mercs or take the DART to work!


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Data from Bicycle Counter on the Rock Road #Analytics #HDSDA #89

This morning I was cyclist #413 who passed the bicycle counter on the Rock Road in Booterstown at about 8:30, and I also noticed that there were a lot of other cyclists sharing the road with me. The counter was busy and I guess it is great for the health of the city that 413 cyclists had passed this point already this morning (not to mention how environmentally wonderful we are by reducing carbon emissions and making the planet a safe place to live for all).

The Rock Road counter clocks up hundreds of bicycles passing each day, and I wondered what happens to these data. Does it rest in a database deep in a server in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council offices where no one can access it? Are the data guarded like the Third Secret of Fatima? Can anyone just look it up?

It turns out that it took just a few seconds for me to find data from this (and other counters) freely available from Dubl:nked - "Sharing Data, Sharing Ideas, Connecting the Dublin Region". So I decided to take a quick look to see what can be gleaned from these data which can be downloaded in both .xlsx and .csv format. The data that I was interested in is the daily totals passing the counter labelled "Rock Road *Bus Lane Beside Park" (column K in the 2015 dataset). Data for 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 are available for review and analysis. The corresponding dates to today (first Tuesday in October) for each year show figures of 766, 862, 503, and 733 respectively.

A simple line plot (done in Excel) of the number of bicycles recorded per day in 2015 looks like as follows:

Click image to enlarge.
A clear weekly pattern emerges with most peaks being in the middle of the week (Tuesday is almost always the highest daily figure), with Sundays and Saturdays almost always being the lowest. There is a peak of 1445 bicycles passing on Thursday 2nd April - I wonder if this is an error? A quick check on the Events page of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council's website does not mention a cycle race or event on this day, and the data for all other counters in the dataset provides no clue. Other interesting dates to look at are holidays - for example, there is an unusual mid-week drop on St Patrick's Day (Tuesday 17th March, 231 bicycles), and of course on Christmas Day when 38 hardy souls went out for a ride before settling down to turkey and ham. Leaving out the 2nd April figure, the two highest dates are on Tuesday 30th June and Tuesday 29th September. You can also see that there is a general increase in weekly totals from January to June, followed by a fall-off during the summer, and increase in the Autumn, and a decline at the end of the year. I also picked out Saturday 2nd May as it seemed to be unusually low compared to other Saturdays. According to Met Éireann, this was a very wet, windy, and cold day.

So - the point of above is that these data are freely available for researchers to analyse. So far there is just four year's worth of data available. In the future, this will make for more interesting work when the data are richer and can be compared to other datasets, or combined with the likes of weather, other traffic, and accident data. Data such as this can inform local authorities to make decisions on the likes of cycle lanes and facilities for cyclists. The Rock Road is not bad for cyclists, with cycle lanes for most of the way from Blackrock to Dublin City Centre (the section between the Tara Towers Hotel and the Merrion Gates is a notorious and dangerous exception to this). 

For any HDSDA students reading this, there is not enough data so far to work with on a project, but you might consider comparing this to other city locations or other cities - plus combine with the likes of weather data.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Data Science in a Bank #90

Today I attended a lunchtime talk (by one of my former students!) who is a Data Scientist in one of Ireland's leading banks. It was an event organized for our data analytics students and over 100 turned out to hear what a bank does with data, and also to find out about the types of skills needed to be a data scientist. 

Image source: International Excellence.
I was interested to discover that this bank has almost a dozen employees in its newly formed Data Science Unit. Like most organizations, this bank is sitting on a vast amount of data, and they are looking to find out what is in the data that they did not see before. Their team has many different backgrounds with a good mix of business, scientific, and technical backgrounds. What was clear is that this team needs to be able to "tell a story...has to be clear...has to be simple". Some examples of the work shown to us was how the bank analyses sentiment on Twitter (and how to deal with the Irish sense of humour and sarcasm), using sunburst diagrams to analyse web traffic, and to show how tourists from different countries in Ireland use ATMs (and work with tourist bodies to share data). Data governance and regulatory compliance were also very important items to consider "every day".

All in all, it was a very interesting session that should give our students an insight into what data scientists do. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Brothers #91

I got a chance to show off my bike to my two brothers Joe and Brian in Ballingate today. They wanted me to do some wheelies! I didn't! Brian is home in Ireland from England for a few days and it was great to hook up with him again. I think they would like to try some wheelies on the bike themselves? The very friendly and energetic dogs are Poppy and Gipsy.

This photo was taken today (thanks Miriam) in the driveway of where we grew up in Ballingate. 45 years ago we were little boys running around here in short trousers - we are probably a little bit more grown up now. 

Coastal Defences #92

Wexford County Council are doing sterling work to protect Donaghmore Cemetery from erosion by installing some coastal defences on Roney Beach. Local houses that were literally hanging over the edge have been demolished. The garden of our house is now about 10 metres from the edge and getting closer to the sea. Lots of rocks (from Arklow quarry) are required to protect the coast - the sea will not stop unless more are installed to stop further erosion.

