Welcome to everythingData

As the welcome post for the website I will take this the opportunity to go through some W’s.

What is everythingData?

everythingData is a contribution to what some may describe as the ‘whitenoise’ of data blogs and articles on the web. However, I strive to make the posts here more than whitenoise, perhaps even useful and informative, and if not that, at least mildly entertaining. For those who know of KDnuggets, R-Bloggers, or Medium, and the associated Towards Data Science, the format here will be familiar to you, albeit with my own styling. As in the name, I have a strong passion and interest in anything and everything data related but that could make for a rather chaotic blog. To tame my enthusiasm I focus foremost on public health topics but when I cannot contain myself I may post tangents on additional data related topics in other fields of study.

Why is it here?

The reason everythingData exists is rather drab and as such I will skip most of the details and boil it down to two points:

  1. Realizing that writing a blog has benefits for continued growth and education for the author, not just the audience. I found David Robinson summarized it rather well. I tend to log my projects in notebooks, which I attribute to a vestigial habit from working in a laboratory for many years. I expected my handwriting would have improved after this amount of time note-taking. It has not. And everythingData as a platform to publicly share content will make deciphering my projects easier retrospectively and, as an added benefit, maybe even help others as well.
  2. Provide a shared resource on public health data and associated methods, a topic that I believe is underrepresented online. There are many innovative and interesting health-related topics beyond machine vision applied to medical imaging. Access to data is a major limitation that allows some topics to overshadow others and perhaps epidemiologists prefer to publish in research journals and government documents. Whatever the reasons, there are still many public health topics that can be explored and I hope this website can provide a reference for others on topics they may not readily find elsewhere.

Where is it going?

I have a lot of ideas for future contributions to everythingData and I hope to provide some insight on data applications in public health. That being said, many techniques are general and shared across domains; as such, topics will vary (e.g. data preparation, best practices for visualizations, and modelling). Many posts will originate from challenges faced with real data or a desire to apply new methods I have researched. I appreciate that learning new techniques outside my normal domain of expertise is valuable, and methods that work in one setting may have surprising benefits when applied elsewhere (although I expect some mistakes along the way). I have noticed this on various occasions while talking with engineers and seeing how their data solutions contrast or compare to an epidemiologist’s toolkit.

Who is the author?

My name is Allen O’Brien and I am an infectious disease epidemiologist. My education and experience have taken me to several places but all have had data as a common denominator. Please see more details by visiting here.

Also… the How

Sometimes I have found articles and blogs can be long and tedious, making them difficult to read at length, especially while on-the-go. I have also found great resources only to discover that the second half of the process being described is part of a promised future post that never comes 😞. Finding a balance between attention span and a level of detail a topic deserves is difficult. For blogging, I believe it is best to separate complex topics into manageable pieces that, when combined, provide the necessary details. Hopefully, this will allow readers a start-to-finish reading experience in a comfortable 5 to 10 minutes. When topics demand more attention, they will be split into a series, and who doesn’t enjoy a good series; perhaps it may even promote a binge reading behaviour…

Some readers (perhaps my future forgetful self) may wonder how I made this website? I wanted something fast and simple, which quickly directed me to static site generators and Hugo. Hugo, unsurprisingly, describes the benefits of using a static site generator. Although I may provide a more detailed account of the process in a future post, I believe that this topic has been covered already by several great resources that I found invaluable during the process of launching everythingData. Here is a slim selection of the first that come to mind:

  1. Alison Hill’s website and associated github page
  2. Hugo documentation
  3. Academic theme documentation
  4. blogdown - Creating Website with R Markdown by Yihui Xie, Amber Thomas, and Alison Presmanes Hill
  5. Mike Dane’s webpage and videos on Hugo
  6. Freely usable images by Upsplash

Now that the difficult part of launching and christening the website is complete (I had to drag myself out of customization tedium), the next post can be what we all care about: anything and everything about data!

Allen O'Brien
Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

I am an epidemiologist with a passion for teaching and all things data.