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May 21, 2014

The People Behind the Software: Chung-Wei Ng

This is part of a series of Q&As with the JMP development team as we approach the release of JMP 9 on Oct. 12. In a previous interview, I talked with Xan Gregg.

Last year, when it was the 20th birthday of JMP, I saw some photos of the JMP team from the earliest days. And there, in the snapshot of the JMP group shipping the first version of JMP was Chung-Wei Ng. She has worked as a JMP developer for 21 years, since the very beginning of the product.

In earlier versions of JMP, Chung-Wei was heavily involved in developing the graphical platforms. Now she works mostly on the data table and on data manipulation platforms, like Summary, Join and Tabulate.

Arati: What do you like about JMP?

Chung-Wei: JMP provides a great platform for us to develop data exploration tools. JMP is very visual and very dynamic. JMP has the machinery for users to customize and augment. And JMP is still growing. Every version of JMP, we find that we have more things that we want to add to JMP that we think will make JMP a better product.

Arati: What are your favorite JMP features that you wish more people knew about and used?

Chung-Wei: Tabulate, because it is a very powerful summarization platform. It gives you a pivot table with just a few clicks. You change the layout of the table by dragging and dropping. It can summarize a lot of data and present it in a compact table, in an easy-to-read format.

The table cells are dynamically linked to the source table. When you click on a cell, you see the sub-population that gives those summary statistics. Also, you can save the report as a data table and use the summarized data for further analysis.

Here's an example of an output from Tabulate. The data table has data from an insurance company that was seeing high variation in claims among different branches. The Tabulate table summarizes the total number of premiums and claims, and the total amount of premiums and claims by branch and zone within the branch.

Arati: What’s new in JMP 9 in your area of focus?

Chung-Wei: I added a lot of little things for JMP 9. While each one by itself is not momentous, hopefully, they add up to making JMP a more better discovery tool and enhancing the user experience. I added things like the column filter in the dialogs, coloring cells in the data table and multiple undos.

Arati: What was the reason for adding those to JMP? How will they be helpful to customers?

Chung-Wei: As JMP grows, it seems that our users data tables also grow. Now it is not uncommon for our users to have data tables with hundreds of columns. Sometimes just looking for a particular column for analysis can be a chore. Adding a simple column filter on the platform dialogs can help our users find the right columns easier.

The ability to color cells in the data table can be very useful. Marking some cells with color calls attention to those cells. Coloring a column by value lets you see the distribution of the data directly on the data table.

Arati: What do you find most exciting as a developer?

Chung-Wei: It is very exciting to me to be able to take an idea, implement it and know that our users can use it to make their jobs easier.

Arati: What book are you reading now?

Chung-Wei: I just finished reading Moby Dick during a recent trip to Asia, and now I am re-reading some chapters that I rushed through because I was too eager to meet Moby Dick (Moby Dick actually made its appearance quite late in the book).

Arati: What do you like to do in your free time?

Chung-Wei: I enjoy reading books. I listen to and watch a lot of operas. My husband and I travel all over the world to see operas. I also dabble in painting.

Arati: Pick two of the following to identify: your favorite programming language, favorite algorithm, favorite formula, favorite theorem or favorite software tool.

Chung-Wei: My favorite programming language is C++. My favorite theorem is Brouwer Fixed Point theorem.

1 Comment
Community Member

The People Behind the Software: John Sall - JMP Blog wrote:

[...] led up to the release of JMP 9 on Oct. 12 -- today! Earlier interviews have been with Xan Gregg, Chung-Wei Ng and Laura Lancaster and Bob Hickey. The interviews will continue -- look for Q&As with folks [...]