Data Fellowship – BCS Level 4 Diploma in Data Analysis Concepts

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As part of my Data Fellowship that I am currently taking, today I sat the first exam for “BCS Level 4 Diploma in Data Analysis Concepts” – QAN 603/0823/0.

The last exam that I took was in an examination centre where you turn up and sit at an already configured computer. This time I sat the exam at home in my dining room with camera and microphones on. Special software ensuring that my only windows open are the exam and meeting room with the invigilator watching me.

Sitting down getting ready for the exam, I hit that unfortunate moment of your laptop is about to reboot and install an operating system upgrade. Great timing! Just enough time to get another device loaded with the right software and logins to the required pages. Not a good start to entering an exam for the mindset, but all went well in the end.

Study for this stage of the Data Fellowship has been part of the apprenticeship course and objectives. For me it was a cementing of the concepts and bringing some areas up to date.

Objectives are: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of Data Analysis and its underlying architecture, principles, and techniques. Key areas are:

  1. Explore the different types of data, including open and public data, administrative data, and research data
  2. Understand the data lifecycle
  3. Illustrate the differences between structured and unstructured data
  4. Understand the importance of clearly defining customer requirements for data analysis
  5. Understand the quality issues that can arise with data and how to avoid and/or resolve these
  6. Explore the steps involved in carrying out routine data analysis tasks
  7. Understand the range of data protection and legal issues
  8. Explore the fundamentals of data structures
  9. Explore the database system design, implementation, and maintenance
  10. Understands the organisation’s data architecture
  11. Understands the importance of the domain context for data analytics

Source: Syllabus

Exam passed and certificate issued. Now on with the next learning/revision for the BCS Level 4 Certificate in Data Analysis Tools.

Are you patching your network devices at home?

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There is nothing more annoying when your working on your computer and that popup appears saying “Reboot Now to complete the patch”. Thankfully some vendors have got wise to this over the years and have added changes to update at reboot/shutdown or allow to to choose a time. Annoying as it is, these patches are important and should not be ignored or delayed too long before applying.

Padlock Gates

When you think about patching/upgrading what do you think of?

  • PC/Laptop/Tablet
  • Mobile
  • Network

The typical focus of home users is around the end device we use rather than the other parts of the homes IT infrastructure.

A lot of home users these days rely on service provided network equipment such as routers from their internet service provider, but are these kept up to date? A recent study by Which found that millions of routers are not updated to the latest patches or had weak passwords and providers have been stated that they monitor and update their routers.

If you have your own router on the end of a connection, time to check when it was last updated. If its a managed device you can usually log in to it and check the last patch applied date. Is it being updated?

A recent discovery of FragAttacks (attacks that exploit security vulnerabilities that affect Wi-Fi devices) have shown that it is possible to steal data from any WiFi network that’s not patched, however its not an easy attack to recreate and vendors have been issuing patches to protect against this. This highlights the need for patching and updates to not just your end user device, but network devices as well.

As per a previous blog post – Good practices to adopt are

  • Check the manufactures website for firmware or driver updates on a regular basis – All devices within the home
  • If the device software allows a check to be made for updates on a regular basis make use of the tool
  • Use strong passwords
  • Change any default passwords
  • Don’t use the same password on different systems
  • Use passwords on your video calls
  • Use a VPN if working from home
  • Turn on two factor authentication on applications that allow it
  • Use Anti-virus and malware apps

If this is all second nature to you that’s great, however it may not be to others. Reach out to your family and friends and talk them through what they need to do so it becomes second nature to them.

You are only secure as your last update/patch!

Further Reading

Looking at upcycling a mobile phone

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Across the modern developed world, there are draws of old mobile devices in peoples houses and offices that are no longer used or in fashion. In some cases they are very old devices and in others the pull of the latest model has drawn the user to the new version or the software has stopped working on the older version.

By 2024 Statsia states there will be around 17.72 billion mobile devices operating in the world. That’s a lot of devices!

I will hazard a guess here and say there will also be a very high figure around the amount that will be still sat in desk draws.

