Starting Back at Work

At the start of the month, I started back with my old team at NHS England working as (you may have already guessed it isn’t clinically based) a data analyst. I’m incredibly pleased to be back as my old job here was my stepping stone into the world of data analytics and Excel. Here I learnt how to leverage Excel to utilise a massive amount of its potential, use VBA to automate my work processes, create dashboards and create effective data visualisations. In an effort to get better at my job I pored over blogs like storytellingwithdata.com, visualisingdata.com, and darkhorseanalytics.com (to name a few) spent countless hours adjusting and tweaking my work to better suit my users and strived to be better at every possible occasion.

The NHS is close to my heart and I deeply believe in the good that it does for our country, which may be a large reason why I have felt so compelled to work as hard as I have to improve myself and improve my work for the NHS. Within my first two weeks I’ve already pushed myself to understand and write queries in SQL to manipulate one of the NHSs largest data sets, SUS – a skill that I’ve been itching to acquire due to its necessity as a data analyst. We’ve also been seeing a large push in the NHS England analytical community to explore data science techniques, so rounds of training for SAS, Python and R have been offered (of which I will be attending none, but mainly because of limited places and because I’ve been learning Python in my own time for data visualisation – look forward to my next blog post most likely covering using Python to create data viz!).

Ultimately due to this, as it may already be evident for those of you that are regular visitors to the site (hopefully a non-zero number!), I will be ramping down content production. The last couple of months have been slow periods for me relative to the rest of the year, due to interviews, moving closer to work and a holiday to Florida with my parents, but I’m hoping to keep releasing new content at least once a month. Thanks so much for those of you who have been keeping up with my content and I really do hope it’s helped!

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Florida Ticket Price Comparisons

I’m going on holiday soon! I’m headed to Florida with my parents and being the cost savvy Brits that we are we’re always on the hunt for a bargain. We wanted to go do some of the Theme Parks (we settled on Disney and/or Universal Studios) and went about finding the cheapest ticket rates we could. During the internet hunt my Mum kept using the Calculator on her PC to do things like exchange rate conversions and to calculate price differences – but, being the Excel monkey that I am I proposed a much better solution: let’s whack it all in Excel and let me make some pretty charts!

We wanted to do around 4 days in total either all in Disney, all in Universal or 2 days in one and 2 in another. If it was far too expensive just 2 days in one of them may have been necessary. For our 2 day and 4 day prices we’ve used the listed price on the American site portal for Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World. We also found that there was pretty good deals for a 14 day ticket for both parks on American Attractions with an extra £8 off by using the code MSE8 in the checkout (found on Money Saving Expert). The 14-day tickets would afford us a touch more flexibility if we really wanted to do more than 4 days. Due to parking prices for both parks, we’ve also looked at how expensive it would be for one person to buy an annual pass (which would be especially useful as my parents go to Florida often) as these annual passes often give free parking as an extra. We also found that the Universal Studios annual pass gives you 15% off on multi-day passes bought at the front gate, so I’ve factored that into our calculations (one issue is that currently Universal Studios are offering up to $20 off for buying online, but I couldn’t find the price before the discount to use as the ‘at-the-gate’ price so this may be a little underestimated).

So, after calculating the prices using an exchange rate of 1.40 USD to 1 GBP and adding sales taxes to the American prices, here are our findings – presented using lovely bullet charts (click here for my first post on bullet charts if you want to find out more):

Price Per Visit

Price Per Visit calculated using the total price for 3 people.

Total Price

The cheapest options are to buy a 4-day pass per person for Universal Studios, but the option that provides the most flexibility and I think for us the best value (I just love how vague value is as a concept) is to get the annual pass for one person and 14-day tickets for the other two people. For 4 visits, it’s about £30 more expensive per visit than the 4-day tickets plus annual pass, but as soon as we go a 5th time it becomes better value at £148.63 per visit. So, it saves us from being locked into only going 4 times; offers us discounts in general around the parks; it gives us the option to go the City Walk and restaurants like the Hard Rock Café or go to the cinema (which we would also get discounts at), and if we’d like to go to the parks after going for food for example, we could.

Here’s a link to my spreadsheet. I’ve done the calculations for up to 3 people, but if you wanted to piggyback off my work it wouldn’t be too hard to add in the calculations for more than 3 people provided you’re comfortable using Excel.

If you have any of your own money saving tips or sites please do mention them below, and if you find any better deals definitely comment, we’ve still got a couple weeks until we need to purchase the tickets, so it’ll be really useful for us too!

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Zipf’s Law

After watching a long session of ‘VSauce’ videos (great brain food videos, albeit very addictive!), I came across this video discussing ‘Zipf’s Law’. Zipf’s law states that in any corpus of natural language, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. This Zipfian distribution applies to many different types of data studied across a variety of fields (the video discusses a large variety of these instances). Zipfian distributions also follow the ‘Pareto Principle’, the 80-20 rule. 80% of the words used in any corpus are only 20% of the unique words used.

After being utterly captivated by this phenomenon, I decided it would be fun to check whether my blog, being a corpus of natural language, followed Zipf’s law.

To my delight it does! I also thought it would be a nice opportunity for me to experiment with colour, utilising a dark midnight blue as the background instead of the usual white. Using the complimentary orange for the data points allows them to ‘pop’ from the background which I think produces a nice effect.

If you disagree or have any other non-traditional colour combinations for charts feel free to let me know in the comment section!

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Tinkering with Bullet Charts

After reading some of my other favourite data visualisation blogs (Storytelling with Data to be precise) I came across a new type of visualisation I’d not seen before – the Bullet Chart.

Once I saw Bill Dean combine the two-series bar chart into a bullet chart, I couldn’t help but think of my last blog post and the set of two-series charts I produced comparing British and Non British populations in London. Curious, I went about converting the charts I had made into this new format, and I’m very pleased with the results:

Data source: ONS, Population of the United Kingdom by Country of Birth and Nationality 2015

This way of displaying the data dealt with my main issues I had with the original versions:

  1. It was hard to tell which bars belonged to which Local Authority (LA);
  2. Due to the visual clutter of having so many bars in one chart, it was hard to pick out and compare the two series for each LA.

Bullet charts are definitely going to be something I consider in future when making two-series charts or gauges – I’m sold!

Download the excel file with the charts here.

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