Alas, I am not talking about Ryan Gosling’s new film, nominated for the Palm d’Or at this year’s Cannes, the DRIVE I’m talking about is a data and reporting conference put together by the University of Washington’s Advancement Reporting group.
Yesterday, at the Bell Harbor Conference Center, I joined about 100 reporting, analytics or data professionals mostly from higher–ed and non-profits. A few other fields were represented (like Krill Systems & the Seattle Prop Club by MCDM’s very own Lynne Watanabe). The morning was filled with sessions ranging from data mining to data visualizations. I was able to attend both University of Washington’s Information School’s Marilyn Ostegren’s presentation on Data Visualization and Cool Data Blog‘s Kevin MacDonnel’s talk on predictive modeling.
Somehow in the last few years I have become a major data nerd. It may have all started when I took my first Access class and our instructor finished the course with his favorite database joke: What does Hugh Hefner have in common with relational database? One-to-many relationships! – ba-dum-ching! Whatever the reason, this new world of data, databases and visualizations has become a mild obsession. So yes, I was digging on Wednesday’s sessions.
Having attended Edward Tufte’s “Presenting Data” workshop, I wasn’t sure I would learn much in an hour with Marilyn Ostegren, but she definitely proved that I have much to learn about data visualization. Her presentation covered everything from the reasons why data visualizations work (how our eyes and brains recognize and process information) to providing tools and exercises to improve visualizations. And added a little more fuel to my data viz fire.
Kevin MacDonnel spent his hour with the group discussing successes and failures of university databases, predictive modeling and fundraising. He also explained how he sort of haphazardly found his way into the data modeling world, with no formal education in statistics. But don’t let that fool you; he knows his stuff and everyone left his sessions ready to embark on our own modeling.
I asked a few of the attendees to share their favorite parts of the day, and everyone came back with many reasons why they found this conference valuable. Lynn, one of the few from outside the higher–ed fundraising realm, said there was plenty to glean for those outside of non-profits. Some of the continuing action is being tweeted with #DRIVE2011, but one of my esteemed colleagues in UW Advancement, +Jessica Balsam, is taking incredible notes on Google+. Check in today from 9am to 3pm for coverage of the panel sessions on data, social media and becoming a data and reporting expert.
For me, attending workshops and conferences like this have become an essential piece in enhancing my MCDM education. There is no shortage of data out there, and I like to know my way around it and how to use it. Plus, data nerds tell the best jokes.