Before I get onto upcycling I need to cover two areas – Recycling and Keeping up with the Neighbours

Recycling

With the many recycling programs that vendors are putting in place the number of mobiles left outside of these programs is high. Mainly due to age of the mobile and damage to the device which makes it not worth anything for a person to send their phones in (main damage being to the screen). Yes I have a couple of these from family members that I need to get recycled.

“Smartphones are made up of around 30 elements, including copper, gold and silver for wiring and lithium and cobalt in the battery” Source :https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mobile-phones-elements-periodic-table-endangered-chemicals-st-andrews-a8739921.html

http://www.indepenent.co.uk

There should be a bigger push to get these devices recycled to help reduce the impact on the earth and increase our sustainability. The main rewards for recycling a phone are for those that are mainly intact and hold some resale value. Once a phone has been dropped and damaged, to some its a thing that no longer holds value and therefore ends in the draw or hopefully not the bin.

There are some things that need to happen for users to help adopt this strategy:

  • Greater publicity around the value of the old phones
  • Guaranteed security of the destruction of data on the phone
  • Giving the user something back for recycling

Keeping up with the Neighbours

With new phones/models being produced each year how often do you hear things like:

  • “Oh the latest XYZ phone is out – I must get that!”
  • “Well I have a bit of damage on this phone so Ill get a new one as its coming out”
  • “We will no longer support that operating system version past dd/mm/yyyy”
  • “The cost of repair is quite high, its more economical to get a new one”
  • “Ohhh Shiny!!!”
  • “<Insert your own here>”
  • etc.etc.

Upcycling

Having had an android based phone for a number of years, I have been keeping an eye on what Samsung have been proposing since 2017 – Galaxy upcycling. However I haven’t heard much until recently with Samsung announcing the use of old mobiles being used with SmartThings Labs.

Reusing my old mobile devices as part of my home automation system to provide a number of screens and control points around the house appeals to me as I’m sure it would for lots of other people.

Rather than phasing out devices with operating systems that no longer work, having an option to reuse the device with a different operating system (changed) so it can operate as part of a home automation system would have massive appeal to the market and help drive the sustainability agenda. Okay, reduce the functionality of the phone to help secure it, but lets keep these devices useful with some code.

Okay so my screen may have a crack in it, but a screen protector over that and put into a cradle on the wall suits me fine.

So whats next? Dig out my old device, put some power in it and see what I can do with Home Automation.

Logical and Creative Thinking

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Right Side vs Left Side of brain

Our brain is an amazing organ of that learns, remembers, controls, moves, repairs a complex body. It is in control of lots of functions and as part of that it is also responsible for our Logical and Creative Thinking. There are lots of articles that talk about the left side of the brain being responsible for Logical and the right side for Creativity. This was first researched by Roger Wolcott Sperry with his work on the split brain.

There are lots of articles that talk about people being left or right dominant on the brain, hence being more logical or creative, however more recently published articles and research show that the activity in the brain is similar on both sides of the brain regardless of how dominant they are “An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging“.

Either way the brain is still an amazing thing and you can learn to use both Logical and Creative Thinking techniques, you just need to apply a growth mindset.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Logical Thinking

Logical thinking helps us to make “sense” of things, coming up with solutions and in decision making.

The five W’s and 1 H are commonly used as questioning to help form logical thinking. These are

  • Who
  • When
  • Why
  • What
  • Where
  • How

Some add another H – How Much to the list as cost can play an important factor in decisions.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking helps us approach things with an out of the box approach and an ability to look at things through different lenses to discover new solutions.

Balanced View

Taking a balanced view across Logical and Creative thinking, the Six Thinking Hats written by Dr. Edward de Bono starts to provide a balanced view by using the idea of parallel thinking to plan and use thinking more effectively. This can include logical and creative thinking.

