Structure Your DataJust a thought for today... When compiling forensic data it is important to make it human readable. This isn't just to help those who aren't tech savvy. It is to help consolidate and present information in a coherent manner so it is more readily comprehensible. Isn't that what were doing at the Betrayed Spouses Club when we look at digital data? We're not only finding information we didn't have (or didn't want to see), we are trying to comprehend it. We are trying to put some structure into a subject matter that had suddenly and unexpectedly jumped from our subconscious insecurities into the ever-present lugubrious spotlight of our daily lives. For me, personally, no matter how badly my wife and I were getting along I never thought it I would be a member of this club. It was so horribly unfathomable that I find myself wondering which way is up more days than not. My search for the truth is paired with my need to structure it. I need the facts and a structure with which I can begin to comprehend them. That is why I took some time to write this post.
Mis En SceneAn important part of understanding "what" is to not take it out of context. Nobody lives in a vacuum. External events can be a frame of reference that can help with comprehension. I identified several events which could impact the decisions that were made by my wayward spouse.
It's important here to remember that no one can make someone cheat... No matter what happens the wayward spouse's decisions are their own. That said, the events which may have influenced those decisions can't be ignored. First, it can help you come to terms with what actually happened. Second, if you do try to reconcile, you will need to find and fix the vulnerabilities in your marriage, such as; poor stress coping skills, communication issues, lack of emotional support, etc.
Here are some of my events.
- My wife's birthdays
- Big arguments over money
- My spouse's mental condition
- A death in the family
- My diagnosis with cancer
- Loosing my job and health benefits
I plot these on the same structure along with milestones I found in my conversations with my spouse and my search for digital information. Here are a few.
- Meet-ups with the other people
- Calls, texts, chats, pic/video to the other people
- Initiating a new relationship with another other person
The TimelineA chronological structure can begin to help you fit the puzzle pieces together. There are a few options; calendar, timelines and Gantt Chart are what I'll cover here.
CalendarTo start, begin adding the data that you've collected which identify external events and events during the affair(s). I wouldn't recommend going to such detail as to record every text sent or received. You will need to stay at a high level of detail to make sure the calendar doesn't become cluttered and unreadable.
- Any calendar app
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs - now Google Drive ($0) has drawing templates for calendars
TimelinesTimelines offer an advantage over the calendar because they can manage the duration component of your data more effectively. The duration could be the time your spouse has associated with one other person or another or it could help identify times where your spouse was well-behaved and acted with the appropriate respect for your marital vows. The basic structure of a timeline is a big arrow signifying time moving from a discreet point in the past and moving forward. Single events are marked as bullets, or milestones, along the path. Events with a duration can be listed with a callout (bracket) that is large enough to cover the span of time in the duration. This makes a better visual representation than a basic calendar and provides quick reference to the concept of duration.
- Microsoft Visio ($$$)
- Microsoft Excel ($$)
- Google Docs - now Google Drive ($0) has drawing templates for timelines
Gantt ChartA Gantt Chart is a project planning tool from the IT world. It's supposed to let a project planner identify tasks and events which need to occur on the timeline of a project. Additionally, resources needed for the project, costs, materials, dependencies, and all other sorts of project information can be associated with the tasks. The project manager can use it to keep his eye on the dizzying amount of data that is needed to ensure the project gets completed to spec. Now, this isn't a PMP certification blog so that's as far as I'm going to go in the proper use of the Gantt Chart. What it does well that suits our purposes is manage lots of information related to events, the duration of activities, and dependencies on external events.
I prefer the Gantt Chart to an ordinary timeline for a couple of reasons. First, you can add a lot of detail. A normal timeline would get fairly cluttered with a lot of detail is added. Second, you can roll-up activities into a parent task. This is really handy when you are working with a complex data set like figuring out WTF happened to your life to make it go to sh*t.
- Microsoft Project ($$$$$)
- Microsoft Visio ($$$)
- GanttProject ($0)
Thematic AnalysisThis approach takes the events you have compiled and places them in relation to a key concept. A key concept may be "arguments" or "business trips" or "health/getting older" or whatever you and your spouse feel are major influences on the affair(s). You will need to spend some time to classify or label your events with the appropriate concepts. Once you are done, you can begin to see how these themes correlate to the behavior leading to affairs. For example, you find that your spouse is out late at the local meat market club on weekends (event) when they had a health scare (theme), birthday (theme), or a close friend passed (theme). You will be able to cut through the noise of too much data to see relationship between theme and event. If you're lucky, you just may be able to find a better understanding of their decisions and perhaps some hope by finding something you both can work on to strengthen your marriage.
- TaggedFrog allows you to make a tag cloud from Windows files
- Many Eyes is cool site to see thematic visualization in action
It doesn't paint a pretty picture but it is a picture. With structure, I can see more clearly what events influenced her decisions. That gives me a better ability to understand what happened and how to work on the marriage to ensure it never does again.
Nota Bene: if you do use the Google tools make sure you're not sharing that with anyone! Set it to private so your bar buddies don't get a sneak peek at why you're always ordering double whiskeys.