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About

Welcome to The Abacist, a blog that attempts the difficult task of making data analysis interesting, relevant and – wherever possible – a little bit of fun. In the long term I’d like to turn this site into an open digital analytics journal that experts all over the world can post to – but I need to write a couple of articles first and get the ball rolling! If you’d like to contribute some day, or just have a question you’d like answered in the meantime, please feel free to send an email.

Whenever I show this blog to somebody, they tend to ask “what on earth is an abacist?”. I like the following definition:

Abacist (n): One that uses an abacus, a simple instrument designed to quickly perform rapid calculations.

I spend a lot of my time explaining relatively dull technical concepts, and I’m a great believer in simple analogies (see what the Ancient Romans knew about MapReduce). As basic as an abacus is, a bit of practice lets you do some pretty amazing number crunching much, much quicker than you’d think possible.  I think an abacus is a bit like good data science – the base concept is simple enough, but with a bit of experience you can use it to perform extremely sophisticated analysis in a short period of time. This enables very agile (and very rapid) decision making.

Samuel Mclean

Seen here: the analyst in his natural habitat. Note unkempt hair and t-shirt.

If we haven’t met, you’re probably also asking who is this guy and why should I read his blog?”. My name’s Samuel Mclean and I like data analysis so much it’s become my full time job, working for Google as an Analytical Lead in sunny Australia. I’ve dabbled in online application development, studied law and – for a very short period – attempted to teach basketball. In true geek fashion I love video games, technology, learning strange bits of trivia and (unsurprisingly) the very interesting insights we sometimes get from very boring sets of data.

Why you should read the blog is a much harder question! Hal Varian says data and stats can be sexy, and I agree that it’s a really exciting industry. Maybe you’re studying and you want to know more about the area. Maybe you work in the industry and you want to know what other people are up to. There are definitely people better at this than me – I’d recommend the work of Avinash Kaushik, 007 of data  – but you’ll definitely find a lot of interesting ideas and practical examples here all the same. Feel free to circle me on Google+ or drop me an email if you’ve got any feedback, questions, ideas or criticisms.

One final disclaimer: all views, opinions etc published on this blog are my own, and are in no way endorsed by Google. You can find the official Google Analytics blog here.