Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A month of tuning the Dashboard

I've often got ahead of myself...thinking that "this" as in "this particular project"--must be ready for PRIME TIME.   Only to find that the real learning begins when the first prototype is released.  Such is the case with our Dashboard, first released four weeks ago, and now in its embryonic trial by real users.    Try it, at and see what you think.  Fully interactive, county by county, for any date range you'd like--comparative stats are trivial, you'll find.

Where does the data come from?   We use seven sources, primarily USAFacts, the Johns Hopkins Center for Engineering, the 1point3acre Covid 19 site, the New York Times and the Washington Post
All are virtually the same, but occasionally they are out-of-sync, and we pick 'the best'.   Data itself comes from  County Health Departments, and the problems of this are rife--my own county last week announced that they'll only report on weekdays sans holidays.   So Tuesday is usually a "Big Day" in the press, as they roll Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday data together.    Counties in some states are forbidden to share Nursing Home data, others asked to forego sharing Food Processing cases--something about causing 'undue fear in citizens'.  

What were our initial learnings?

First, the choice of colors for the Choropleths--red and blue.   Turns out many observers thought this was a political statement, even though the Red Splotches were in fact mostly Blue Urban centers, and the light Blue to Blue areas were more the rural segments of America.  But go figure--everything these days, whether wearing a face mask to thwart (hopefully) Covid19 spreading is seen as unmanly or Left Wing Nuts, or opening a disco tech is seen as cavorting with the devil.  So we changed RED to ORANGE, and kept the various hues of blue.   Not quite as striking for "hotspots" but much more Politically Neutral.  

More importantly, the calculation and 'load' time for 3142 counties for all this data is unconscionably slow, so we pre-load California now as the base page, and working from there can be reasonably time-efficient.   Always load a second state before dismissing the first one, will affirm for the program that it only needs to calculate the 2 requests, and not all 50 states.   Then, discard the first state, and voila, you have the new state replete with counties for about 1/25 the time it would be otherwise

And we now offer three pages--US Counties for each state, US States, and the World in combination with US States.   Interactive, powerful, fascinating, and a good way to spend more time than you might think you have available.

I plant to issue some YouTube instructional videos--tips for using the site--in due course.   One is now avaiablel.   See

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Our Covid-19 Dashboard goes LIVE tonight

In my last post, I described our work on a Covid-19 dashboard, which has now proceeded to its first official release tonight.   It is a bit complicated, so we plan to do a couple of short video tutorials, but anyone familiar with geo-mapping tools can play from the get-go.

The page opens (albeit slowly, so we have to do some tuning), with four USA maps of all 3142 counties on the right half of the screen.   For any time interval selected, from one day to the past four months, the upper left map is of Confirmed Cases, the upper right map is of Deaths, and the lower two are of the same per capita.

We have some tuning to do on the color breakpoints, but this gives you a good idea of the very different perspectives that each of these views affords.  

On the left side is a table of all states, viewable via the slider since only about fifteen are shown at a given time.   There are four columns there, each one corresponding to one of the maps.  And clicking on each column stacks the rank order of states for each attribute.   Here are the same four in order:


Note, for example, that California ranks 5th in Confirmed Cases, and 8th in Deaths, but does not appear in the top 16 for either per capita table.   It is 32nd for Cases per capita, and 30th for D/PC

What is more fun, is the table at the far right allows selection of any state, and in fact any county or combinations of either or both.   That gives some fascinating additional understanding.   Here, for example, are four maps of California at the county level, followed by a comparison of CA and Texas


You can, for example, rank ski resort outbreaks, or meat packing locales, or anything that can be represented on a geo-spatial map, along with the data that corresponds.

Try it.

 I would like to acknowledge the help of Anywhere Anytime, LLC without whose support and their interactive Dashboard technology, this could not have been accomplished. This dashboard, created from conception to posting on May 7, 2020, took a total of 14 days.

I think you might find it intriguing.

