Foxtato: The Key to Winning at Life

Foxtato You Can do the Thing

Every so often something so powerful happens that it causes you to reevaluate what you believe, and how you’ve been acting on those beliefs.

For years I’ve been acting a certain way towards those I work with, whether it was when I was running my own business, or, as I am now, working for someone else. I’ve also been acting this way at home. I see my children starting to act this way too. It’s a way of acting that I simply didn’t want to believe I was doing.

That’s not possible.

– Me

What I was doing was operating with a defeatist attitude.

I can’t point to a specific point in time where my default answer became “no”, however it’s been permeating all aspects of my life for many years, and in thinking more about it, has held me back from achieving the greatness I firmly believe I can achieve.

Pro Tip: One thing the people in your life don’t need to hear you ever say as a standalone phrase is “that’s not possible”.

I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world.

– Howard Stark, Iron Man II

In looking back at my attitude of no I see deeply flawed logic. I believed for a long time that I was bringing righteous Truth to light, helping the people around me understand what could and could not be done. Perhaps with the knowledge I had at the time I didn’t know how to do something, however that didn’t make it impossible.

I didn’t fail a thousand times. I found a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.

– Thomas Edison

Was it possible that solutions existed that would have gotten us 80% there, allowing a fuller solution to be discovered? Perhaps.

So what happened?

I had a bit of a “come to Jesus” meeting with a manager at work. What he told me caused me to look really hard at how I’ve been operating, and more importantly, how that can be viewed by those around me. I looked at myself so hard and so deep that it really fucked with my head for a few weeks.

During this self-inquisition I asked myself many questions, including:

  • Am I really a team player? What does it mean to be a team player?
  • Am I truly the type of leader I view myself as? What does it mean to be a leader? What does it mean to lead from the front?
  • What is, at the core, really important to me?
  • What do I truly enjoy in life? What am I good at? What am I not so good at? What do I want to be better at?
  • What do I want to achieve in life?
  • What attitudes and beliefs have been holding me back from achieving what I want?
  • What attitudes and beliefs do I need to change in order to be more successful (at work, in life)?
  • What attitudes and beliefs do I need to completely discard in order to become more successful?
  • What does success mean? What does it look like?

I read a number of books:

  • Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray
  • The Last Punisher by Kevin Lacz
  • The Term Sheet by Lucas Carlson

I watched a few episodes of Black Mirror.

I even spoke with a number of people I work with and respect in an attempt to continue to point the finger outwards instead of inwards.

And at the end of all this I came to realize that I needed to change myself.

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

– Bruce Lee

In order to start down the road of changing myself I realized there was one core belief I needed to completely destroy: that by changing myself – my attitudes, beliefs and actions – I am somehow compromising who I am at the core. Am I completely changing everything about me, everything I believe? No, no I’m not. There’s no need to. However what I am doing is changing that which is holding me back from what I believe I can achieve.

I am a tiny foxtato. And I believe in you. You can do the thing.

– Foxtato

Foxtato believes in you.

Foxtato believes in me.

Foxtato has an attitude of “you can do it, let’s figure it out.”

I have chosen to adopt the Foxtato attitude: I believe it can be done, and I will find the way to do it.

I will find the way to do it.


DDL Data Science Project Pitchfest 3

DDL Incubator

The Spring cohort of the District Data Labs Data Science Project Incubator is coming to a conclusion with Pitchfest this Friday evening. I’m inviting you to join us and check out the projects that the teams will be presenting! [Read more…]


Stop Working Out and Create a Practice

Create a Practice

When it comes to exercise, many people drag themselves to the gym a few days a week to do a workout, wherein they break themselves down with excessive cardio routines or lengthy weight lifting sessions. The same goes for people’s professional lives – they wake up every day only to take a long commute to work simply to make it through the day. This is working out.



  1. repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.


  1. perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
  2. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

Practice vs. Working Out

Instead of slogging through your day at work or that next “killer” workout at the gym consider this – what are your personal and professional goals, and are these activities helping you achieve them? Or instead, are you simply going through the motions?

This is the difference between working out and creating a practice.

One of my unofficial mentors, Pavel Tsatsouline, says:

Strength is a skill, it’s a practice, it’s not a workout, so the mindset of a workout is a very distractive mindset for strength.

I take this to mean that if my focus is to get through something as quickly as possible, and not focus on the skill I am building, then I’m doing a workout. If, on the other hand, I am purposeful in my action and focusing on improving my ability while performing a task, I am creating a practice.

Examples of Practice

While reading Deep Work by Cal Newport and developing my Deep Work philosophy, I created  two (very) high level professional goals and three personal goals.

Professional Goals

  • To understand the pros, cons, and capabilities of various technologies and be able to implement them.
  • To teach, in a clear manner, that which I have learned, ensuring as mush as possible that understanding is achieved.

