2015 Recap: What I Did (I Think)
2015 has been a hell of a year.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was, whatever I worked on, I had to keep pushing through on it until I had something I could show for it. No more orphaned projects… I would bring my projects to a sharable state before I could move on to something new.
This was a great resolution, the best I’ve ever made. I managed to hold on to it all the way through the year and it’s been a huge year for me… one in which I’ve managed to branch out into some amazing new space.
Genetics Data and Visualization
My proudest accomplishment started a year ago when I spit into a tube and send that tube to 23andMe to get my genome. Several weeks later, I got my results and downloaded all my data… and spent several weeks trying to figure out what exactly I was looking at. At the end of that project, I published a visualization on the parts of the genome most researched in the genetics research literature (seen above) and a guide for other data-minded people who want to start playing with their genomic data.
I also got to talk to some of the fine folk at 23andMe about open science and the FDA approval process, which is a fascinating and important topic.
Teaching Data Visualization
I’ve been speaking on data visualization for over 5 years, but it’s always a little frustrating. The longest I ever get to talk is an hour and that is hardly enough time to get through the very basics of data visualization. So I resolved to build a full day course on data visualization in a lab-lecture format. I managed to build the whole thing from start to finish in my free time in 6 weeks… not bad for 7 hours of content. And, yes, I used is picture of Twilight Sparkle in my training. Being a dad of girls will do this to you.
After a conversation with Leadership Institute (an activist training organization based in DC), they hosted my data vis workshop, which brought in 40+ participants. The response was so great they decided to host it again in November.
My daughter is 4 and she loves to build Legos, but has gone through her instructions so many times, she’s torn them to shreds. So I took a little bit of time out of my project work to build Brick Instructions, a Windows app to download and view Lego instructions. I developed it so that she can use on her Surface (the original RT), so that meant building a Windows 8.1 app. I’m currently working on extending it to Android and iOS using Xamarin (or maybe native, I’m still puzzling it out).
Learning Windows UWP Development
After I dug through Andy Wigley’s and Jerry Nixon’s fantastic developer guide to Windows 10 Preview, I summarized their videos in an attempt to make as much of that information as search-able as possible.
I then got the chance to build some great stuff with the new Windows UWP platform. Hugely important to me were the Windows Universal Samples… a treasure trove of sample code for a UWP developer.
I have a lot of projects that were smaller things, but still fun.
- I assembled a small team to redesign the YRNF website, which was completed under budget
- Converted a circle-packing algorithm to C#.
- Built an application for helping people get involved in the legislative process that integrates with the Sunlight Foundation APIs
- Started using the Azure Machine Learning system to play with some casual data-mining projects
- Got my Microsoft Certification for building Windows Apps (which is another whole story).
- Helped a data journalist friend scrape through hundreds of megabytes of (misformatted) data from University of Chicago to identify state legislation that is modeled after or copied from bills written by professional activists.
- Scraped through the leaked Ashley Madison dataset to try to dispel some of the myths around it.
- Integrated with ClinicalTrials.gov to create an app that lets people browse clinical trials and discover trials they might want to participate in.
- Been engaging people on the 23andMe API Google Group, answering questions as I can.
- Learned to use Tableau for some simple data visualization.
What Is Next
The weirdest thing about all this is that I still carry the label “UX Designer” in my LinkedIn. As I’ve been looking for additional opportunities, I’ve found that “UX Designer” has locked me into a category that is hard to fight my way out of.
I jump into any technology I need in order to make awesome things… and that has made me very hard to market.
Right now, I’m taking some time and learning a lot of things. And everything I’m learning is (you guessed it) to make some more awesome things in 2016
- More UWP development – because I want to get my ClincalTrials.gov app up and running with integration into the 23andMe API so that I can connect clinical trial authors with people who already have their genome sequenced.
- node.js – because I’m building a web app that helps people eat healthy on a SNAP (food stamp) budget
- Android – because I want to move Brick Instructions over to Android
- Unity – because I’m playing around with some basic gaming and HoloLens concepts