What’s so great about Null Island?

by Laine Caruzca

Today was my first day of training at the Data School. It felt like it was the first day of school all over again, worrying about whether I would make friends or not, whether I could cope up with all the work or whether I would inevitably fail.

However, this morning I discovered a mysterious island named ‘Null Island’. When Tom first mentioned it, I was instantly hooked. After minutes of googling, I found that Null island is an imaginary place that has been created from the mistakes and errors of those working with GIS. Researchers would often input data errors or experience software glitches, resulting in coordinates defaulting at 0°N, 0°E. Of course, this coordinate lies in the middle of the ocean.

What seemed to be a mistake has been made into something great: the creation of Null Island. Seeing as this is my first day at the Data School, I thought that the creation and evolution of Null Island was a good metaphor for how I should approach my time at the data school. I will inevitably make mistakes and metaphorically end up at my own ‘Null Island’, but I should take these mistakes with a pinch of salt and try to create something great in the process.

Already, I feel like I’ve learnt so much about Tableau and Alteryx, especially from a business perspective:

•    Should customers use Tableau Prep to replace Alteryx?

–    The answer lies in Tom’s train analogy. In today’s session, Tom explained that if Tableau Prep and Alteryx were trains, Alteryx would be beneficial as it would be able to take you to more places. For example, Alteryx would enable customers to use predictive tools, spatial mapping and data preparation and blending. Although Tableau prep may be able to do data preparation and blending much better than Alteryx, in terms of its accessibility and ease of use, it would still only be restricted to this one function.

In the afternoon, we attended a User Group session in Tableau’s office where we took full advantage of their M&M’s, popcorn, tea and of course the speakers. Among the speakers was Tim, who spoke about exploring our own data. He downloaded data from his WhatsApp conversations, his daily travel and exercise activities. For the audience, the main take away was his love for Tesco’s! It was a great way to show ownership of your own data, collected by applications such as WhatsApp and Google, instead of being scared of it.

Overall, it was a great first day and the snacks and drinks helped somewhat too! After meeting my fellow DS9-ers, I am excited to see where these next 4 months will take us.

I will end with 2 key expectations for the next 4 months:

1)    Today, I could already feel the pressure of what it takes to become successful at the data school. I expect to have more challenges and to constantly have higher standards to reach. I am scared about this, but ultimately, I am excited to see how much I can do and how far I can go.

2)    Meeting my fellow DS9-ers today, I feel confident in being part of a strong team. But not just among our cohort, but also among the whole information lab as a whole. Being introduced to team members and the ‘Convo’, the internal communications tool, I already feel like part of a supportive, open and transparent family. I hope this to continue for a long time.