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Summer Edition – What our team is reading

From renaming genes due to a computer error to a metaphor of legacy code in a fantasy novel
Elena Torró
Software Developer
Aug 14, 2020
  min read

We hope you’re having a good summer in the best possible manner given the current circumstances. In this post, we bring you some resources you can read this August, whether it is from a hammock at the beach or from the safety of your home.

Studies found a fifth of genetic data in papers was affected by Excel errors 😯

“Excel is a behemoth in the spreadsheet world and is regularly used by scientists to track their work and even conduct clinical trials. But its default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1” — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar.”

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” —Mia Hamm

“But text wins by a mile. Text is everything. My thoughts on this are quite absolute: text is the most powerful, useful, effective communication technology ever, period.”

In these “Machine-Learning-Hype” times, we tend to forget the basics. For those who want to learn or review probability and statistics concepts through practical examples, “Think Stats” and “Think Bayes”, by Allen B. Downey, are great resources to start with.

In The Name of the Wind, a fantasy novel where Kvothe goes to The University to learn the secrets of sympathy, alchemy, and the true name of things, it describes how The Archives system works. The Archives is the huge library of the University and contains a vast amount of books. During the years, different systems have been used to organize them. It’s a really good metaphor of the real-world software projects dealing with legacy issues:

“[…] The moral of the story is that things are a mess in here. We effectively ‘lost’ almost two hundred thousand books when Tolem burned the Larking ledgers. They were the only records on were those books where located. Then, five years later, Tolem dies. Guess what happens then? A new Master Archivist looking to start over with a clean state. It’s like an endless chain of half-built houses. […] Whoever’s working on the new house keeps stealing lumber from what’s been built before. The old systems are still there in scattered bits and pieces. We’re still finding pockets of books scrivs hid from each other years ago.”

“Users do not use web applications in the way that you might expect. And it is not easy to get the data that is necessary to get a full picture.”

Have a great weekend!

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Musings on transformations, tables and everything in between.