While looking at the scenes below I joined for the first time the millions of people who have broken the glass on their tablet - I dropped my iPad on the rocks below. It's still working, but I feel such an idiot. Shit.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Baad riting distroy's produktiviti via @HarvardBiz #93

There is an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review this month by Josh Bernoff: "Bad Writing Is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity". The article starts with:

A hidden source of friction is slowing your company down. Your workers are complicit in it. So is your management. And it’s driving everybody nuts.

It’s bad business writing.

Car park sign at Cambridge University.
Image source: The Telegraph.
I couldn't agree more. I work in an academic institution so thankfully "bad business writing" is rare, but none of us is perfect (or is it "are perfect"?). Recently at a meeting, I got up on my high horse and moaned about the misspelling of names on a list of names. I hate it when someone spells my name wrong - often the apostrophe is left out. I have taken in the recent past to add fadas to Irish names such as Seán, Oisín, and Sinéad - it's only one extra keypress on the keyboard and the effort involved is minuscule. To me if you take your business seriously, it is not a tough ask to get a person's name right, and by extension other words too.

Josh Bernoff gives us the following points to consider...
  • Vague writing dilutes leadership
  • Clarity in marketing tells customers — and workers — that they can trust you
  • Fuzzy writing allows fuzzy thinking
  • A culture of clear writing makes managers more productive

...and he gives excellent examples from Yahoo, Apple, and Google to prove his points. He begs us to "clear all the crap out of your inboxes", and to commit to a "culture of clarity". Apart from improving productivity in a business, it makes life a lot less annoying. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Interesting Trends about Book Sales from The Association of American Publishers via @AmericanPublish #94

Sales of eBooks are in decline according to recent data published by The Association of American Publishers (AAP) for March 2016 - down 21.8% year-over-year. Hardback book sales also declined (by 8.5%), while paperbacks grew by 6.1%. What's interesting is the audio book sales increased by a huge 35.3% over the same period. Does this represent a shift from reading to listening?

Certainly I would have expected eBook sales to be increasing rather than decreasing - especially given that they tend to be a lot cheaper than paper versions and that they are easy to read on Kindles. But as I wrote in blog post #128, "Sales of ebooks are not rising fast enough to match the decline of printed textbooks", so there seems to be a trend of decline in ebook sales that has publishers worried. However, it could be now that audio books sales can compensate instead. 

Image source: Jackie Lea Sommers.
Blogger and author Jackie Lea Sommers puts it nicely when she writes why she thinks that audiobooks are sometimes better: "Audiobooks have been a huge blessing in my life; they entertain me on long car rides, distract me from my OCD, help me fall asleep at night, and make mundane things (like driving, cleaning, etc.) worthwhile because I’m engaging my mind". She, like others, prefers audio version to paper. 

Last year I listened to the incredibly popular Serial Podcast series about the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee. Essentially it was like an audio book, except it is not published as a book. I have never bought or listened to a real audio book, but I think I'll give it a try. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two New Videos for SPSS #Analytics #Statistics #HDSDA #95

I have been using IBM's SPSS in my Statistics classes for the past three years, but until now I have never created any videos for this tool. YouTube already has several videos on how to do stuff in SPSS, but I've decided to add to these to create study and revision aids for my own students.

The first video, "How To... Calculate the Mean, Median, and Mode in SPSS", is a fairly short and simple exercise to calculate three average measures of central tendency: mean, median, and mode. I use a small sample of 25 values (test scores) and walk through step-by-step how to use SPSS to calculate and output these descriptive statistics:

In the second video, How To... Calculate Measures of Variability (Range, Variance, and Standard Deviation) in SPSS, I show how to determine measures of variability using the range, variance, and standard deviation statistics. This time I am using 30 values - the test is also straightforward to do and I walk the learner through this step-by-step:

My expectations for getting high numbers of views for these videos are low. Others that I've seen on YouTube do not have the high Views figures that Excel videos seem to get. Nevertheless, I hope they are useful to my own students - and many others out there in YouTube land.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Comparing Counties and Regions of Ireland: Men vs Women who have a Degree or Professional Qualification #Analytics #HDSDA #96

Following yesterday's post about the number of degrees per region in Ireland, more interesting comparisons can be made when you compare the numbers of men and women with honours degrees (or a professional qualification). The Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS)) divides the Republic of Ireland into 34 areas and also provides the numbers of people in each area who have a degree as their highest qualification. The data are broken down for men and women and I have used Tableau Software below to plot a clustered bar chart of the percentage of both for each area (the figures are for all adults only aged 18 and over):

Click image to enlarge.

Some interesting facts emerge. In every area except Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR), there are more women than men with a degree or professional qualification. A whopping 15.8% of men have this level of education in DLR - the highest in the country, compared to 13.4% of women (the second highest in the country). The lowest figure for men is 4.3% in Offaly, and for women it is 5.7% in Limerick City. In the major urban areas (eg DLR, Fingal, Dublin City, Galway City, and Cork) the difference between men and women is not nearly as marked as it is in rural areas. The biggest gap is 3.3% in Monaghan, where the figure for women is 7.6% and the figure for men is 4.4% (figures rounded). 

