Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Went to a cool informative meetup at NYU's Center For Urban Science And Progress (CUSP) where Mike Flowers did a Q&A about the NYC government data field. Flowers has a very interesting and diverse background which, importantly, includes a lot of hands-on getting things done (and by "things" I do not meet writing academic papers like I mostly do). Currently he is CUSP’s first Urban Science Fellow, although I am not sure exactly what that means. (Perhaps it's, "person who can teach smart things but doesn't have a PhD since he's a practitioner.")

One of his comments that I found very accurate and liked very much was his focus on what the data means -- that is, the numbers do not speak for themselves, you have to know what they actually represent. You go out into the field with the people that generate those numbers and have a hands-on understanding of them. What are they quantifying? What do the measures mean? How are they measured?

One great quote, which I will paraphrase since I don't have it exactly, was that, in order to understand NYC data, you have to have an understanding of the history of the city.

Flowers is a person who understands how to understand data! History! Awesome.