Weekly-ish Update 5th-9th March 2018

Travel! If there’s one thing I miss about being in research it was the travelling around talking to people. This week I was back in Ireland for the first time in years. What have I been up to?

Giving some talks and having meetings on Open Source and Free Software at Trinity College Dublin with lots of interesting people from enterprise, IT and academic departments.

Marking lots of student proposals for their foundation technology course. Its a fun mix of projects, everything from robot building to app development, game design and social change.

Working with my Analytics Labs teams, sourcing data and coaching analysts in working with Alteryx. This week I had two teams; one looking at progression from school to university, the other looking at challenges for Alternative Providers.

Working on a requirements specification for a client.

Watching Black Panther at the cinema. Really enjoyed it!

Playing Elder Scrolls Online. I’m rubbish at it, but its fun.

Listening to Paramore and Depeche Mode.





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So much for the weekblog. I haven’t updated it since before the holidays!

Oh well, lets see if we can kick this off again. This week I’ve been:

Teaching students at the University of Bolton. I’ve been working with Foundation students in Creative Technologies, getting them to develop ideas for projects they’re delivering by the end of semester. Its a lot of fun, and also very challenging.

Working on Analytics Labs. This time I’ve been working with two teams, one comprised of staff from Alternate Providers that are pretty new to analytics and HESA data, but very enthusiastic and with lots of ambitious ideas. Another team are focussed on the entry points into HE – A levels and BTECs from schools and colleges.

Developing more Tableau dashboards as part of the Jisc-HESA Special Projects Team. (Being of a particular generation the name always makes me think of Vivian’s pet hamster Special Patrol Group from the Young Ones.) This is basically taking proof of concept BI products developed in Analytics Labs and developing them to Community Beta releases. Fun!

Experimenting with the R-based predictive analytics tools in Alteryx. Lots of fun with logistic regression and SVMs. Finally one of the teams has been brave enough to give ML a whirl.

Watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. I really liked the book, and the series runs pretty close to it.

Reading Walkaway by Cory Doctorow. There are bits where the characters basically explain things like meritocracy and the politics of abundance at each other in a very narrative-breaking way, but overall its worth it.

Delivering some OSS Watch training for the lovely people at Apereothe home of Sakai and Xerte among other great projects. This week we covered governance and communities in FOSS.

Writing the requirements specification for a reference data registry for a client.

Listening to Priests, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Orbital.



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Weekly-ish update 11th December – 15th December

The snow has been falling, there is a tree covered in multicoloured LEDs blinking in the corner of the room, as well as on my Bing start page, and the entire family has colds, so Christmas is immanent.

However, as usual there is also the acceleration of work as clients rush to get stuff done before the end of the year.

So, what have I been doing?

Working on Analytics Labs. I had a session with our team from the DfE on Monday, then a visit to the University of Sheffield to meet up with our team of HR analysts and UCEA partners. This involved jumping onto a paternoster lift to get up the Arts Tower. As one colleague pointed out, its kind of like a slow-motion thrill ride. So as usual I’ve been doing lots of Agile, Alteryx and Tableau with a wide range of data. I’ve also completed the work on the TfL API data, with a lovely interactive map showing how difficult it is to reach the campuses of various London universities from all over greater London.

Working on Data Orchestration for Jisc’s portfolio of library services, implementing some of the findings of an initial study by our friends over at Sero Consulting. We’ve just completed an analysis of Master Data Management products for implementing the solution, and are working up the consolidated As-Is and To-Be data models.

Anonymising Learning Analytics data to make more open data in this space, potentially for an open competition using it as training data for ML or for building apps and mashups. Watch this space!

Watching The Force Awakens on Netflix, in preparation for seeing the new film at some point.

Going to Dick Whittington with John Barrowman, the Krankies (!!) and loads of rude jokes that daughter #1 is now old enough to get.

Playing Skyrim. There goes my life. Using the Frostfall mod for additional survival fun.

Listening to Protomartyr, Priests, and Paramore. (Possibly other bands starting with the letter P.)

Reading Existence by David Brin.

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Weekly-ish update 4th December – 8th December

I’m going to get the hang of this weekblog thing. Eventually. Maybe a New Year’s Resolution?