Blue Hat – Process

  • manage process
  • action plans
  • next steps
  • reviewing thinking
  • summary

White Hat – Facts

  • data
  • facts
  • information needed
  • information available

Red Hat – Feelings

  • feelings
  • hunches
  • instinct
  • intuition

Green Hat – Creativity

  • creativity
  • solutions
  • ideas
  • alternatives
  • possibilities

Yellow Hat – Benefits

  • positives
  • brightness and optimism
  • value
  • benefits

Black Hat – Cautions

  • difficulties
  • potential problems
  • weaknesses

Build on the Skills

Learn different ways of thinking

Learn some new ways of thinking that you have not used before.

Practice and mix it up

As the phrase goes “Practice makes perfect”. Using different methods of thinking can bring different views and possibly different solutions to the problem/challenge.

Personally I have created my own set of cards based on several ways and methods of thinking that I use when I am looking at a problem. See my blog post Playing a Game with Innovation and Thinking.

Work with others

There is nothing better than working with others to bring in different views and ways of thinking that you may not have thought of previously. This is a great way of seeing how other people approach the problem/challenge and help identify if there are areas you can improve/learn on.

Be creative

Spend some time on creative hobbies that will help you build you creative thinking.

Learning a new skill

Learning a new skill will help you develop your thinking.

Further Reading

Experimental Mindset

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We have all at sometime done some sort of experiment, from maybe from a young age as to see which cry and actions resulted in the reward of milk to test driving cars to find which is best suited to your needs before you buy it. These are experiments that produced results from things we have tried and may not have thought about it as developing an Experimental Mindset. In this article I am concentrating on how this applies to data.

Here are my notes from my research into the topic.

The main areas for an Experimental Mindset are:

In order to constantly learn you need to be open to learning and develop your Growth Mindset. I have covered this in another blog so wont repeat here: Having the Right Digital Mindset: Business (Change, Agility and a Growth Mindset).

Having an Experimental Mindset is one of the key traits in being a Data Analyst or Data Scientist and it is not a new term. This has been around as long as the field of science and research has. These arena have developed methodologies that have been adopted and taken forward by many other areas such as business and computing that can be used for testing and evaluating.

At a high level this methodology can be shown as:

Observations –> Hypothesis –> Scientific Law

Overlaid with the areas for data this can be shown as:

Observations (Learning) –> Hypothesis (Testing) –> Scientific Law (Evaluating)

or as:

Observations (Data) –> Hypothesis (Product/Service) –> Scientific Law (Predictive Model)

Using this methodology, one of the more common types of Hypothesis Testing is A/B Testing. This sets out a framework for a simple controlled experiment against two versions (A and B) to look at the impact of changes to a thing or product. Some useful articles on A/B Testing are listed below that go into the details of it:

Udacity host a course by Google on A/B testing.

There are some risks to A/B Testing that should be considered when reviewing the results:

  • Sampling Bias
  • Study Population
  • Target Population
  • Segmentation
  • World Time Zones
  • Target Population
  • Data/Privacy Laws

I will go further into the realms of A/B testing in a later blog post.

Further Reading

Data Storytelling

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Humans have been using the medium of storytelling since the begining, but only really recording it from the moment a wet painted hand went onto a cave wall. These days we read stories in books or access stories over the internet on our tablets and other devices.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The main key to all of storytelling is data in one form or another. From 1 x wooly mammoth and 3 x hunters (thats 4 items of data) in a cave painting to the complexity of how many bits and bytes are in an online book.

For a good explanation on What is data?Cassie Kozyrkov, Head of Decision Intelligence,@ Google has written some great posts and videos on the subject.

So when we have data, we use stories to explain what it is telling us – hopefully not through 1000’s of powerpoint slides…….Make it Stop!!. What are you going to put in those slides that will keep the audience hooked and focused.

Stories are normall based around a simple concept of beginning, middle and end, however there is more to it that that if you want to tell a good story.

The first thing through before getting to the story is to make sure you understand what the data is telling you. If you don’t understand the data and your asked a question, will you be able to answer it or further illustrate your point. Keep in mind – EVALUATE – LEARN – PRACTICE. Then maybe practice some more until you are confident with what your about to talk about.