And please, let me know of errata, etc.
Best regards


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Covid19 on our minds

Robert Burns once said, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”
I didn't intend to get caught up in this Covid pandemic, nor did many others.
But somehow, in the fourth week of January, for the next two weeks, I couldn't get out of bed for more than ten minutes at a time, and my chest felt like it was being squeezed by a python.

By the time I sought help, the hospital was none too eager to see me.  They popped me into an isolation room, gave me a few antibiotics, and refused to test me for Covid although President Trump that day at CDC (March 6) announced that "a million tests are now available".   Well, he was, shall we kindly say, 'mis-informed.'    

Over the next five weeks, I was poked and prodded, given five separate X-ray exams for pneumonia (and presumably the virus), tested for Valley Fever, heart issues, pleurisy, and a host of less well-known things.   I have a thesis about medicine--if the name of the disease has a doctor's name associated with it, it is probably not a good thing to be considering.

At this point, I am functioning again, and in the past two weeks have gained back enough strength to be able to walk to the front gate and back (about three hundred yards).  The dog is grateful--his evening walks have resumed, and his constitution has never been better.

And then, voila, the studies started emerging that claim that the virus was community-circulating in January and February in both California and Washington--despite numerous assertions that it came from China only in late February.   Granted, the studies have been roundly criticized, but not about that finding, simply that the samples weren't entirely random.

And although I had mused that I'd taken no trips for months, reviewing the calendar revealed a three-day sojourn in Napa and Sonoma counties in January, plus a large funeral service in Los Altos, and then a four day February trip to Palm Springs, staying with numerous friends from the Seattle area (about to have an epicenter explosion, we now know), and a work-week at the Tulare County agricultural fair.   

The Tulare County Fair was one of the last big gatherings in CA before "shelter-in-place" orders from the governor.   It has 150,000+ visitors, from 65 countries.   I managed to spend a couple days with a vendor from Daegu, Korea, unaware that Daegu was the epicenter that very week for the Korean covid-19 outbreak.   When the hospital urged that I call the Korean person, I shouldn't have been surprised that the company answered in Korean.   Engaging an emissary a day later generated an e-maill from them, written in Korean, saying they were fine, and they hoped that I and my colleagues were likewise.

A total of six people at our ranch wound up sick (four saying they felt "deathly ill" for days), all at the same time.   We're not exactly a nursing home here, except for geriatric horses, but it seemed a strange coincidence.

So, not that you care about this particular story, what is perhaps important to share is that it caused me to take more interest in the data behind the events, and that in turn has led to what I am now terming the "InnovaScapes Institute Dashboard"    You can see rudimentary versions at  

This has several important features that are difficult to find on the more prevalent dashboards, that I plan to describe in succeeding posts.    Notably, you can group any set of USA counties, and just see them in comparison.   Example-- how about just the counties with major ski resorts, destination places where world-wide travelers encamped for days during January-March.  Were they worse than surrounding areas, the same, or relatively unscathed?   Or, in the case of little Tulare County where I live, it seems odd that a small rural county with only one town of 100,000 folk, would have the seventh highest case-load per capita in CA, or the third highest 'kill-rate' out of 58 counties.  Was it that Farm Show, or the two nursing home flare-ups, or a combination?

The macro-map, of 3,144 counties for the 50 states and D.C., reveals the dichotomy of rural vs. urban case-load incidence, giving credence to both those urging relaxed standards and those fearful of future flares.   We can plot case-load, new cases, deaths, death-rates per incidence, death-rates per capita, timelines in both linear and logarithmic plots, etc. at the click of a button.   

I've longed for this capability, as many of you know, for years for the COPD issues in America, but unavailable to me until now, with the help of Microsoft Power BI business analytics (similar to but seemingly more powerful than Tableau), and with the help of wizards at AnywhereAnytime LLC ( which specialize in Silicon Valley Executive Dashboards.  They do an amazing job for C-suite executives seeking powerful synchronous data-visualizations for their business--I thought "why not?" for my concerns.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A modest four year hiatus

Time is fleeting, saith old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Where did the time go?   Didn't you have anything to write?  

