Evaluating personality assessments from Facebook language

What do our Facebook posts really say about us? Some dismiss them as just noise, but several research teams are seriously considering social media as a source of psychological data. A common goal of this work is to discover faster or cheaper ways to measure important but elusive variables, like personality, health, and happiness. While I worked on the World Well-Being Project team, one of our goals was turning the language from social media into useful new measures.

Read More

Recursion just melted my brain

Of the many new things I've learned about over the last few weeks, recursion was one of the trickiest. Honestly, I still don't fully grasp it, because I haven't encountered any problems yet where a recursive solution makes more sense than a simple loop. I hear that there are lots of those problems out there, but at this point, I just haven't had to deal with them.

Read More

Move slow and observe things

Move fast and break things was, for a while there, one big company's motto. It probably still survives as personal mantra in many scrappy young minds. According to this philosophy, it's best to quickly try new ideas out to see if they work at all before over-optimizing a useless idea forever (because you never actually tested it).

Read More

DBAs can't dance

This week, my Dev Bootcamp cohort was asked to write about stereotype threat, one of the most publicized psychological phenomena in recent decades. I'm no expert on the topic, so bear with me. I tried to get through the more sensationalist stuff and get to the core of the effect, which turned out to be a nice diversion from Ruby for a couple hours.

Read More

First steps with Ruby classes

Lately, we've been spending a lot of time at Dev Bootcamp learning how to organize objects and model behavior with classes in Ruby. That's a really generic description, so here's an example of some of the fun you can have by creating your own classes.

Read More

How good are you at X?

For a few weeks now, I've been immersed in learning about web development. It's been great so far, and I don't want to slow down at all yet, but I often find myself wondering (and doubting) how well I really understand something. This usually happens when I'm learning something new—for example, wrapping my head around git—and I am deciding whether I should keep plowing away at it, or if I should be satisfied for now and just move on to the next thing.

Read More

Three ways to use Ruby's group_by

Ruby's #group_by method provides a way to (wait for it) group things by some arbitrary property. It's part of the Enumerable module, so you can generally use it anywhere you'd be using #each or some iteration. To use #group_by, you first need to know two things:

Read More

Sequential abstractions on thinking styles

Imagine you have one week to solve a big, complex, and novel problem. It doesn't matter exactly what it is, just that you have no prior experience with this problem, and your proposed solution could have a huge impact on your business, colleagues, or family. So you've got a lot of work to do over the next week. If you had total freedom, how would you tackle this?

Read More

A brief intro to Ruby arrays and hashes

Arrays and hashes are the two most common way to handle collections of objects in Ruby. Collections (which are objects themselves) not only help to organize our individual objects, they also have some powerful methods for iterating through or transforming all of the objects within them.

Read More

Bootcamp expectations

For a while now, I've had a strong itch to build some web development skills. It probably started over a year and a half ago, when I decided to use d3.js to build some interactive data visualizations for fun. At the time, I didn't have the first clue about HTML, CSS, or Javascript (and really still don't). I eventually pulled something together after many hours on StackOverflow and reading through Scott Murray's Interactive Data Visualization for the Web.

Read More

Git pumped

Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of my time writing—writing manuscripts, reports, code, and technical documentation. Most of these writing projects take days or months to finish. Some never end. I like to write and revise in small bursts, saving all my new additions, edits, and deletions along the way.

Read More

Struck by Kaggle

Recently, updating this blog got a lot harder than I anticipated. I moved to New York, started a new job, got a dog, and discovered Kaggle. What's Kaggle? From the site:

Read More

The Garmin Forerunner: Not just for running

I was lucky enough to receive the awesome gift of a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch recently, and it quickly became an essential piece of running gear. It collects all sorts of fun data from each workout, but my favorite feature is the heartrate monitor, which wirelessly transmits heartrate information to the watch from an elastic band worn on the torso. Having such objective feedback about how hard the heart is working can be very useful info mid-run, but why limit the Garmin 305 to my runs?

Read More