Personal Goals

  • To be supportive of my wife at all times so she can achieve the goals she sets for herself.
  • To be a mentor to my daughters.
  • To be mentally and physically healthy.

Each of these goals has three sub-bullets describing actions I need to take in order to achieve the goal.

After that I created a daily schedule for myself, and purchased a wall calendar which sits by my computer.

Each morning I wake up, get my coffee, read my goals and do my workout. Sometimes I don’t do my workout and that’s okay. If I do it though, I mark it on the calendar.

At the end of each day I mark on the calendar how many hours I spent doing deep work, and develop a plan of action for the following day.

All of this is the development of a practice. It helps ensure that, along with mindful and purposeful action throughout the day, that I am not merely working out, but am working toward my goals, and a better me.

Pavel Tsatsouline on Practice


Application Skeleton for Flask and AngularJS

Flask and AngularJS

A constant challenge we face at IST Research is ensuring we build all of our applications in a way that makes them easy to scale. During my practice of deep work this week and thinking about that challenge, I decided that every application I build needs the following three things:

  1. Logging
  2. Statistics
  3. API (Application Programming Interface)

All three of these are very important when building and scaling fully distributed applications.

Logging provides insight into what’s going on with your application at all times. At a minimum you want to log all major events and the time they occur.

Statistics tell you how well your application is performing as well as other metrics. In the context of a data gathering application an important metric is the number of objects processed. Soon Traptor will report on how many tweets match each rule it’s collecting on, and make that information available via API.

An API is your application’s connection to the outside world. An API can be used to send data back and forth between two applications, as well as control your app. If you’re app is tracking stats, your API could provide those statistics upon request.

An Application Skeleton for Flask and AngularJS

To make the creation of new projects easier and faster, I’ve created an application skeleton for typical Flask and AngularJS web app. You can use it to quickly bootstrap your Flask and Angular web app projects and development environments.

The project contains two things:

  1. A sample Flask application configured to serve dynamic pages as well as provide an example API.
  2. A sample AngularJS application based off angular-seed used to interact with the API created in #1.

Get all the details of everything that’s included and clone it from GitHub.

Happy developing!


Engaging Hermit Mode to Do Deep Work

Walking down the road

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information  and produce better results in less time.

– Cal Newport, Deep Work

My role as Lead Architecture Engineer at IST Research finds me quite busy. Building fully distributed systems to collect and process offline and online data in real-time is a true challenge, and one that I am fully embracing.

In order to focus on that work as well as my family and health, I am taking a hiatus from all things social media, meetup, and side work (once I finish my co-management of the DDL Incubator). I may, infrequently, post some of the latest public work from both IST Research and myself, however other than that I’m going to be heads down making the awesome.

See you in the future my friend!


Incorporating Human In The Loop Processes into Data Pipelines

Human Robot

Even if you’re working with 100% machine-created data, more than likely you’re performing some amount of manual inspection on your data at different points in the data analysis process, and the output of your machine learning models.

Many companies including Google, GoDaddy, Yahoo! and LinkedIn use what’s known as HITL, or Human-In-The-Loop, to improve the accuracy of everything from maps, matching business listings, ranking top search results and referring relevant job postings.

Why are we still at this point? Because the promise of fully-automated end-to-end flows is a false one. So if we have to have a human involved at some point, what’s the best way to go about it?

Join me for a complimentary webinar on Thursday April 14th at 7PM EST where I’ll show you multiple ways to implement and leverage HITL processes as part of your data pipelines.

Reserve your seat today >>


How to Build a Data Pipeline in Data Science Studio

Join me Thursday, March 24th at 7PM EST for a complimentary webinar where you’ll learn how to build a data pipeline for cleaning and standardizing data using Data Science Studio (DSS). We all deal with dirty, messy data. I’ll show you how to use DSS to clean it up and get it ready for analysis using the super easy to use drag-and-drop interface DSS provides.

Sign up for the webinar today >>


The Next Four Months at Data Wranglers DC

Data Wranglers DC Logo

Following the Black Hat Data Wrangling talk that Travis Hoppe and I did to kick off the 2016 year of Data Wranglers DC, the next four months is going to be awesome. Here’s the lineup: [Read more…]


Announcing the Data Science Studio User Group

Data Science Studio User Group

On November 13, 2013 I founded Data Wranglers DC (DWDC). The focus of Data Wranglers has and is data engineering, the 80-90% of time spent on data projects that most people don’t like to talk about. It includes everything from gathering and cleaning data to engineering the IT systems to gather, store and process all of the data. [Read more…]


District Data Labs Incubator Now Accepting Applications


During the dotcom boom of 2000 I found myself in a catch 22: I couldn’t get a tech job without experience, but I could get experience without a job. Fast forward to 2016. Companies are scrambling to build data teams and can’t find enough experienced people. But how can you, someone new to data science, get experience to get one of these jobs? The District Data Labs incubator can help with that. [Read more…]