Skipping any pretense of adequate excuse, I'll move to the point--I feel ready to, maybe even compelled to, post again to this InnovaScapes blog.   Remarkably, in the meantime, some 18,900 page views have occurred.    That number pales alongside the 240,088 views of my HP Phenom blog, but HP is better known, and at least at some point in our collective past history, was a great company.

But InnovaScapes Institute in fact has been busy over the past several years, particularly in terms of collecting oral and video histories of computing pioneers for various organizations, and in terms of involvement with societal impact of technology.

Rather than try to re-assemble four years of activity from calendar and diary records, we'll just start afresh for the 2020 New Year about to begin.  

To do a re-start, I went back to read the 100+ posts that are in this blog from 2013 through 2015.   And, to my great surprise and pleasure, they seem on balance to reflect views that I still hold.  And even in places, I found myself tickled to read something--kind of that "wow, I had some insight and was able to construct cogent thoughts on that one."    Reading old work for me has always had a bit of mystical quality to it--an out-of-body (or rather, an out-of-authorship) mode, where you don't recall writing the stuff, and it is pleasing to find that it isn't written too  badly.

Several themes from six years ago are still relevant.  

One was some interaction with Robert Atkinson with ITIF, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in Washington DC.  Atkinson et al just published a new report, The Case for Growth Centers, through Brookings.    I will comment over the next several posts on that report.

Another was the launch of the Cisco Heritage Video Interview series.  We'll do some coverage of that work, plus augment it with parallel work at the Computer History Museum, and at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).   This is incredibly satisfying work that has legacy value for many.

A third is the Novim Epiphany Awards program, about to enter its third year.

That's sufficient outline for the moment.   Stay tuned, or rather, "tune in"

Best regards,

Monday, October 26, 2015

Yes, the new book is ready

I mentioned in a previous post, October 8, 2015, that I had a draft of a new book, PRESERVING OUR DIGITAL REVOLUTION HERITAGE, almost ready to go.

It's out, not yet with Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but already with Lulu Press.  Two versions--both in paperback, one with full color and one with black and white illustrations.  The first is $14.95, the second one is a 'cheap' $9.95.  I recommend the second one; the color is not worth it.

I am handing copies out to the Computer History Museum trustees this week at their quarterly board meeting, with the notion that they might actually have some friends at various companies who care about recording those journeys and the tools, techniques, methods, and products and services that they yielded.

Everyone should have ten copies, not just one, and freely hand them out to colleagues.

This is actually a quite important quest.

Here is the online purchase site: 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

SHOT and friends

I'm at the annual SHOT conference (SHOT stands for Society for the History Of Technology); this is the 58th meeting.  I attended the 12th meeting, in 1969, when I was contemplating a PhD in the History of Technology when I was completing a Master's Degree in Urban Studies and Technology at the University of Colorado.  I've also attended the last three meetings, one in Portland, ME, and last year at the Dearborn Museum, and now this year in Albuquerque coincident with the Albuquerque ballon races.

Ah, that brings back memories.  Jenny and I were invited in 1987 or thereabouts, to come to these same races, and we got a ride in the HP balloon, rising into a clear desert sky at dawn with about six hundred other balloons.  It was a major-league thrill--watching yesterday morning was also a treat.

For the conference, I was serving as Commentator for four papers by history researchers.  They concerned ACM topics.  One paper--a very good one--analyzed how has the approved curriculum for Computer Science evolved over the years--who drove it, in what direction, with what results, and where were the pitfalls and issues?  It brought back memories of how HP and our Logic team got involved in college curricula to teach about Algorithmic Design (and we didn't even know to ask Al Gore for his perspective).  It also evoked some of the Cisco Network Academy challenges.

