I was on Danny Baker’s Radio Five show earlier, which was great. I’ve always been a big fan of his and consider him to be one of the few genuinely innovative and brilliant broadcasters.
I’d texted in in response to a question about being a terrible sporting captain, and it was a good opportunity to tell about when I was captain of Dogpool Rovers in South Birmingham Sunday League Division Three:
I really like the Photosynth iPhone app for creating panoramas, it’s a painless process and can be done quite quickly. Of course moving people, or dogs, can create an odd effect. This one is at the summit of Tal y fan in North Wales, with added ghost and extra long dog of course.
After my talk at Oxford Geek Night I was happy to have a couple of suggestions to see if the algorithm could produce better results. One was to remove retweets from the search, which makes sense as we all know from many Twitter bios “a RT does not imply endorsement”—and that was easy to implement as the basic Twitter search api returns retweets ‘old-style’ with “RT” at the head.
The other was more complex, so I’m going to quote Owen who emailed me directly:
“This morning I thought up an analogy. Suppose you have weather readings for the last 100 days. For each day you have temperature (T), humidity (H) and mm of precipitation (P). What you’re doing is multiplying these all together, presumably because you want to get one number out. Unfortunately this number is meaningless. If you wanted to combine these quantities in some way you should really be thinking about what meaning you’re attaching to the number you get out. I’m ignoring here the fact that you multiplied them all together, when in all likelihood adding them would make more sense. I suggest it would be more meaningful to keep track of them separately, and plot three graphs instead of one. Indeed, this is what is done with weather data.
You spoke about wanting to get a measure of how much spread a set of data has. What you want is the variance, or something like it. The average (more properly called the mean) of a set of numbers is obtained by adding them all up and dividing by the total number. This tells you something very useful, but it loses all information about how spread out the information was. The variance captures that. It’s a bit tricky to calculate. I’ll try to explain it here, but you can always google for more details. Suppose you have numbers a1 up to a100. The average is M = (a1 + a2 + … + a100) / 100. The calculate the variance we have to calculate some intermediate numbers. First, you have to calculate the average. Then you have to calculate the average of each number squared: Z = (a1^2 + … + a100^2) / 100. Now the variance is V = Z – M. I know that doesn’t seem to make much sense. There is a way of calculating the variance which makes it clearer why it’s any use, but it’s a bit harder to actually implement.
You might want to square root the variance to get the standard deviation. This is measured on the same scale as the original numbers you had, so it makes a bit more sense to use that instead.”
So, @IsOxfordHappy and the location sensitive page now do both of those. I’ve removed the ‘word scale’ for the time being till I can see roughly what the numbers are. Thanks everyone for your suggestions.
While working on Siôn Simon’s push for there to be a directly elected Mayor for Birmingham I contributed an ideas paper around the possibilities for a more open system of government in the city. It covered open data (in broad strokes rather than technical details), comms and transparency. It was always a plan for the team that ideas and plans be released as soon as they were ready—happy for any other campaigner to use what we thought were good things.
So, when the referendum went against us I talked to a few people about releasing this stuff anyway. I couldn’t do any harm, I figured. It’s taken me a while to get round to it.
These docs were my own work, so don’t take them as being ‘official’, I’m also not planning to do anything with them at this stage. Some of the ideas may already to part of the political plan but he city’s new council leadership, but to be honest I don’t know.
Feel free to use any of this if it’s interesting.
After moving down to Oxford I did an update of my Birmingham Emotions conversational psychogeography project. That’s now quite simple as I have built a ‘happy monitor’ that can centre anywhere. I’m not as happy myself as I was with the results however, whether due to the increasing volume of the Tweets that it analyses or something else the rating doesn’t move around too much. Such was the problem I proposed in a very quick talk at Oxford Geek Night 27. Here are the slides from the presentation, I think the audio was being recorded and will add if I get hold of it.
I’ve already had a number of suggestions about improving the equation or analysis, if they’re code-able by me I shall try. If not I will have to ask for help…
On a side note, the whole idea of conversational psychogeography came to me when I was thinking of putting an emotional wellbeing indicator in the form of a light at the top of Birmingham’s Rotunda (see how it’s still unfinished right at the top. That was back in 2008, but it seems that London has finally installed something a little similar. Drat.
You can get twice daily Oxford updates on Twitter.
From 18th July until September the large glass edition of the Birmingham Music Map is going to be on display at The Public in West Bromwich as part of their Summer Exhibition. It’s free to visit and has a rather nice coffee shop-cum-bar.
Thanks to Jez from the Birmingham Music Archive for his continued support of this.
Fused magazine, which (as well as sister publication Area) I’ve done stuff for in the past, has just released a very special edition. It’s thick, beautiful and perfect bound and it’s the first volume of what they’re calling the second volume of the mag. It’s got some fantastic photography and illustrations and rather wonderfully for me three of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Read what happened when I talked to bass-god Peter Hook, Barney out of noisecore legends Napalm Death and David Shrigley who’s one of may favourite artists.
Forty two piers in to our circumnavigation of the coast of England and Wales we arrived bleary in Saltburn-by-the-sea one morning. Luckily the breathtaking coastline and the warming sun perked us up. Luckily as it was the only time we were captured on video during the trip. It’s for and, we think, going to be part of a documentary about the pier for its 100th anniversary.
Based on current estimates we’re about halfway or just over to finishing writing the book. Then the edits and long search for a publisher begin in earnest. If you’d like to know more then pierreview.co.uk is the place.
Poorly Collected Works 2010-11 is the title of an eBook I pulled together at the end of last year. It sold a few, and jumped into the Amazon charts when it was part of a promotion, but was more of an experiment. In continuing experimentation, now Createspace is working with Amazon UK I made it into a real paperback too. It’s available to buy now at a cheapish price.
It does contain a few treats not in the similar e-book—amongst them a previously unpublished interview with Barney from the grindcore band Napalm Death, a few pieces focussed on the referendum for an elected mayor that was held in Birmingham in the early part of the year, and excitingly I think a small piece of my half of Pier Review—that real book that I’m writing that will come out sooner rather than later.
Createspace also does DVDs/film downloads as well as books—it’s a fairly simple way of creating work and self publishing. You need to fiddle a little with their formatting and do a lot of checking, but it’s easy enough.
On Friday I got round to doing something I’d been thinking of for a long while. I added location detection to my conversational psychogeography tool. Like the Is Brum Happy? system it takes the latest tweets around a location and rates emotionally sensitive words against a database to give scores for the happiness or emotional wellbeing of the place. If you’re using a HTML 5 browser (you probably are) you can let it reveal your location to the script (it’s not saved anywhere) and it will tell you if where you are (and a mile radius around) is happy right now.