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The risks of hanging your graphs 90º off-kilter.

3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight.

3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight. published on No Comments on 3. Come for the data. Stay for the insight.

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

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Brent Spiner IS... awfully pale. Also, Data.If you respond to Chapter 3 — “Creating a Data-Informed Culture” — the way I did, you’ll start with short-lived disappointment that it’s not about building a new society whose gold standard of conduct is embodied in Brent Spiner’s character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. (And if you read my write-up for Chapter 2, you’ll realize that cruelly taunting science-fiction fans is a hallmark of Beth and Katie’s writing. You’re also one of two people who reads the write-ups under the cartoons, and as the other one, I thank you.)

That brief let-down is followed immediately by surprise, delight, delighted surprise, actionable insights and, ultimately, firmer biceps — the book is heavier than it looks. You’ll learn the difference between being data-driven, where data dictates your actions, and data-informed, where data is one of the factors that guides you — a happier place for most non-profits. And you’ll see how an incremental approach — crawl, walk, run, fly — can allow an organization to adapt naturally and quickly to the demands and opportunities that measurement presents.

Backup a moment…

Backup a moment… published on 2 Comments on Backup a moment…

Originally posted to ReadWriteWeb

Apparently March 31 was World Backup Day—a term I initially misunderstood, and took to be impressively but impossibly ambitious. Their message is well worth repeating: your hard drive will fail, and when it does, you’ll be a lot happier if you’ve backed it up.

Everyone I’ve asked has a data-loss story to share. Here are two of mine, tales of wrenching heartbreak worthy of the full IMAX treatment:

INT. A CHARTER BUS – DAY

The bus is filled with reporters and political staff, chatting, checking messages on absurdly large cell phones, perusing newspapers, and opening large, bulky laptop computers.

TITLE: “Canadian federal election campaign, 1997”

We pick out ROB, a staffer in his mid-30s, sporting a goofy ponytail and drumming his fingers nervously on the surface of his computer as it boots.

ROB

Come on, come on…

Tight on the computer screen as it runs through the usual diagnostic messages… and then displays the fateful words “FATAL HARD DRIVE ERROR”.

ROB

No.

(he looks up, swallows hard, and yells toward the front of the bus)

The, uh, speech may be a little late.

FADE TO:

EXT. DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER – DAY

A busy city street in the full flush of a morning commute. A compact grey Honda pulls into a parking spot, and out comes ROB, his hair now greyer and close-cropped. He walks around the car and lets his DAUGHTER out of a rear passenger door, then locks the car. They walk away chattering to each other.

Through the front passenger window, we can see a COMPUTER BRIEFCASE on the floor as their voices die out in the distance.

A rock smashes the window. An arm reaches through, grabs the briefcase and quickly hauls it out. We hear the sound of running feet as we…

FADE OUT

Okay, so it’s more meditation-on-loss-and-longing than Michael-Bay-spectacle. All I know is I’ve played those two scenes over and over on the ol’ cranial QuickTime.

That first time out, I was relying on someone else to be storing the speeches I’d written throughout the campaign; that turned out to be a false hope, and I lost everything I’d worked on for a month and a half. The second time, I’d only owned the computer for half a year, and was able to recover a lot of my older work from its predecessor; I resurrected a chunk of more recent stuff as attachments in sent email messages—thank you, IMAP! But I still lost a lot. (Crazy thing is, I’m still angrier about losing the bag than the computer. It was a damn fine bag.)

Granted, I was being stupid about it that second time, 10 years later (“I’ll only be a minute, and it’s a busy street—I’m sure my laptop’s safe”). But sooner or later, nearly everyone seems to be dumb about data… and when it comes to data, fate loves yielding to temptation.

Ever since then, I’ve become religious about backing up. My daily devotion is practiced via Apple’sTime Machine. It may not be the most efficient or full-featured piece of software, but it’s the best backup solution for me for one really simple reason: I actually use it. And although my company started using Dropbox as a collaboration tool, it also happens to serve as a perfectly good offsite backup for key business files.

How about you – got a backup horror story to share?

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