Archive for February, 2007

Data Thoughts

February 28, 2007

Fog of War

Bill Harris made an interesting post, called “Data: Fundamental Premises”. See

Bill comments that:

  1. One should only take data for a specific purpose; the quantity of data necessary for maintaining historical perspective and a report card is far less than we presently take;
  2. The value of the flow of information is epsilon less than the value of the flow of products, and the same attention should be paid to making both flows simple, easy to understand, and defect-free;
  3. Nothing beats talking to people for basic communications, but limited data helps to expand the capability of people to analyze a situation;
  4. Data collection is almost never free, although the costs are often well hidden;
  5. Manual data collection may be more valuable than computerized data collection (much as we have learned that manual, Kanban-oriented shop floor control may be preferred to computerized systems); for one thing, it is arguably easier to verify the accuracy of many kinds of data when manually collected and plotted.

My response was:


This is an interesting post and I tend to agree with your points. It makes me think of several things, not necessarily related:

1) Data and information are not the same thing. We have too much data and not enough information.

2) Knowing what is the current condition is lost to many people. As I’ve said in another post, advocacy without data is just dogma. It’s so easy to make statements about the way things should be, let alone the way things are, without really knowing the data about what is.

3) Triangulation is one way we know what is. When we meet with another person and that person makes several inconsistent remarks, we would probably make a judgment that that person is not reliable. That assessment is based upon triangulations. So, I totally agree that “nothing beats talking to people”. That’s why salespeople travel so much: to get face to face. You get to send and receive a voluminous amount of information when you are physically with someone.

4) There’s a great little movie called The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. McNamara makes the point that we can rarely know things perfectly. We must make decisions with imperfect information.

5) Manual vs. automated data collection. I’ve seen people waste a lot of time trying to automate data collection when, if they had simply focused on manual data collection, they would have spent far less time. There is a benefit in manually transposing numbers because you are forced to really think about the numbers.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful post.



28 February, 2007 05:02

Element List

February 28, 2007

Element List

We received a nice post from Jackie Floyd who puts together a blog called Element List. Jackie noted that Data360 now has a new home page and suggested that all three of the major data sites are probably contemplating new features. She’s absolutely right about new features. Data360 will have an easy data upload feature within 45 days. It will be interesting to see how each site is grows. Our goal, quite simply, is to listen to our users and create a site where people can, find, share and present data….all in an objective manner.

Once merely a directory of science websites, Element List has grown to add a blog and, soon, social networking capabilities. Sticking to our roots as a directory of new and cool science websites for scientists, the Element List blog covers what’s happening on the web for scientists, students, and science aficionados. Element List is published and edited by Jacqueline Floyd. Jackie has a Ph.D. (2003) in Geophysics from Columbia University and currently holds positions as an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at Columbia and as a scientist in industry.

Jackie has also posted an interesting and somewhat emotional video about Network Neutrality on her site.

Web 2.0 Video

February 9, 2007

Check out this cool video on Web 2.0, referred to me by my cousin, Andy Goldfine.  It asks the question, “who is organizing the data on the web?”  With humility, Data360 is attempting to be a part of that effort.

This video was created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University.



Sulzberger – NY Times

February 8, 2007

NY Times

Arthur Sulzberger writes that the NY Times may not be publishing a print version within 5 years.  He seems to be focused on providing news which is “right,” making money and doing what it takes to do both, which will mean considerable innovation.  The NY Times has five people working on innovation and the internet…I don’t know if that’s too much or too little resources.   His comments tell me that Data360 is headed in the right direction, towards online magazine and report publishing.  Article written by Haaretz, Jewish newspaper.

Reference Behavior Patterns

February 1, 2007

I spent some time with Bill Harris yesterday. We talked for a good while about Data360 and Bill’s work. Bill has a consulting business whose focus is on systems dynamics and systems modeling, as well as group facilitations over the internet. Per Bill’s blog,, “Bill Harris founded Facilitated Systems in 1999 to help people by helping the organizations in which they spend so much of their time. He uses a number of approaches to help them make sense of the puzzles and problems organizations face.” See below part of Bill’s write-up on Data360. For the full write-up, click here.

Reference behavior patterns and Data360

One of the aspects of defining a problem that plays out over time is to capture a “reference behavior pattern” (RBP). That’s simply a graph of key variables over time. Drawing the graph of the RBP may help you spot patterns instead of just seeing events. It may remind you to consider a longer time horizon than you had originally conceived, making it easier to detect any pattern that might be present. It “draws a line in the sand,” ensuring that your problem-solving activity is focused on a specific problem with specific data, thus keeping you from wandering off course. It’s a fundamental start to system dynamics modeling.

Where do you get data for your RBP? If you think it involves public data, check out Data360, one of several new sites dedicated to aggregating and delivering up data on demand.

Tom Paper generously gave me a tour of Data360 yesterday. As he described Data360, it’s a tool we can use to create balanced scorecards of, well, anything we’re interested in.