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Weeknotes 2021-03-19

This week: improved documentation, Python 3.9 compatibility, Census DP1 data in SQLite, and we’re edging toward a 0.4.0 release of PUDL.

What We’re Doing

The Census DP1 GeoDatabase has been integrated into PUDL as a standalone SQLite DB for use with the EIA 861 to compile historical utility and balancing authority service territories, and with FERC 714 data in estimating state level historical hourly electricity demand. Previously it was had an ad-hoc non-standard ETL process.

Our documentation now has an index all of the PUDL DB tables, including the names of the columns, their data types, and descriptions of the contents, thanks to some work with Jinja templates by Austen. This is just one small part of a bigger docs overhaul as we try and get PUDL 0.4.0 out by the end of March.

PUDL is finally compatible with Python 3.9, using both pip and conda. The last dependency to make the transition was Numba, which as of v0.53.0 works with Python 3.9. Our CI is now running tests on both Python 3.8 and 3.9.

What We’re Reading

The Texas PUC Chair was caught bragging on a utility investor call about being the last man standing on the commission, after his female colleagues resigned in the wake of last month’s blackouts. Apparently he thought it was just simpler for everyone to have an electricity autocrat. Since the recording came out, he has been forced to resign as well.

Community Rules is a project to make understanding, comparing, and ultimately selecting and implementing organizational governance structures as easy as working with a Creative Commons license is today. They have templates that outline common structures, from Benevolent Dictatorship to Consensus. From Nathan Schneider and the Media Enterprise Design Lab at CU Boulder. Found via this interview on the Open Collective blog.

Open Source Climate is an initiative backed by a bunch of investment bankers and Fortune 500 companies to create open source software and open data in the name of exposing and mitigating financial risk. Seems like an odd juxtaposition of institutions and stated goals, with a website built from a PowerPoint pitch deck.

FERC is creating a new database, and holding a public workshop about it on March 25th. Even without knowing what’s going to go into the database, it seems like it could be interesting to understand how they talk about this process, given the horrendous state of many of their existing databases. Will they once again turn to Visual FoxPro?

Zane started reading Making Climate Policy Work by Danny Cullenward and David Victor, about the structural political challenges faced by carbon pricing, and the need for climate policy frameworks to focus on what has actually worked in the real world so far — mostly regulatory tools, not market mechanisms. The authors also recently participated in this panel discussion: Carbon Pricing in the Real World:

A data team hiring guide from Samantha Zeitlin. An extensive multi-step process, with take-home assignments, different branches for junior or senior people, looking a diversity and bias, communication skills. Lots of good, difficult stuff. And wow she has a lot of other great posts to dig through too.

Documentation Principles from Write the Docs. Sometimes writing documentation can feel Sisyphean. Will it ever be done? Will it be good enough? Will anyone read it? Will they understand it? Ugh.

Unpacking Interview Questions a series of posts talking through different types of job interview questions, often in a technical context. Behavioral, hypothetical, trivial. What is the purpose of interviewing? What can it and can’t it do? How do you minimize the personal bias you bring to the interview process?

By Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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