Monday, October 22, 2012

Working with disparate datasets

Probably the most time consuming and sometimes frustrating aspect of working with data from different databases is figuring out how to match this data and work with a similar data set. It is at this point you want to strangle end users who don't take the time to enter data correctly because crap data in means crap data out. We usually shoot to be able to match around 95% of the correlating data and then either have end users correct the input or create exception rules to correct for repeatable patterns. Most clients believe we spend most of our time figuring out their database design when in actuality this is much simpler a process than figuring out good data versus crap.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New Project with Cameron

At the beginning of my son's school year (second grade) I made a deal with him that if he was doing well enough in math and reading (as well as behaving at school), I would begin to teach him how to write webpages and web-based applications. He has always been inquisitive when it comes to websites and the work Dad does on a daily basis. I figured what a great way to get him to do something educational while having fun and making sure he is on top of the technology that will surely form his future. Well this year started off a little questionable with regards to sitting still and being quiet in class, but after the first couple of weeks, he has exceeded my expectations in the goals that we set for him. So tonight was his first lesson in website design and hopefully we will be able to spend at least a half hour each day on concepts and simple coding. Our first lesson tonight was what makes up the internet. The lesson went a little like Sheldon teaching Penny the basics of physics in The Big Bang. In the beginning...maybe not that far back...but close enough. Trying to keep the concepts simple enough with terms a seven year old can understand and with enough analogies to the real world to help him along. It was crazy on the whiteboard tonight.
We discussed the concepts of the cloud, host computers and client computers. I still don't think many adults in the professional world grasp this concept but Cameron and I will go over it many more times in the future and get more detailed on it. We also covered the engine (server app), fuel (the code), and output of power (the web page) in basic format. We covered a little bit of the coding languages available to us and the ones we would focus on to begin with. We spent a majority of our time discussing what HTML does and how it is the basis for formatting a page. Gave him some real world examples of the basics such as underlining, bold (not the easiest concept to describe in words, much easier on the blackboard), fonts (will definitely need to focus on this more), color, and tables. I thought that was going to be the end of the first day of discussion until I gave him some homework to complete for tomorrow. Started off by having him draw a simple webpage (without any real functionality besides layout and colors) to serve as a home page for his project on paper. Also he was asked to write out what his first real application will be (this will give us our end goal for this school year, have to keep reminding him to be patient and that this won't be complete for quite a while). During the first portion of homework, he started asking some questions and I noticed him trying to make it perfect the first go around. This lead into the second lesson regarding scribbling or brainstorming and the concept of rough drafts versus final drafts. The most rewarding part of this project is seeing the excitement from Cameron on taking on this project. I am hoping this fuels even more interest in the reading, math, and creativity and hope he starts seeing applications of what he is learning in school. Time for me to find some sites that teach basic HTML to younger kids (any ideas out there?) so he has something to do if I am stuck working. Also have to start putting together some lesson plans in a binder of his work and the screen shots from the whiteboard for him to look back on. Not trying to make the next Gates or Zuckerberg, but as long he has an interest, I will definitely provide him the direction. Any ideas out there for teaching younger kids on website design or real world examples that are close to website design like the car engine model I used previously? If anybody is interested, I can definitely post some of the materials and screenshots that we are creating and we will definitely post a link to his development site as soon as we get to that point.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Data Mining

We have been spending quite a bit of time over the past year extracting sets of data from disparate databases which in itself has been an interesting experience. But we have finally been tasked with helping to develop a real trending and forecasting tool to help predict future patient outcomes in a specific population.  This is where the gathering of the data becomes fun and fulfilling. Finding patterns, matching data sets, interpreting lab results over long periods of time is what makes being in the information technology field an interesting challenge. Within the first week of spitting out initial results, we are seeing promising scenarios but we know much more fine tuning is going to need to be done.