Data Explorer Mission from the Inside: an Agent’s Story
This post comes to you from Anna Sakoyan, who participated as a “Data Agent” the Data Explorer Mission, a partnership between Peer 2 Peer University and the Open Knowledge Foundation. The course ran from mid-April to mid-May, and primed Agents to analyze, clean, visualize data, tell a story with it, and facilitate their group. Here is her story. The original post can be found at her blog, Self Made University.
I can hardly believe it, but my assignment at School of Data seems to be completed. The last step was to produce some output, that is to tell the story. Now I think I should somehow summarize my experience.
Now, first off, what is Data Expedition at School of Data? It can be very flexible in terms of organisation. Here are the links to the general description and also to the Guide for Guides, which is revealing. In this post, I’ll be talking about this particular expedition. Also, a great account of it can be found on one of my team mates’ blog. So, this expedition was technically very similar to the principle of Python Mechanical MOOC. All the instructions were sent by a robot via our mailing list and then we had to collaborate with our team mates to find solutions.
(Image CC-By-SA J Brew on Flickr)
First of all, we were given a dataset on CO2 emissions by country and CO2 emissions per capita. Our task was to look at the data and try to think about what can be done about it. As a background, we were also given the Guardian article based on this very dataset so that we could have a look at a possible approach. Well, I can’t say I was able to do the task right away. Without any experience of working
with data or any tools to deal with it, I felt absolutely frustrated by the very look of a spreadsheet. And at that stage peers could hardly provide any considerable technical support, because we all were newbies.
Then we had tasks to clean and format the data in order to analyze certain angles. Here our cooperation began and became really helpful. Although nobody among us was an expert here, we were all looking for the solutions and shared our experience, even when it was little more than ‘I DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!!11!!1!’.
Our chief weapons were:
- the members’ supportive and encouraging attitude to each other
- our mailing list
- Google Docs to record our progress
- Google Spreadsheets to work with our data and share the results
- Google Hangout for our weekly meet-ups (really helpful, to my mind)
- Google Fusion Tables for visualisation (alongside with Google Spreadsheets)
And that is it actually. I’m not mentioning more individual choices, because I’m not sure I even know about them all.
Now some credits.
Irina, you’ve been a source of wonderful links that really broadened my understanding of what’s going on. And above all, you’re extremely encouraging.
Jakes, you’ve contributed a huge amount of effort to get the things going and I think it paid off. You have also always been very supportive, generous and helpful even beyond the immediate team agenda.
Ketty, you were the first among us who was brave enough to face the spreadsheet as it is and proved that it is actually possible to work with. I was really inspired by this and tried to follow suit. Same was in the case of Google Fusion Tables.
Randah, I wish you had had more time at your disposal to participate in the teamwork. And judging by your brief inputs, you would make a great team mate. You were also the person who coined the term dataphobia and in this way located the problem I resolved to overcome. I hope to get in touch with you again when you have more spare time.
Zoltan, you were also an upsettingly rare contributor, due to your heavy and unpredictable workload. But nevertheless, you managed to provide an example of a very cool approach to overcoming big problems just by mechanically splitting them into smaller and less scary pieces.
Vanessa Gennarelli and Lucy Chambers, thanks for organising this wonderful MOOC!
So, as a result, I
- seem to have overcome my general dataphobia
- learnt a number of basic techniques
- got an idea of what p2p learning is (it’s a cool thing, really)
- got to know great people and hope to keep collaborating with them in the future
Well, this is kind of more than I expected.
Next, I’m going to learn more about data processing, Python, P2P-learning and other awesome things.