These data contrast sharply with the percentage of the population in each county for the number of men and women with a PhD. In almost every county, the number of men with a PhD exceeded the number of women, while the reverse is the case above for honours degrees. The obvious conclusion here is that far more men than women go on to postgraduate study. Note that there is no age breakdown provided in SAPS for qualifications - I suspect that the number of degrees is much higher for people under 50 than over this age. 

Similar statistics for the 2016 Census are due to be published in March 2017, and it will be interesting to make comparisons with above data. We should see a slight increase in numbers, but by how much and will it be across all counties and areas?

Monday, September 26, 2016

How do Counties and Regions in Ireland Compare for Number of Degrees? #Analytics #HDSDA #97

Last week I noticed a jump (4 times normal) in the number of views on this blog when I posted about "Which is the smartest county in Ireland?" - I compared the 26 counties for total number of PhDs, and followed up the next day with a breakdown for men and women. It was interesting to note the wide discrepancies between the counties with high numbers of PhDs and low numbers. Today I'm taking a quick look at some more Small Area Populations Statistics (SAPS) from the Central Statistics Office (2011 Census).

The data are downloaded in CSV format from SAPS and the data I am examining relates to the number of people in each of the 34 areas with "Honours Bachelor Degree, Professional Qualification (or both)" as the highest level of education achieved. I am only using data for adults (18 or over). I used Excel to convert that actual numbers in each area into a percentage of the adult population within each area to make for more useful comparisons. Below is a bar plot (drawn using R) comparing each of the 34 areas given in the SAPS data:

Click on image to enlarge.

You can already see that there is a less dramatic difference between areas than for doctorate degrees. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown comes out the highest with 14.5% of the adult population having a degree or professional qualification. Galway city, Fingal, and Dublin City are next on around 10% each, with surprisingly (to me) South Dublin lagging behind on 8%. County Offaly is the county with the lowest number of percentage degrees on 5.5%. Despite the presence of the University of Limerick and Limerick IT, Limerick City has the second lowest proportion of degrees at 5.7% - interestingly Limerick county is on 7.7%. As with the PhD data, counties and areas where there are no Colleges (with the exception of Limerick) tend to have a lower proportion of their populations having a degree or professional qualification. 

I don't think we can read into these data that there is an educational divide between rural and urban areas. Urban areas are where the jobs are for people with degrees, so I'm guessing that the differences are due as much to this rather than there are (for example) less Offaly people with a degree than other areas. 

Tomorrow I'll take a look at comparing men and women in each area.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two Pints #98

A real pleasure today to bring my Dad Joe to the local (The Wishing Well) for a pint. He does not come to Dublin that often these days - normally it is usually me going down to Carnew or Kildavin to have a pint with him. We both like our Guinness and I thought that a photo of the two of us would look great on my blog for today's post. We had a great chat about family, and as always Dad is great company and full of good cheer. 

Earlier we had been to see my Mum Phil in the Hermitage Clinic where she is recovering very well from a knee operation. Here we were also talking about family and she mentioned that her grandmother Margaret (Coburn) Byrne was a Protestant. Nothing at all wrong with that of course, but I never knew I was one eight "Protestant", having always assumed that all my ancestors were Catholic. Something to add to my family tree!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Demographic Divide in the Irish Workplace via @aon_plc #AnotherReminderOfMyAge #99

Aon has produced an interesting infographic comparing Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, and Generation Z. I was born in 1959, so I guess that this makes me a Baby Boomer - these are generally classified as people who were born in the years after the Second World War. In 2010, Baby Boomers started to reach retirement age (in countries where 65 is the retirement age) - I am due to retire in 2026 at the age of 67. While a graphic like this is a reminder of my age, it also gives an interesting insight into the structure of our workforce in Ireland as the Baby Boomers are slowly disappearing, while bubble passes on to the Generation X'ers and Millenials. It will seem like in no time at all that Baby Boomers will not be on an infographic like this in the future.

Click image to enlarge.
Image source: Aon.
Note the "Communication preferences". It says Baby Boomers prefer to use "face to face", "telephone", and "increasingly email". I have been using email since 1995 on almost a daily basis since I got my first Ireland On-line account. I'm not sure that I agree with this statement about Baby Boomers, but then again I was born right at the end of this generation. I can't imagine that there are many office workers in Ireland between the ages of 57 and 67 that do not use email. Interestingly, the Generation Z preference is for instant messaging apps and social media - not a sign of face to face, telephone, or email. The business world will have to prepare for this and I'm certain that a lot of business opportunities will be created for new types of communication by some clever Millenials and Z'ers.

Even though I am technically part of the Baby Boomer generation, I feel more in tune with Generation X. I am very much a digital immigrant - I told students in a class on Tuesday that it was around 1984 (at the age of 35) when I touched a computer for the first time. So I did not grow up with computers, and only started to use them when I was doing postgraduate studies in Trinity from 1984 to 1987. I was lucky to get work (in CBT Systems in 1989) at a time when the IT industry was only getting off the ground in Ireland. I'd love to be alive in 100 years time to see what a 2116 version of this infographic would look like.