Decluttered and simple visuals help to tell the story and keep the audience focused on what you are telling them, rather than they spend the time trying to understand what all that text and facts are on the screen. Information is Beautiful is a site that shows some ways to display data visually in easy to understand ways by David McCandless. Here is his TED talk:

Stories normally follow a Heroes Journey which takes the plot line through a series of steps to keep the audience wanting more and to continue to read the rest or listen until the end. When storytelling about data, as similar construct can be used using the Heroes Journey:

SequenceHeroes Storytelling StepData Storytelling Step
1Status QuoWhats the current normal
2Call to AdvetureThe Question (What is being asked of the data)
3AssistanceWhat are the Sources
4DepatureTurn the data into something understandable
5TrailsData Analysis
6ApproachMethods used
7CrisisData Modelling / Wrangling
8TreasureThe Findings
9ResultResult
10ReturnPresentation
11New LifeNew normal
12ResolutionReview
13EndEnd or maybe a different question?
Data Storytelling using a Heroes Journey

There is a good explanation of the different styles of Heroes Journey on Wikipedia. the above table is change a bit. Heres a video that goes through a format:

Now we have a structure, how you tell the story is just as important. How can you pursuade the audience about the data and point of view that you are presenting?

There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, be able (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and (3) to understand the emotions–that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.

Aristotle

Aristotle set out his Powers of Persuasion in four areas:

  • Ethos – Author/Speaker (Character, Credibility, Authority, Truthfulness)
  • Pathos – Howtopic effects you – connect and bridge the gap (Current emotional state, Target emotional state)
  • Logos – Why it effects you – story / proposal (Reasonablenss, Consistancy, Clarity)
  • Karios – Time and place

Ethos – ‘It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.’

Pathos ‘persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.’

Logos ‘persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.’

Rhetoric, Aristotle

Karios is an Ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment.

How we can use these areas is illustrated in this example:

When preparing for the Storytelling session its worth checking that you are not going to fall into the trap of the “echo chamber effect”.  From my post on the subject I have created the following term to help me remember – STACK

  • Step Back
  • Think
  • Absorb other views
  • Challenge your thinking
  • communicate your Knowledge

Storytelling is more trustworthy than just presenting data on its own. One to consider when you create your next PowerPoint Presentation.

Further Reading

Data Fellowship

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Data, it’s everywhere and there are thousands, millions, billions…… lets just say “lots” of data created evry second of the day, from articles and discussions on the internet, to texts and whats apps, to cars, to well anything with a chip in it really. It goes a huge way to ruling our lives and telling us how to live, from what to eat to the carbon footprint of the world. so when I was given an opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship in Data Analytics on a Data Fellowship Apprenticeship over the next 18 months. Of course Im going to jump at that!

A great way to check my understanding and knowledge on things and learn many new things and more importantly for me provide a qualification at Data Analyst Level 4 standard.

So what is the So What? At the moment the programme is starting, so not much to report back so far, however I have started to document some of my journey and bits in my GitHub repo and will use this and my blog to record my thoughts and learnings going forward. Watch this space as they say.

Geek Out as a Scout Leader – Rolling a NAT 20

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What a great time to volunteer as a leader for Scouting and for young people to be in the scouting movement. The partnerships that the Scouting Association have created with third parties to help deliver programmes is at a great level with so many opportunities for both leaders and scouts to learn new activities. Each of the partners provide information, resources and packs to help the delivery of the badges.

Just announced is the Scouts partnership with Dungeons and Dragons which takes me back to my teen years rolling for that Nat 20!. This and with the Raspberry Pi, Electronic and Hackathons is a geek out for me. Its great to pass on the skills and knowledge to the next generation.

Here are an example of some of the partnerships and badges

So how can you volunteer to help and join in?

The below is from https://www.scouts.org.uk/volunteer

Scouts is needed now more than ever. The pandemic has hit our young people hard – with two thirds saying is impacted on their mental health. Having people positive role models to guide the way, and give that extra bit of encouragement is so important in times like these. We help young people step up, speak and find their place in the world. We help them gain skills for life.

