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Factivism

By Steve Jones,

I believe that we should all give back to the world outside of our families at some point in our lives. This might not be the time for you, and you might not have a cause right now. However I think at some point performing volunteer work to better the world will give each of a deep sense of purpose in our lives. I was reminded of this recently while watching a talk from Bono, on the state of hunger and poverty in the world. Bono has devoted considerable personal energy and resources in working with one.org to fight extreme poverty around the world. This may or may not be your cause, but it was an interesting talk, one worth watching.

The presentation wasn't what I expected, with Bono embracing his "inner nerd", as he put it. He talks not only about the state of his cause, but he uses data to present his case and inspire people to continue to work to make things better around the world. The term he used was not activism, but factivism. This is the idea of using facts and knowledge to further a cause. Whether you agree with Bono's vision, his case, or his goal, the idea of using data to make changes is something most of us embrace as data professionals.

The idea of using more data, more information to make decisions is something most of us do each day. However we don't have to limit ourselves to just the data and knowledge we have at work. I find many people looking to showcase their skills or improve their brand. This might be a way in which you choose to do this. With the availability of data from governments and organizations, you can present your own data analysis, or even a visualization that shows how you work with a set of data. It's the chance to make your own mark on the world, perhaps making the world better, or perhaps disputing the claims of others. Having data freely available allows us to check and verify someone's work or dispute their conclusions. Both of which are important for a healthy debate.

However you might tackle some data interpretation, you don't need to make a political or social statement. You could just provide a story on how you examine the data, perhaps learning along the way. By showcasing your knowledge of data in some way, perhaps even explaining how to load the data, you get experience and practice in both a technical area, as well as in communicating your knowledge to others. If you choose to do so in pursuit of a cause, perhaps the world may be a little better for your efforts.

Steve Jones


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