Another paper described how Canadian computer scientists tried gamely to develop an indigenous industry and perspective, ultimately conceding that it was not practical.  Canadians have some great sayings, and this speaker trotted some out to our delight.  Such as McLuhan saying, "Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity."

A favorite McLuhanism for me is this one: “Our permanent address is tomorrow.”  Especially when coupled with “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and

A third paper addressed the legacy and contribution of George Forsythe, an early ACM president and the erstwhile founder of Stanford's Computer Science department in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  This work, by Joe November, was very insightful, and brought back significant memories for me--that on reflection gave me pause for just how Stanford built its reputation, and how awesome in retrospect some of the MIT programs were at the time.  

And then, a tuneup.  I was reading the program the night before, and to my utter shock, found my name listed as a speaker in another session.  Yes, I had submitted some proposals, but I'd been led to believe that they'd all been turned down.  Wow--had to pull a major talk together in short order.  

The topic: Wide-area network evolution, circa the Cisco / HP time.  Whew.  I think I did a pretty good job, but Mischa Schwartz was in the audience, a kindly-looking older gentleman who had a question of me--actually a pointed discourse on what I left out.  Turns out when I got to the Web later, he's one of the GIANTS of the telecommunications industry history, with Columbia University, a major book from 1987 on Network Design, especially Packet Networks, and so many honors it makes your head swim.  I met with him for a half hour later--talk about an edifying time!

I have often been told I have a thin skin for criticism, and I don't for a minute doubt that view.  In this case, after my initial 'defense' of my point of view (see the McLuhan quote above), I chose to listen, and the advice he preferred was stunningly helpful.  What a privilege if we can learn to listen more.

If I take nothing else home from this trip but a little dose of humility on this score, I'll be blessed.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A NEW BOOK, whoopee

I just received a package, from Lulu Press, which contained three draft versions of my NEW BOOK, Preserving Your Digital Revolution Heritage: If Not You, Who--If Not Now, When?

While it is not yet available for the excitable reading public {to my surprise actually this morning}, I am going to describe it anyway for you.   Here's the cover story:

Tips and techniques for IDENTIFYING, CAPTURING, and PRESERVING company histories from alumni--our Digital Revolution is too important to leave up to the few historians who try to cover it. 

Your history is OUR history. And too many companies have contributed too many ideas / products / services to the Digital Revolution for historians to keep up. While the participants are still alive, YOU must help to IDENTIFY, CAPTURE and PRESERVE the records for these people and these companies. This book tells you how to do that--simply, easily, with much emotional value in it for you. 

The events, people and companies that have created the Digital Revolution for the world are still living, but unless their thoughts and words are captured now, they;ll be lost forever. This book describes how YOU can take matters into your own hands, and with a few colleagues decide how to identify, capture, and preserve the key historical records of the company or organization with which you are most familiar. Historians can interpret and write the history later if the artifacts, moods, events, and personalities of the participants are captured now. Otherwise, history of the orgins of the most important revolution of civilization's long march will be irretrievable

The interesting thing for me was the difference in the three versions.

The first version is the way I usually create these small books--monographs, really--which is a standard-sized paperback with color covers and black/while interior for all illustrations.

This time I did a second book, still paperback with standard size, standard paper, but full-color pages as well as color covers.

The third book is hardbound, with 'better paper' and full color pages.

The first is priced at $12.95 with a 15% discount, ($11.01 net); the second for $14.95 with no discount, and the third at $39.95 with no discount.   All three priced thus earn the same royalty--says lots about the production cost profile!

There are twelve illustrations listed on the Figures page; only one is truly enhanced by using color, so it is dubious that there is enough value in the color version to make it 'the standard'

The hardbound book is nice to hold, but mygawd, at that price for 132 pages, you'd have to be nuts to think this is the way to go.

So, we'll probably 'tune' the standard version a bit. and then I'll let you know it is available.  Stand by with your prospective orders, and get ready to become a historian of sorts for your own career!