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Odds and Ends - Analysis quality, software engineering, and proprietary systems

Author

TJ Palanca

Published

November 30, 2021

Reading highlights

Analysis quality

One of the great ironies of the analytics industry is its utter inability to measure itself. Despite “defining key metrics” for ambiguous business processes being a key responsibility in nearly every analytics role, we enthusiastically reject doing it for ourselves. - Benn Stancil

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on what constitutes a good analysis, but I’ve found there’s a common thread coalescing around the idea that in a world without counterfactuals and rife with complex (emergent) systems, fast decisions are good decisions.

  • Making good business decisions is about making many falsifiable business decisions. Most of our business ideas are bad, and there is little we can do to improve the quality of our business decisions, so the next best course of action is to make many business decisions and ensure that we can evaluate them objectively. Eric Colson lays it out extremely well in his article. Article. Annotated.
  • Analysis quality is all about speed to action. Benn Stancil writes about how a very simplified, non-nuanced metric such as speed to action is a good way to measure analysis quality. I think it’s an excellent take; it forces our analysts to stop hiding behind unnecessary nuance and details and express real empathy for the decisions we hope to influence. Article. Annotated.

Properietary systems

  • Bank Python is diverging from open source python, i.e. the atrophy of skill in proprietary software environments. Cal Peterson writes about the different monolithic systems that exist in investment banks and how they are extremely different from everything outside of it. It’s an interesting look at how technology practices harden for specific industries. Article

Software engineering

People talk about innovation a whole lot, but what they are usually looking for is cheap wins and novelty. If you truly innovate, and change the way that people have to do things, expect mostly negative feedback. If you believe in what you’re doing, and know it will really improve things, then brace yourself for a long battle. - Justin Etheridge

  • 20 Things learned over 20 years as a software engineer. Engineering is ultimately a creative process - what that means is that amount of calories spent banging out code ona keyboard does not equal to more productivity (it may even mean less). Maturity in software engineering involves guiding the creative process in a more principled way before starting work. Article

Finding a micro-blogging platform

I’ve been trying to find a good blogging platform lately. I’d like to be able to: (a) write easily on an iPad and a Mac (maybe even on iPhone), (b) create fast feedback loops for content, and (c) be able to expand more advanced non-text elements, such as images and code blocks.

I want this separate from my main blog because I want to write more updates on my life, random thoughts and interests, and keep the main blog free for more longform analysis-type articles (because after all the distill format looks super weird for informal thinking).

I tried apps like Ulysses or iA Writer, but find that they are way too focused on the writing part and only publish to separate managed platforms like Wordpress or Ghost. Code blocks, tables, and images prove to be really difficult.

I also likewise looked at things in the R world like {blogdown} but found that the feedback loops are too slow, and working with them on an iPad would be quite clunky.

I settled on what was starting me in the face anyway, which is Notion exposed in a subdomain via Cloudflare Workers (the overall solution is called Fruition). I can easily edit this anywhere (except maybe offline where I’ll use a standard markdown editor), then import afterward, it’s WYSIWYG so instant feedback loops, and can still accommodate some advanced code blocks and embeds.