Wut 2 Do Wif Werdz

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[Cross-post from IcanHazDataScience]

One of the first cool things beginning data scientists do with a bunch of words is create a word cloud.  There are several ways to do this, but it’s important to know about tools like D3 (one of the most powerful software libraries for data visualisation), so we’ll use that.  Before you run off screaming because it’s a javascript library, it’s okay: there are a whole bunch of example pages on the D3 website, that you can play with your own data with.  One of these is the word cloud generator.  Go there and play with it now… here are some clouds for both crisismapping and my own sites, with some comments…

blog.overcognition.com – my work blog.  I seem to have a thing about countries, Wamp, Ushahidi and Data (which really reflects the last 3 posts that I wrote).  Now because I used Jason’s example code, it’s using every word on the site, including the stopwords (it’s, get, also etc), so they’re quite significant here too.  But it’s a pretty cloud.


Blog.standbytaskforce.com – the SBTF blog. Nothing really shouts out in this wordcloud – except perhaps ‘jQuery’ and function – which is odd. It’s possible that the code is picking up words that are in the html file but not on the page itself (right-click on the page, “view source” to see what I’m talking about).



www.crisismappers.net – lots of good words like “humanitarian” and “Technology” (note the capital letters: something else we’d remove if we processed the data before feeding it to our own app).  Also “Jen” and “Ziemke”, which makes sense because Jen Ziemke is the main organiser for this site.


icanhazdatascience.blogspot.com.  Oh whoops: that didn’t work so well.  It’s full of font names (Helvetica, Ariel etc) and colour codes (#009EB8, #333333 etc: go to http://html-color-codes.info/ if you want to know which colours these are).  No fear… if I just cut-and-paste the page (thanks, control-A!) contents into the app, the picture gets a bit clearer:

Better, huh?  Icanhazdatascience.blogspot.com appears to be obsessed with Python, interested in code and people, and likes questions (and someone called SaraJayne). The moral of this little story: be very careful to check that what you *think* is the data going into an app, actually *is* the data going in; oh, and that wordclouds can be a cool way to double-check that.

The last wordcloud is http://www.opencrisis.org/ – again, there’s some non-visible html creeping into the wordcloud, but the basic cloud looks good for what we do – which is inform people about ways to process crisis data, and volunteer groups etc who can help.

Oh heck… just because I can… the opencrisis.org cut-and-paste wordcloud. Crisis is big, Data is big, and we like months (there’s a list of upcoming events on the front page).

More D3 notes later – in the meantime, please go and play with the examples at https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery and start thinking about how they could be applied to your data!

Writing an Ignite Talk

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Ignite talks are the standard format of events like ICCM and other GIS-focussed events. They look great on stage, and might seem impossible to do if you’re not used to speaking. But it’s not that bad really. You too can write and present and ignite talks!

So what *is* an Ignite Talk?

An ignite is a 5-minute talk where you supply 20 slides. Each of those slides is shown for 15 seconds before automatically moving to the next one.

5 minutes. That’s not too bad.

How do you start planning an Ignite talk?

Here’s how I do it. This isn’t the “right” way – it’s just one of many – but it’s a place for you to start.

First, know what you want to talk about. For instance, I want to give an ignite talk about giving ignite talks. You know the general area of the event (e.g. “crisismapping”) – what about or around that area excites or worries you? What have you been talking a lot about this year? Tell the stories you’re already telling… for example, this might be Leesa talking about virtual PTSD, Om about organisation, Rose about some VOST work she loved. Or tell a new one you want to explore – “if we could do this, then…”. Write a first sentence about each story.

Then start thinking about what’s important to you about that story. Where are you going for information about it? Who’s done really useful things about it? What would you do if you had unlimited resources? Berkun suggests picking 4 important points to make in your story, but you might have 2, or 5 or 6. Start listing your points for each story.

Then try talking for 5 minutes about each story. It took me years to figure out that a talk isn’t about you standing up and being judged by the audience – it’s a conversation between you and them, a way of getting people to talk about and act on things that you care about. Think about telling your mother or grandmother or best friend about this theme… what would you tell them? Write it down – or if you’re not great at writing things down, either record yourself talking and write it up later, or talk to someone else and get them to write down what you say. And draw pictures (they’ll be useful later).

Outline your script. I usually start a googledoc that looks like this:

 Title of talk
 Slide 1: introduction
 Slide 2: point 1
 Slide 20: thank you and goodbye

– I usually have the first slide for an introduction (and getting on the stage), the last slide for thankyous and reiterating those major points (and getting off the stage), and give each of points an equal number of the remaining 18 slides. At least, that’s where I start – I often realise that some points are bigger than others, and adjust the slides accordingly. Sometimes it makes sense to devote some of the earlier slides to background – that’s fine too. The important thing is that you start writing, and that you know that at this stage it’ll be a long way from the perfect performances you see up on the stage.

Start writing your script. You should by now have 1) an outline document, and 2) the text from talking to your friends, grandmother etc. Start putting them together: put your words into your outline, and adjust both of them to fit. Remember that it’s okay to “cheat”: for example, if you want to talk longer about one slide, then repeat it; and go watch some videos of ignite talks (www.crisismappers.net has lots of these) to see how other people do it. At this point, you don’t need to write essays – 15 seconds of talking isn’t much more than one paragraph of text, so a sentence of two per slide is fine.

Find images. You’re going to need something on your slides. At this point, your talk isn’t polished, and that’s a good thing – because when you start looking for images, you’ll probably want to adjust it again. We’re lucky – we do a lot of work that’s visual (e.g. maps and documents) and can be either used directly (jpgs) or captured using a screen grabber (see below). There are also a lot of free images and clipart (cartoon images: try googling “free clipart”) on the internet too. Avoid bulletpoints and lots of words if you can – your audience will be reading those rather than listening to you (which isn’t a good thing,no matter how shy you are); using a single word or sentence can be very powerful though, so consider this as an option too.

Tidy up your script. By now, you have 20 images and a script. You remember that 15 seconds per slide? Time to practice it. Pick a random piece of text, find a stopwatch, breathe slowly, talk slowly and read out the text for 15 seconds, leaving a short gap between each sentence. For me, that’s a small paragraph – about 3 sentences. Go back over your script, and first tidy up by eye (editing and moving text so you get your points across in the time that you have available), then time reading out the script for each slide, and adjust until you’re somewhere near 15 seconds, speaking slowly.

Record your talk. Now you have 20 slides and a 5-minute script that matches them. Time to record yourself. Powerpoint allows you to auto-advance slides and include an audio track (see below for details); it also allows you to re-record the audio for each slide, so you can record each slide separately and overwrite anything you’re not sure about. Go do this. And now you have an ignite talk!

Write an abstract. Nearly done. A lot of conferences ask you for an “abstract”, or summary of what the talk is about. You have your story above- write a paragraph that describes it, and send it on in!

Where can you find more advice?

Here’s some advice from people who’ve given ignite talks before:

Useful Tools