Most of us do a terrible job, when it comes to reporting data in a visual format. Nothing new about it. Many decades ago, Edward Tufte (amongst others) tried to address this with his book Visual Display of Quantitative Data. Hans Rosling set the world on fire with his TED talk(s). If presenting data that’s already nailed down is hard, presenting data that is breaking (or being projected) as we see with election results or a pandemic is that much harder.
Which is why these two examples, of data presentation around the novel coronavirus COVID-19—one a static dashboard (Government of Singapore)
One of the joys of traveling back to India in the summer is eating great food catching up with friends (and eating great food)! Last summer had its share of good times, but was also filled with its share of bad news – my cousin and namesake suddenly passed from a heart attack, a friend’s marriage fell apart and two friends, in their mid-fifties were diagnosed with cancer. While all this had everyone around me asking about my own health and how well I was taking care of it, I found myself both praying for my friends and pondering about purpose.
One of those two friends was Badri, who has been a mentor and friend to my father, my wife and me. Badri had a near inexhaustible share of stories to tell, in his own unique way, often self-deprecatory and delivered with a mischievous smile. A great devotee in the Sri Vaishnava tradition and an ardent reader of the Divyaprabhandam, one of his favorite vignettes was about the evanescence of self-awareness. Whenever we spoke of entrepreneurship or personal relationships, of the mistakes we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned, I invariably ended up asking why didn’t that lesson stick. It’s like mashana vairagyam—dispassion that arises in the crematorium—that doesn’t last, and tell this tale. I paraphrase.
“When there’s a death in the family, even as we take the body to the crematorium we feel sad, listless and wondering about the meaninglessness of it all. When we pour out the pot of hot coals on the body and it’s set ablaze, we think ‘What is life all about? It is ephemeral!’ We realize all that seemed real and important until then—ego, money, success—is actually meaningless. ‘Why did I even care about those things? My life is now irrevocably changed and I’ll never be the same again.’
Of course soon as we return home, my wife brings me coffee. I take a sip. ‘Hey! Why is the coffee so cold?’ I yell at my wife. Alas all that self-reflection and insights I’d drawn by the funeral pyre, didn’t last for long and didn’t survive first contact with the mundane—a cup of coffee that wasn’t hot enough!”
Badri would invariably laugh as he narrated this story always in first person. Through last year, as he underwent chemo and struggled with its aftereffects, he stayed in good spirits. With the arrival of his first grandchild—for which he he’d traveled overseas, he appeared radiant in the photos he shared.
Soon as I arrived in India in late May, I called to visit him. He was in the hospital, resting and recovering from a cough. His wife and I spoke agreeing that we’d visit him when he was feeling better maybe in a few days. But on 4th June, he passed suddenly. As family and friends gathered on the 13th day of his passing, they shared stories of what he’d meant to them and I found myself grief stricken and unable to speak.
Today as I write this, I recall Badri’s stories and the wonderful, loving and demonstrative person he was and hope I can keep his love and insights a little longer than the fella in his tale!
The end of the year is as good a time as any other to take stock. As I get working on my first full length novel (set in 16th century Vijayanagara, India) and business book (on selling your company happily) I felt it might be useful to look at what people have found useful or read most on my blog.
Over the last three years, the top two posts, every year have been
Having recently traveled overseas, the wife and I have been struggling with jet lag. In an attempt to stay awake, yet warm we snuggled up on the couch and tried to find something good to watch. Mr. Church was what we ended up watching. Many times before the movie ended, my wife said, “This is one of the best movies I’ve seen. No movie has affected me like this.”
As with every family or even any two people, we struggle to find movies or shows that we’d both enjoy. The one thing we’ve learnt is that reviews do little for us. Silence, one of the worst movies we’d ever caught had a high Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic score. On the other hand Mr. Church had a poor Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes score. We’ve found escapist fare, preferably not something that will drag us down (Season 3 of Wanted) and short (90 minutes or less) is what works for us. So when we tuned into Mr. Church we weren’t sure what to expect, and were fully prepared to abandon it to our second choice, if it failed to hold us.
Mr. Church didn’t fail us—it held us enthralled. Both of us found ourselves getting drawn in and teary and a little choked up in places. Above all, we’d inadvertently learned our first lesson of 2019.
We are so blessed for all the wonderful people in our lives.
We need to cherish the people—our neighbors in Bangalore and Columbus, our children and parents, family—the numerous cousins, classmates and colleagues in our lives. And for just being there.
As entrepreneurs, I know we’ve all certainly taken people for granted. Whether our partners, employees, advisors, partners or suppliers. Even when we’ve been appreciative of them, we’ve not appreciated the people in our personal lives.
Mr. Church, with its simple, yet moving story of the two protagonists reminded us to be grateful for the blessing that people in our lives are. We couldn’t have started the new year better
I had been planning to write a piece on how folks are getting off of social media particularly Facebook—from the famous such as Om Malik to a lot of 18 to 29-year olds. Even when people choose to stay on networks (social or professional) it’s hard to maintain the degree of privacy or control they seek. It’s hard for at least two reasons
there’s just a LOT of options, kinds of data, kinds of audiences an and
companies just don’t make it easy for users to turn on or off something.
This became really evident when I tried to help a LinkedIn user yesterday to maintain some contact info private. You’ve have thought that you would go to Settings & Privacy, as I did, and fix it. Well, you’d be wrong, just as I was.
While I consider myself a technophile and an experienced user of LinkedIn – neither a dekko through their settings nor a Google search produced a reliable answer on, “How do I not reveal by birthdate on LinkedIn?” The nearest I got to was this Quora post, and of course, LinkedIn had changed things around again!
The changes range from explicitly leaving out the word Birthday from the options listing, which was tucked away under Contact Info, which was hidden (and not evident at all) under the Intro section of your profile.
and how to get to even this stage. It involved
Selecting View Profile from the Me menu on the top right
Then choosing the Edit (pencil icon) in the Intro section
Scrolling down to the contact info section (above) and choosing the Edit (pencil icon) again
Clicking on the eye icon to now actually select the desired settings for your birthday
It took me nearly 20 minutes to research, test and ensure this works before I could help the original LinkedIn user who’d sought my help. Not cool! LinkedIn you can do better than this!
Often Om Malik shares interesting reads – this was one he shared y’day. I found it interesting for two reasons – good stories can be about things (in this instance containers) and not just people and many more engineering stories, like this, that impact nearly everyone of us needs to told more often. I’d love it if you share other stories you’ve read.
It took a pugnacious North Carolinian named Malcom McLean to launch the container revolution. An ambitious truck-company owner with little experience when it came to shipping, McLean—who had made a fortune in trucking in the boom years after WWII—was looking for a way to move goods up and down the East Coast’s traffic-choked highways faster and more cheaply.
Over the last several years, I have written about startups, entrepreneurship and business in general in the Hindu BizLine and Wall St. Journal. I have compiled these for easy access in the column below.