Excel and flow

Excel and flow

Charles Komanoff is planning to unsnarl Manhattan’s traffic problems using the data from his on-the-ground investigations:

He’s a traffic expert who has taken up the Borgesian task of re-creating, in precise detail, the economic and environmental impact of every single car, bus, truck, taxi, train, subway, bicycle, and pedestrian moving around New York City. And to do that he needs data. Lots of data.

And then:

When he finally gets back to his office, Komanoff will … inform his magnum opus, the Balanced Transportation Analyzer (.xls), an enormous Excel spreadsheet that he’s been building for the past three years. Over the course of about 50 worksheets, the BTA breaks down every aspect of New York City transportation—subway revenues, traffic jams, noise pollution—in an attempt to discover which mix of tolls and surcharges would create the greatest benefit for the largest number of people.

Early in the 2000s, I was curious about how friendships unfolded. To study them, I began the Friendship Project 2002. Tracking all conversations in an Excel spreadsheet, I tracked all discourse — when a conversation occurred, I marked it by person, topic, and timestamp. Subjects were followed up and marked with relative degrees of success and charted accordingly. FP2002 lasted the better part of a year. BTA success it was not, but I do know that the following year, I attended 12 weddings.