Three great reasons to volunteer: 

  • You’ll share your skills and experience with young people, while developing yourself
  • You’ll have fun and meet new people in your area
  • You’ll inspire a generation (and they’ll never forget it)

 What to expect:

  • A warm welcome
  • Flexibility to get involved in a way that works for you
  • Easy access to training and resources online
  • Plenty of support and a great team

Whether you join us to directly support young people, or behind the scenes, as a volunteer manager, treasurer or fundraiser, we’ll match you with a role that suits the skills you have to share and those you’d like to gain.

No two weeks are the same, but the impact you make is always great.

You can start your journey here https://www.scouts.org.uk/groups/

Journaling my Daily Musings

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I am now nearing the completion of another Personal Journal (Number 30). I was at number 13 when I last wrote about my journalling (No Batteries Required: My Personal Journal) and I am still going strong on writing daily.

My normal journal of choice is a Moleskine Plain Pocket Notebook and all of my journals have followed this type so far. I have found them to be robust enough for my needs and use.

My journal normally has a mix between a Journal and a Scrapbook with inserts/stick in’s of tickets, pictures etc where I think its journal worthy. Journal worthy is mainly things that will help anyone reading the journal to get a feeling what we did and as reminders to us.

“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”

― Chuck Palahniuk

Although in recent times the amount of inserts has reduced with the stay at home messages.

My pen is normally a pilot V7 Hi-Techpoint which I find flows well over the pages in the journals. I have tried other pens and inks (fountain, ball point, etc) and found these to be the best.

Why do I keep a personal journal:

  • Daily routine of writing – keeps my mind fresh in writing skills
  • Keeping my writing skills up in an age of keyboards and touchscreens
  • Memories so the family can reflect on events
  • Keeping notes and remembering events
  • Not everything you do has to be online
  • My journal doesn’t need a battery
  • My pen doesn’t need to be cabled or wifi’d to print with it
  • My journal doesn’t crack when I drop it (although it can get wet)

Downsides of keeping a journal:

  • No Delete Key – just cross out a word/sentence
  • Physical Storage of journals rather than virtual

So what does a collection of 30 Journals(2007-2021) look like………

Two reused large shoeboxes full containing around 13 years of journaling ove 4,888 pages.

I would encourage anyone to start journalling – A great view of what you have achieved during a lifetime.

2020 – The Age of Ambiguity

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There has been a lot of change in the world and the way that we work is changing and won’t necessarily be the same going forward. With the changes in our lifestyles and work our Mindset is also changing to cope with everything we have to deal with.

I have written before about mindset and how to look at change “Having the Right Digital Mindset“. Going into 2021 its time to revisit these areas and look at how the world today have changed these.

In my blog I said – The Digital Era is enabling “A Growth Mindset in the Age of Abundance”. This is still true, however its more that just a Digital Era. The past 10 or so months has helped to show how we can deal with change on a daily basis and make adjustments. Its more the era of dealing with Daily Ambugity and Change. That said I still believe that going forward my statement holds true.

In my previous post “Having the Right Digital Mindset: Business (Change, Agility and a Growth Mindset)“, I cover the areas of Change, Agility and Growth Mindsets from a Business point of view. The world has had one of the most poinent lessons in dealing with ambiguity in modern times from everything that has happened from a pandemic point of view and the change and turmoil that it has caused. This has meant that everyone has had to deal with the same messages and ambiguity at the same time and factor in our own personal circumstances as well.

Learning to understand and cope with change yourself and your own personal circumstances helps you grow and in work enables any business/organisational changes that are happening. This can also be helped by also learning to work with and deal with ambiguity and help us to cope with the unknown, and act with out knowing what the overall looks like, whilst also breaking our habits to form new ones that allow us to accept and work with change.

I will end by saying that we have all been through a lot. Everyone has had different and similar experiences and its okay not to be okay. Talking to someone helps. It doesnt have to be anyone you know and there are some great services in the world that can help you. Please talk to someone.