Sunday, February 23, 2014

OCTPW: Pomodoro!

I'm a huge fan of the Pomodoro technique as a way to manage daily tasks.  I'm a programmer, and I learned about it from another programmer, but I think any person that spends most of their time in front of computer can benefit.

Very briefly, the central tenets are:
  • Break your tasks into 25-minute chunks ("Pomodoros") at the beginning of the work period, and write them down on a piece of paper
  • Complete each task in 25 minutes, cross it off, and take a 5 minute break
  • After three tasks, take a longer (15-25 minute) break
  • Repeat until finished
This absurd simplicity is actually very effective.  It forces me to develop a strategy, execute within a time constraint, and be honest and accountable with myself when something doesn't get done on time.

As a longtime pencil-and-paper Pomodoroist, I couldn't help but wonder what a fully realized Pomodoro app might look like.  Something that keeps that same spirit of simplicity while addressing some of the annoyances of paper.

This is my first attempt at a modern Pomodoro tracker.  It's still unpolished, but works well for me.  As always, the source is freely available and I welcome any feedback or contributions.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

OCTPW: The Quantified Hedgehog

My first One Cool Thing Per Week (OCTPW) entry is more of a show-and-tell, since it's actually been in the works for several months.

Many of you have met my hedgehog, Hugh.  He lives in a custom-built box that has lots of sensors.  Among them are three thermometers, two cameras (including infrared), and a speedometer/odometer hooked up to his wheel.  All of this (and more!) are available at

I'm looking for more ways to consume the speedometer data.  It's both the most interesting and worst-implemented feature on the site-- Since it's limited to the last 24 hours, the only way to getting a feel for Hugh's exercise regimen is to check in every day.

From my observations, he tends to run about 4.5 miles each day, starting at 6pm (when it gets dark), again at midnight, and again at 3am.  His record distance in 24 hours is an impressive 7.67 miles!

If you're interested in a bit more technical detail, check out the "about" tab.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

OCTPW: Meteograms!

This week for the One Cool Thing Per Week (OCTPW) initiative, I'd like to share my favorite graph on the internet.  It's not interactive, force-directed, artfully designed, or data-driven.  In fact, it's a bitmap generated by a PHP script on a .gov website:

NOAA Forecast Meteogram for Boston, Now -- +48 Hours

This type of graph is called a meteogram, and is actually a de facto format for visualizing weather station data.  There are about as many types as there are weather agencies.  You don't see them on consumer facing weather services so much (In the quest for minimalism, nothing gets ignored quite like a 16 color rectangle with 12 different data series smooshed together).

This particular graph from NOAA, though, is my favorite.  I think what makes it work is how well it correlates disparate series:  Each plot takes up the same amount of height and is scaled to look like roughly the same amplitude.  Closely related data is grouped together, but not so closely to become overcrowded.  Subtle touches indicate directionality, or totals, or probability-- But only when it applies.  Most impressive is how it behaves at the extremes:  During big storms, the data is just as readable as during a relative lull.