Anyway, this week I’ve been:

Presenting two workshops on Free & Open Source Software under a joint Cetis and OSS Watch banner. This is a course we developed covering licensing, other types of IP, due diligence, creative commons, and all kinds of related stuff. The first workshop was part of the PraxisAuril Software Commercialisation course for technology transfer professionals held in Loughborough. The second I did for the STFC’s Daresbury Labs with a more technical audience of scientists, engineers, and research managers. Both went very well I’m happy to say; a good indicator for me is how tricky the questions I get from delegates, and there were some nice conundrums this time around.

Working with Jisc and the DfE as part of the Analytics Labs programme. We had our face to face scrum retrospective and planning meeting on Monday, as well as a brief Scrum session. Some great Tableau dashboards already coming out of this team; also some great use of Alteryx.

Starting some new work on open learning analytics data for a client.

Working with a team of London-based analysts on journey data for students travelling to campus locations. I now finally have the geospatial data for the various campuses, I just have to grab the journey data from TfL again with my handy pile of Java code.

Watching Fargo.

Playing Civilization V. I should probably get VI, but I’ve only unlocked 60% of the achievements in V so far.

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Weekly-ish update 13th November – 1st December

OK, I really, really am terrible at blogging weekly. Its probably only going to get worse!

Recently (-ish) I’ve been…

Working with three teams of analysts on agile business intelligence projects through Jisc’s Analytics Labs structure. I’m working with a great team at DfE looking at apprenticeships, a very ambitious group of London-based analysts looking at transport and facilities around the capital and how that relates to students, and a team of HR professionals tackling data on the ageing workforce, absence and mental health, and career progression of female staff in higher education. Lots of big challenges across the spectrum – GDPR, data blending, geospatial data, integrating API calls (I’ve written code for calling the TfL APIs and the Google Maps Distance Matrix API.) I think we’ll have some fantastic outputs from this. I’ve also been doing some scrum mastering!

Working on a data mastering/data orchestration project for a client looking to realise efficiencies and unlock potential from what have historically been separate services and business units. So I’ve been doing lots of as-is and to-be data modelling, and also using SSMM to carry out some pre-procurement discovery of solutions to handle data management in the longer term. Big issues here in GDPR (again), data governance and stewardship master data management, standardisation, and data semantics.

Planning a training course for mentors in an open source foundation.

Preparing a training course for technology transfer professionals I’m running for PraxisAuril next week.

Preparing a workshop on open source software at STFC Daresbury Laboratory next week.

Collaborating with partners in Cetis LLP on our Student Journey Transformation consultancy offering.

Planning some new work on open learning analytics data with a client.

Fixing bugs in HtmlCleaner.

Participating in the SWORDv3 protocol stakeholders group.

Travelling around the country. Next week I have Coventry, Loughborough and London!

Watching Mindhunters and Fargo.

Reading The Islanders, by Christopher Priest

Arguing with people being wrong on the internet. As if I have the time!


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Weekly-ish update 30th October – 10th November

I’m really not great at making sure this happens every week. In my defence, I’ve been incredibly busy with client work!

So I’ve been…

Working with three teams of analysts on agile business intelligence projects. I have a team at DfE looking at apprenticeships, one with UCEA/UHR looking at HR issues in HE, and one of London universities looking at transport links around the capital and how it relates to recruitment and retention. This is all being done through Jisc’s rather fabulous Analytics Labs structure.

Attending an event at the Co-Operative College on “Making the Co-operative University“, all about shaping a “challenger institution” that could emerge from the co-op sector under the new HE legislation. Great to see so many people from different types of co-ops around HE, including lecturers setting up their own micro teaching institutes as well as student co-ops around housing and transport, plus some larger co-ops in telecoms, groceries etc; all coming together to try to create a new kind of institution. Inspiring stuff. I’ll try to blog more about this when I get my notes in order!

Travelling all over the place, but mostly London.

Participating in the new SWORDv3 protocol stakeholders group.

Working with another project where a client needs their data harmonised across multiple services.

Planning a new project with a client to create anonymised open datasets for learning analytics.

Developing some code using both the TfL Journey API and Google Directions APIs to build matrices of useful travel data.

Reading The Gradual and The Islanders by Christopher Priest.

Watching Better Call Saul.


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Weekly-ish update 23rd-27th October

I’m much better at this weekly blogging thing when I’m not so busy!

So, last week I was mostly….

Presenting and facilitating at the Jisc/HESA Analytics Labs Community Dashboards Expert Group. This brought together a lot of the analysts involved in previous BI labs, and we had lots of fantastic ideas for future analytics work. We also got to view the latest dashboards in pipeline for release by HESA and get feedback from analysts on their priorities (the Brexit Impact dashboard was a pretty high priority as you might imagine). It was great to see people I’ve worked with from around the country over the past few years coming back and participating – one of the achievements of this programme has been building a fantastic culture of cooperation among analysts and data wonks from institutions across the UK.

