Are We Mimetic?

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This blog has moved

Posted by Adrian on 2010-12-09

This blog is now hosted at http://arewemimetic.westmast.net.

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A portable data analyst’s environment

Posted by Adrian on 2010-03-30

In my paying job, I am an information management consultant. My work includes data analysis, data profiling and data quality improvement. It can take some time to get access and resources necessary to perform what I’ve been engaged to do.

Every client (and employer for that matter) has different tools and utilities, and usually takes a slow route through procurement.

My technique to quick results invokes a simple mantra: portable open source applications on Windows.
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Posted in Information Management, Portable Apps, Programming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Extreme visualisation

Posted by Adrian on 2010-03-30

Regardless of the delivery mechanism or viewing technology, the core of BI is the presentation of meaningful information in a concise and efficient manner.

To illustrate some inventive solutions, I searched for actual or simulated biological systems. I looked for time-lapse predator/prey models or bacterial culture growth. In explaining the movement of thought leaders through topic space in a social network, I wanted to find flocking behaviour. For something close, particle systems like Boids are a good base.

A great site aggregating some exciting work in visualisation is Visual Complexity. The closest bacterial analogy was an animation of HIV transmission pathways. This example shows perfectly a different way of illustrating growth of networks/relationships over time using a time-lapse animation technique.

Representing relationships between geospatial points is becoming increasingly important. If you use point to point lines, the information gets lost quickly. The technique of edge bundling assists in grouping and colouring relationships to extract meaning.

Force edge bundling

It is usual to limit spatial visualisation techniques to geospatial representation. It is possible to describe a topic related abstract space to assist in visualising multidimensional data which has no geospatial dimension. A tool for performing this in the context of library borrowings grouped by Dewey classification shows the power of this method.

Dewey based visualisation of library borrowings

Dewey based visualisation of library borrowings


Continuing on the abstract space theme, hierarchical edge bundling allows for representing relationships spatially.

Hierarchical edge bundling

Perhaps the best example bringing all this together, and relevant to the Global Financial Crisis, is a timelapse Flash animation of
US trade deficits from 1998 to 2008.

Posted in Information Management, Summit 2009 | Leave a Comment »

Technorati claim

Posted by Adrian on 2009-11-24

I hereby claim this blog in my Technorati profile by uttering the magic incantation CJBYFQF8BJTM and Q6HZGSYQ4W27.

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Adventures in visualisation

Posted by Adrian on 2009-11-11

Traditionally, Business Intelligence (BI) has delivered simple and workmanlike information formats. The bread and butter of these are tables, pivot tables (crosstabs) and charts. Since the 1990s, these have been collected into portals & dashboards to provide an individualised “one-stop shop” for business information needs. For the more data adept, analytic capabilities have been added as part of the GUI experience.

While perfectly adapted to day-to-day activities, these approaches are usually in a separate environment to an information consumer’s main workspace.
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Posted in Business Intelligence, Information Management, Summit 2009 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Choosing a web application framework

Posted by Adrian on 2009-02-09

A long time ago, when Java was just a little way on from being an acorn, I started learning it as an alternative to hand coded web forms and CGI scripts. The concept was to build web apps using the existing framework. Then I hit AWT’s core issues: form design in code and event loops. Ugh!

After experiencing both Mac and Windows event loop ugliness, I had escaped into the Paradox and Delphi haven, where the core libraries handled default behaviours, and all I had to do was extend the base with my specific functionality. Linked GUI and database elements made it easy for data entry and display in Borland’s offerings. However, the technology was limited to application development for Windows.

Now, Java is a behemoth, and would take a substantial investment of time to come back up to speed, and a large number of framework choices to make.

I took up Perl in the late 90s, and found a fast data manipulation & automation language that spoke my language. There were some exciting things happening in the web space (apart from the ever present CGI.pm).

PHP, Python, and Ruby sprung from the dark and shone out as scripting beacons. Perl had Catalyst, Maypole and .*App.* varieties; Ruby had Rails.

Each framework had a good start, but still relied on tedious coordination of database, object and presentation layers.

So after a long hiatus, I returned to an overwhelming array of choices in the web application framework space. Given that it is easy for analysis paralysis to set in, I decided to make a quick assessment, rather than a thorough one. Why? (It should be obvious….I wanted to develop something, and not contribute to the hue, cry and inevitable flame wars a full evaluation article would raise.)

So after a number of likely candidates, I chose PHP as the language, and Symfony as the framework. I selected PHP to learn a new language, and for the ubiquity of PHP module development for existing solid web applications. I selected Symfony for the design once/generate many philosophy used for database and object structures, and the ability to reverse engineer an existing schema into the ORM.

Resources

The resources below are not comprehensive, but represent the breadcrumb trail I took in my evaluation.

General Framework/MVC:

PHP:

Perl:

Java:

Posted in Commentary, Programming | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A belated (re)entry into blogging

Posted by Adrian on 2009-02-02

It’s been a while…. a long while.

After mucking about with static html, roll-your-own, bloxsom and Movable Type, I parked the blogging aspects. I can blame all sorts of things – lack of time, family priorities, lots of other shiny things; it comes down to will & desire.

Why now?

Simply, I need a web presence. I need a portfolio/showcase. I want to contribute back to the web community. (And yes, I want to add my voice to the maelstrom of push monologuing… .)

There is no central theme, aside from my observations of life as I know it.

Enjoy the ride!

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