Setting Sail

Make ready for departure, I’m going on a journey.


December 27, 2020

The logo of the jolly data blog, after the update in June 2021. New are the colors, the font and a sharper look to the jolly. © 2022 Christian A. Gebhard

What is this blog about?

This blog is based on the idea that exploring openly available datasets is fun. Think of it as “recreational data analysis”, or whatever you want to call it.

If you appreciate data analysis and data visualization as much as I do, feel free to browse through the different posts or follow along as I publish new articles by subscribing to the RSS feed.

I’m not using any analytics or tracking on this blog, so I don’t know how often the posts are being read. If you enjoyed an article, I’d still be happy to receive a short notice about it every now and then. On the other hand, if you find an error or think an article can be improved in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or Mastodon.

This blog is a journey I’m embarking on, an endeavor to sail the vast oceans of open datasets in a hypothetical one-man jolly boat1. As I want to constantly improve my skills, I’m happy to receive feedback!

Why I started this blog

A few years back when I was still studying at the university, I had to take a brief SPSS-class and therefore I used SPSS for the data analysis in my thesis. When I couldn’t create heatmaps in SPSS2, I discovered the great R-community and its vast resources online and quickly found what I was looking for. I was so pleased with “the R way” that I completely redid my thesis analysis with R. However, at the time I just learned what I needed to complete the thesis.

A few months back I decided to up my data science skills and started learning the tools in a systematic way. I completed a “Python for Data Science” curriculum at a popular online learning platform and after using python for a few projects, I wanted to re-learn R properly “from the ground up” as I did with Python.

Since I don’t really use R or Python in my day to day job, I needed some motivation to keep my trained skills sharp and I hope to keep them on a high level by forcing myself to formalize my data explorations in clean and systematic articles for a critical audience.

I’m really into the concept of reproducible science and for this Rmarkdown or Jupyter Notebooks are great tools. I have thought about publishing these somewhere but never found a way I was comfortable with. I was hesitant using popular blogging platforms, that were not made to natively host statistical analyses so I’d have to rewrite my work again in a different format. And since I’m not a web developer, building something myself was out of the question.

Yes, there is blogdown. While this offers great ways for hosting a modern and professional blog3, it felt too big of a hurdle to set it up and get started with a blog. I was afraid to get lost in configuration and maintenance tasks instead of just doing what I want to do: analysing data.

A few weeks back I stumbled upon a blog post by Tom Mock on building a blog with the distill framework4. Read this blog post to find a good comparison of the pros/cons of distill vs. blogdown.

For me distill is the perfect balance of simplicity, functionality and clean design (with the ability to tweak the theme with custom CSS here and there).

Fast forward and here I am now: This is the first post of my up and running blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.

About Me

I’m a medical doctor specializing in genetic counseling. More on me can be found here. I’m living in Germany and German is my native language. I decided to write the articles in English for a few reasons:

  • Data science – as almost all scientific disciplines nowadays – is an international community, so the expected audience is more likely to understand English than German.
  • While “Open Data” is getting more popular among German authorities, administrations and institutions, many of the interesting datasets, that I will look into, come from international sources.
  • Most importantly, the software, tutorials and resources I used to learn data science were mainly in English, so I’m probably more proficient in the English terminology than the German counterparts.

Please forgive any grammatical hiccups or stylistic inconsistencies, my goal is to present my findings, not to become the next Shakespeare.


I have no professional training or degree in statistics or bioinformatics. The blog articles are a product of my personal entertainment where I aim to produce insightful reports of my recreational data exploration and visualize the findings I personally find worth reporting. This blog is to be seen completely separated from my medical occupation. I can and will not respond to contact inquiries searching medical advice nor do I provide medical advice in any form on my blog. If you need medical attention please refer to your general practitioner or a healthcare professional at your local medical emergency services. Thank you for your understanding. For a full disclaimer, please refer to this page.


  1. Hence the name↩︎

  2. I suppose there is a way, I just couldn’t figure it out back then↩︎

  3. Just look at the astonishing possibilities of what can be done with the combination of blogdown + Hugo + the academic theme!↩︎

  4. Mock (2020, Aug. 1). The Mockup Blog: Building a blog with distill. Retrieved from↩︎



BibTeX citation:
  author = {Gebhard, Christian},
  title = {Setting {Sail}},
  date = {2020-12-27},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Gebhard, Christian. 2020. “Setting Sail.” December 27, 2020.