Supporting the work of the Jisc/HESA Community Dashboards Strategic Advisory Group the very next day. Some very important discussions and ideas here on taking forwards BI initiatives in the sector. I worked on a resulting paper with colleagues from HESA and Jisc, also drawing together and visualising data from the programme (BI about BI!) to go alongside the paper and inform the recommendations.

Connecting with colleagues over at Fossa.io about collaborating around due diligence in open source software. They’ve bee developing automated approaches to checking licensing policies, while with my OSS Watch hat on I’ve been mostly focussed on the more holistic issues around open source sustainability. Sounds like we can work together nicely!

Preparing materials for our startup meetings with DfE for their analytics labs experience – we’re bringing together analysts from across the department, most of whom haven’t worked together previously – to develop prototypes pulling together datasets from across government. Hopefully we can help them deliver some great insights around topics such as apprenticeships.

Planning an internal data orchestration project for a client, harmonising the data models used across their different services, and building common data dictionaries, vocabularies and reference dimensions.

Prototyping a mechanism for connecting multiple BI dashboards with a common competitor cohort in HE. Basically, the idea is that you use multiple datasets and measures to identify a set of competitor institutions that is more precise than broad categories such as mission groups or AUDE bands. Then, you take this competitor group and make it available as a filter in all the other dashboards you access. Needless to say, Tableau wasn’t exactly designed with this in mind, so it involves a fair bit of custom coding.

Organising some teaching and training sessions. I’ll be giving a guest lecture in November, and will be delivering some training for PraxisAuril for tech transfer professional around software licensing. This will be the third time I’ll be delivering this particular course!

Voting in a new partner at Cetis LLP, the one and only Phil Barker of schema.org fame.

Planting garlic. I had a really good harvest this year, so didn’t need to buy any garlic for planting.

Cooking with chillies. My final harvest of Cayennes has been put to good use – I now have a jar of chilli flakes and a pot of hot sauce.

Watching Breaking Bad. Finally binge-watched this and finished it. Also finally got to watch The Martian. Great film, though any mention of space potatoes always reminds me of a story by Stanislaw Lem.

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Weekly Update, 2nd – 6th October

Another week, another blog post. What have I been doing lately?

Working with colleagues at Jisc on Analytics Labs and DfE Labs.

Working with a client at the OECD.

Writing client case studies for the new Cetis LLP website. Its only when you’re asked to write it down that you realise just how much you’ve done, and who you’ve worked for.

Fixing bugs in HtmlCleaner and answering user questions.

Coding some improvements to TrunkDB for the public beta. Really glad we built it using a microservices architecture with a separate web app – testing and deploying updates is a breeze.

Listening to the new albums by Wolf Alice, and Gary Numan. Both way better than I was expecting.

Watching Breaking Bad (finally).

In case you don’t know me, I’m a consultant and partner in Cetis LLP, specialising in BI/analytics, open source software, and technology discovery and pre-procurement. Always interested in new clients, so feel free to get in touch.


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Weekly Update, 25th – 29th September

Better late than never, eh? So what was I up to last week.

Working with colleagues at Jisc on Analytics Labs and DfE Labs. I created an infographic of the types and provenance of the data sources we’ve used for dashboards over the past few years by extracting metadata from the Jisc Data Catalogue via the CKAN API.

Collaborating with the other partners at Cetis LLP on our consultancy offerings we’ll be promoting in the coming year. I’ve mostly been working on our Research Data Management and Student Journey Transformation themes.

Discussing some potential new work with a client, facilitating the development of common data models across 20 or so different business units, and extracting them into common services and APIs.

Fixing bugs in HtmlCleaner and TrunkDB. Nice to be doing some Java again.

Making my own hot sauce using the cayenne peppers I’ve grown in the greenhouse this year.

Watching series 2 of The Expanse (its great!) and Star Trek Discovery (its OK).

In case you don’t know me, I’m a consultant and partner in Cetis LLP, specialising in BI/analytics, open source software, and technology discovery and pre-procurement. Always interested in new clients, so feel free to get in touch.




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Cetis has a new(ish) logo

OK, OK, so we haven’t updated our website in ages. But at least we have a new logo. Well, we’ve had it since January, courtesy of the excellent Mark Power.



What do you think folks?

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