Monitoring the flattening

If there’s been any winner in all this COVID stuff, it’s the people who manage data and provide visualization of just what is happening. I’ll admit that I check our local Health Unit for daily numbers. Today’s number shows a continuing drop in daily cases.

As we’ve come to know though, that’s only part of the important information. I’ve learned more about Rt and Cases per 100 000 than I ever thought that I would. It’s the sort of data that allows a community like ours to be compared to Toronto. The populations are so different.

I was playing around with a new online comparison utility today and it helped with the process of comparing region to region. You can start with a visual that shows the province, colour coded

But then choose the health units you’re interested in. I compared Toronto to a few from the southwest. It was simply done by following instructions and choosing those you wanted.

One piece of information that I found interesting and hopeful was the totals for vaccinations given. We’ve got a long way to go as a province and it can be monitored here.

One thing that I haven’t found yet is a visualization of the long term care places that are reporting incidents. Or, long term care incidents as a percentage of the local health unit totals. I’m sure that that information has to be important for decision makers.

You can check out HowsMyFlattening for yourself here.

Statistics come to Hallowe’en

I wish that I had found this resource earlier so that I could have shared it before this.  Well, better late than never and it’s not too early to start stocking up for next year’s event.  The annual question, particularly if you live in a highly populated subdivision is “how much candy do we buy for Hallowe’en?”

The question is based on a number of assumptions…

  • kids like candy
  • you leave your porch lights on and invite scary visitors
  • you predict just how many of these visitors you’ll get

and, of course, this is one time when it’s not all that painful to over estimate visitors.  The overage that you buy won’t go to waste.  My strategy was always to give our the Snickers bars last.

Teachers know that, for the next week, you’ll be finding candy wrappers stuffed into locations throughout your classroom.  In my classroom, I always brought in an extra waste paper basket to encourage proper disposal (it didn’t always work) and also a big bowl where kids could drop off candy they didn’t want and pick up something new and interesting to try.  At the end of the day, I had a couple of options – one to add to my collection or two to take out to football practice as treats.

But, back to the original question.  How much to buy?

You can go with experience or, if you’re new to your neighbourhood, ask a neighbour what to expect or make a data driven decision based upon data from Statistics Canada and available through  Let’s say you lived in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  What is the breakdown of Trick-or-Treat Children per Dwelling?

What a great planning guide for your candy purchases!  If you’re reading this early, you can still visit the local grocery store.

Or, in the aftermath to see how accurate your prediction was!

Or, in the mathematics classroom, a great answer to the question “When will we ever use this stuff?”

If K-W is not your community, just change the location in the search box available in the top left corner of the screen.

Beautiful Statistics and Storytelling

One of my favourite university courses was my first full course in statistics.  I still remember the first day when our professor indicated that there were two ways that she could teach the course.  One was through number crunching and the other was through story telling.  She indicated that her approach would be story telling and that there was another section of the same course offering the other approach if anyone wanted to change.

I didn’t change – I’d been through the whole registrar process a previous time and didn’t want to go through THAT again.  I decided to stick it out and I’m glad that I did.

Her message and it’s stuck in my mind all these years is that you’ll be more effective in communicating the statistical results of anything if you can present it in a story.  It made sense at the time and it makes even more sense as we get bombarded with statistics and numbers on a daily basis.

In education, I’ve sat through so many presentations about research results.  So many of the presenters probably took the “other course”.  Persuasive discussions are shown via Excel spreadsheet which you’re supposed to get onside with because Excel is “the industry standard”.  To help you understand the results, watch the presenter show how she/he highlights rows and columns and cells to make the point!  You might even be lucky enough to get your own printed copy with the highlighting already done!

On the other side, I once worked for a superintendent who turned out the most engaging presentations.  Every one was a story!  While I’m unable to remember a single presentation from the first method, I can still remember some from the second.  One, in particular, was on the district’s love with paper, printers, and photocopiers.  Grounded in statistics, you would sincerely have to dig to find them, (they were there…); the message was embedded in the story which was filled with imagery – trees, recycling bins, home fridges, …  It was so powerful and memorable.

