Data Geek

I’m a big fan of gathering metrics about my own activities.

It allows me to look at trends and patterns about my own behavior either for self-improvement, or to simply understand more about the things I may have often taken for granted.

I’ve also found tracking my Testing activities and some of the metrics that go along with that incredibly valuable. I know at what time of the day I am most productive, what sort of music brings out the best Tester in me and some interesting data points suggesting I find twice as many bugs per Testing session when I work from home versus the office.

Freak! I hear you shout. Yep. Maybe.

I’ve “quantified” myself for many years now right from how much I spend each day to my fitness routine. (or lack of)

In the work place I don’t live by numbers, for example progress based on No. of Tests executed, or any other crazy metric some teams may be governed by.

But I do like to look for trends. Trends and patterns can show me interesting things. I want to know how many times a story or defect has been bounced back from Test, even more so for groups or clusters of stories over periods of time.

I want to know how long on average it takes to spin kits to out test environment over X number of days. I want to know on average how many kits are good versus how many are bad. This shows me useful data that can start further conversations with, nothing more than that.

With data points, trends and patterns I can start to look at underlying problems (or enablers) and do techniques like “The 5 Why’s” to get to the root cause. Single sets of numbers often don’t offer insights like this, they can be flukes, anomalies or unrepresentative. Numbers gathered over periods of time offer more credibility (although could still be invalid or incorrect).

So I thought I would share with you two of my favourite tools for tracking data.

  • Daytum
  • Your Flowing Data


Daytum has been around for quite a while now. I love Daytum because it lets you create almost any data combination structures you want and gives you a nice simple interface and some neat graphical displays to choose from.

I’ve been using Daytum for some time for personal stuff like expenses, items I spend money on, miles run, etc etc. For Testing I’ve experimented with data such as “Sessions completed”, “Bugs per session”, “Bugs per sprint”, “Most Bugs Per Music Genre” and all-sorts of other crazy data that might lead to more insights in to my Testing.

Your Flowing Data

Your Flowing Data (YFD) YFD is a new one for me but I’m really liking it.

It’s proving pretty awesome at capturing all types of data for me.

The killer feature for me is that I can do all of this from Twitter. I can send a DM to YFD from my Twitter account and it records that data for me. This is a neat little feature. You can still enter data via the web interface also.

The data can be graphed or exported for further manipulation which gives it a great level of flexibility. There are more graphs being added too as well as the ability to export your data out to a spreadsheet.

Want more?

There’s also Me-Trics, mycrocosm, grafitter and beeminder (more goals related)

If none of the above sound cool, then how about trusty excel, or a whiteboard with stickies on it?

For a data geek like me though, these tools allow me to shift my focus towards understanding people and behaviours, and how these different behaviours may interlink and relate to each other. From this data I can start to see patterns, stories and trends. And I really quite like that.

One thought on “Data Geek

  1. Hi Rob

    Interesting article about using measurements and looking for patterns. My only concern would be our human ability to be fooled by random patterns and make connections where connections do not exist or regress to the mean (common factor).

    Have a read of Drunkards Walk – fooled by randomness – great book on how we can be fooled into finding patterns in numbers without even knowing we are being fooled.

    I like your concept about taking these numbers and trying to find the patterns and I do love your caveat about it still being incorrect or invalid. It takes lots of self control and discipline to use numbers and find patterns without being taken in by our natural ability to see patterns when there are none.

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