init(self): What is this blog


January 11, 2019


In this first post, I figured I’d lay out the goals of this blog and explain a bit of background. As soon as I’m done writing this I’m planning on following up with the first proper post. With luck, this intro will be the only post ‘fluff’ post you’ll see here.

Let’s start with me. My name is Jonathan Whitaker. I’m an Electrical Engineer with a Data Science background, currently pursuing some personal research projects while my wife and I take a working vacation around Zimbabwe. For the last 5 years I’ve been writing code to solve problems. Big, important problems for work. Small, interesting projects for fun. Obscure, not-quite-problems because something bugged me and I thought “I can do that better”. I’m hoping that this blog will become a place for me to share these solutions and associated musings.

I’ve called the blog ’The Data Science Cast-net”. This is because I have developed a fairly chronic case of something I call the data science mindset - something I try to instil in my students when I teach this stuff. In essence, this is a mental practice of looking at pretty much everything as a data science problem. Looking for somewhere to live? I can map travel times, house prices, crime rates etc to efficiently narrow down the search. Idly wondering how a romantic relationship is affecting your health? Google Fit makes all sorts of data available - we can compare different years and do some fun statistics to see if you’re walking more or less now that you’re hitched. And so on, down a slippery slope that ends with you tracking all aspects of your life and thinking in terms of variables and models far too often. Now, armed with the tools to make sense of data, I am throwing my cast-net out into the world and seeing what interesting information-fish I can pull in.

I look forward to sharing this experiment with you.