One of the reasons why I’m a fan of the infographic is that they tend to take that approach.  Of course, at the heart, you’ll find statistics but the presentation of a good infographic tells a story and takes you along for the ride.

You may have noticed some Twitter messages recently from Vizify.  Hopefully, you’ve been notified or tagged in one because statistically you showed up significantly in someone’s timeline.  My most recent tagging was from Teresa Marrello.

After receiving a few of these, I decided to check it out myself.  If you want to jump to the end of the story, my video is stored here.

It was with a little hesitancy that I proceeded because Vizify wanted me to grant access to my Twitter account.  But, I realized that I could revoke the access afterwards so I went forward.  It was only a few seconds later and my movie of 40 seconds was created.  I watched it to see where my major interactions were from the past year.

A lot of it made sense.  I’m an early riser and am most active personally first thing in the morning over breakfast and the morning news reads.  The rest of the day is random, scripts, and could be at any time.  It would be interesting to see how much was actually done on weekends when my days aren’t exactly scripted!

After the movie, I wondered “Is that it”?  My whole year summarized in 40 seconds.

Fortunately, Vizify lets you do what a statistician would call “drill down”.

So, is there more than just my top three topics?

Definitely, but I am happy that I am seen to be promoting the wonderful efforts of Ontario Educators.  How about my “Golden Followers”?  Top three and that’s it?  Poor Brandon – he tries so hard.

The site does allow you to dig a little deeper.  I didn’t realize how much “coffee talk with Linda” had transpired!

There’s Brandon!  Just missed the cut.

In fact, Vizify does allow for a little editing of their results or you could even add another scene to your story.

Now, that’s what I call a great storytelling approach.  Now, certainly, I could access the entirety of my Twitter history if I wanted and then build my own story using my software tools.  Vizify does a nice job of taking on some of what most people would call their highlights.  If you’re interested in this statistical approach to analysing yourself, do it at their website.  If you have a classroom Twitter account, I’ll bet your students would get a kick out of the results.

When you’re done, you should probably consider revoking access to your Twitter account until the next time you want to run the routine.  It’s just security common sense.  While you’re there, you should probably take a look at all of the applications that you’ve allowed access to your account.  If there’s no clear reason why they should, here’s the chance to turn it off.

More analysis

There seems to be a number of tools that allow you to be somewhat introspective about your online habits.  Today, TweetStats was making the rounds and I’m always up for something new and so decided to check it out.

The Twitter API certainly does allow developers access to a great deal of information.  All that you need to do is head to the TweetStats and enter the name of a Twitter user and information is generated.  You don’t need to log in or provide passwords.  The information is public and when you’ve amassed a number of posts, there’s a great deal of information to be gleamed.

Things like times and dates and what application that you used to post your tweets.  It’s just that you’ve probably not seen them analyzed in one spot.  You can now here.  My stats appear below.  All that’s missing is an embed option to include live stats.  So, for the present, we’ll have to turn to a screen grab.


There’s some interesting things to note right from the get go.  I’m certainly a morning person with the greatest density appearing in the early morning hours.

I keep great company.  My top two people to Twitter with are social media advocates.  The rest are notable educators.  Christmas_Alf is just tough to describe but equally as tough to ignore.

I also like my Twitter clients.  For a while, I certainly had an affinity for Twhirl and still do.  However, I do spend some time with the other players in the field.  Thank goodness for big hard drives so that we can experiment.

It wouldn’t be a Web2.0 application without a tag cloud.  So, following the tag cloud link reveals a frequency distribution of terms that are used.  Hmmmm.. Good morning…

cloudFor the educator in all of us, you can even generate your tag cloud automatically with Wordle.  Is there nothing that you can’t do?

We also add a new word to the online Twitter language.  “Twoosh” – a 140 character tweet.  It’s actually harder to do than you might suspect.  It has even more impact in Spaz when you get the exciting “Wilhelm”.

TweetStats is an interesting little diversion.  But, it will also let you take inventory of what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.  If you’re a regular Twitterer, check it out on yourself.  EgoStats?  You might be surprised at what you’ll find.

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