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Comment: Re:America's loss is Africa's gain (Score 1) 338

by kaiidth (#48451919) Attached to: LinkedIn Study: US Attracting Fewer Educated, Highly Skilled Migrants

Gaborone is in Botswana. Botswana is on the pointy bit of Africa, next to South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Ebola is (mostly) about eight thousand kilometres away by car. If you count the smaller recent outbreak of Ebola in the Congo, Botswana is still a two thousand kilometre road trip away from the nearest outbreak.

By all accounts Gaborone is a fairly nice place, if not the most cosmopolitan or exciting city on Earth. Excepting HIV, about the worst health risk you're likely to encounter in Gaborone is cholesterol poisoning from too many Family Feast Buckets at the KFC in Main Mall.

Comment: Re:Half right (Score 1) 286

by kaiidth (#46378999) Attached to: Scottish Independence Campaign Battles Over BBC Weather Forecast

There's a cost-benefit argument that's very popular in Westminster right now. In a nutshell, it goes 'London has a large population, therefore focusing on London benefits more people, therefore sod everybody else'. Usually you hear it used about spending money on flood defences, libraries, arts funding and so on. This is the first time I've heard anybody use a variant on the above to justify the use of a clearly suboptimal weather visualisation.

Media companies focusing on the oh-so-many people who live inside the M25 are welcome to design local forecasts for that region in whatever way they please. But the BBC supposedly intended to produce something for use across the UK. To do this, it was necessary for them to design and evaluate this visualisation accordingly. Whether all the designers' mates happen to live in London, or even whether the designers believe that there aren't enough people in Scotland to make the exercise worthwhile, should have had no relevance to this process.

Comment: Re:Half right (Score 1) 286

by kaiidth (#46375571) Attached to: Scottish Independence Campaign Battles Over BBC Weather Forecast

That government pressure to change is perennial. It will always be there in one direction or another. One of the most important roles of senior staff in any such organisation is to handle that pressure.

Ultimately organisations are severely damaged not solely by pressure from above, as bad as that is, but by the opportunistic reactions from people looking to cash in on the situation. "Ooh, pick me! I've got no integrity at all and have no clue what this department technically does, but I'll fuck anybody over if there's something in it for me." What you get out of these privatisations is a perfect storm, a combination of externally catalysed and incoherent policy change, arsehole me-first management and slimy consultancy. Result: loss of decades of expertise, plus the enrichment of a large number of functionally irrelevant suits who probably have the phrase 'change management' on their linked-in profiles.

So while it's entirely reasonable to blame the asshats in government, also take the time to note the complicity of asshats in management. The government couldn't fuck up things up so badly if it couldn't count on a legion of supremely self-interested fifth-columnists.

Comment: Re:Half right (Score 2) 286

by kaiidth (#46374937) Attached to: Scottish Independence Campaign Battles Over BBC Weather Forecast

The system is apparently Weatherscape XT, aka the commercial arm of the New Zealand MetService. See an example that does something more like what you suggest here. The technology looks quite capable, if a bit gratuitous, so probably someone with a good understanding of how to use such packages could've made something very successful out of it. Weatherscape XT may simply have been doing what the customer requested (no matter how loopy). In view of the AC's remarks on the creative brokenness of the BBC it might well be that the BBC weren't up to doing their part of the procurement process, getting the requirements right, developing an understanding of the way the 'solution' should be used and figuring out whether the result is a useful visualisation and what the audience will make of it. Typical for an outsourcing process. Lose the in-house expertise, buy in something commercial, cross your fingers and hope.

Still, on the plus side the contract is apparently up for renewal, so stay tuned for whatever the BBC chooses next. If it involves 3D glasses and weather icons swooping out of the screen towards you I will be gloomily unsurprised.

Comment: Half right (Score 3, Insightful) 286

by kaiidth (#46374805) Attached to: Scottish Independence Campaign Battles Over BBC Weather Forecast

Yes, they changed the projection in around 2005. The new format did indeed suck - take a look at the 'this is how weather maps look now' image on this page. It was a triumph of 3D prettiness over usability and produced wonderfully unhelpful graphics like this and there was a lot of sulking over it, not so much because of nationalist fervour, but more because it was crap. The BBC themselves claim they had 16,000 complaints. So they tweaked it, significantly.

It's a shame that the BBC's obsession with shiny things produced a weather forecast that sucked, and it is indeed quite possible that they didn't recognise how much it sucked because of inner-M25 London myopia, although if so the joke's on them because a significant proportion of BBC staff were moved to Manchester fairly shortly thereafter. Since the BBC produces a lot of things that are shiny but happen to suck it doesn't seem necessary to attribute the weather forecast to a subconscious urge to portray Scotland as negligible. Occam's razor suggests that the simpler explanation might be that whoever outsourced the weather forecasting isn't half as smart as they think they are.

Comment: Re:archive.org? (Score 5, Insightful) 89

by kaiidth (#43383225) Attached to: British Library To Archive One Billion UK Websites

Without wishing to offend it, the BL is a monolithic organisation that doesn't always play well with others. Part of that is because funding doesn't always work that way. You can get money for claiming that you are going to do the very first über-awesome UK archive, but your chances of receiving the funding becomes rather lower if in the very first breath you point out that somebody else has been doing pretty much this for a decade. Another part of it is: most politicians would likely want the national heritage, such as it is (jubilee celebration tweets - please...) to be held by that nation's own national library.

I would imagine the BL have referenced archive.org work extensively, but differentiate this project with what tits in suits like to call "a compelling USP." To put it in plain English, they'll have a neat explanation that suggests that they are totally aware of previous work in the domain whilst making sure that this project looks a) different, b) excitingly new and c) contextually, better.

Comment: Re:Some Rambling Commentary (Score 1) 489

by kaiidth (#43373177) Attached to: Getting a Literature Ph.D. Will Make You Into a Horrible Person

There's some regional variation in PhDs, at least in CS/info science. In my experience, US PhD progs often (but not always) seem to involve a lot of structured learning, like compulsory classes, etc. In the UK and many European countries, PhDs seem to have a slightly higher tendency to appear a lot like a regular job, plus added dissertation. Newly qualified PhDs therefore vary a lot in workplace skills/experience...

Comment: Re:Portal 2 - Co Op (Score 1) 550

by kaiidth (#42639631) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do I Get My Spouse To Start Gaming With Me?

I second this. Portal 2 is insanely attractive to non-gamers. That said, it's not that much of a gateway drug in my experience, leading if anything to an interest in puzzle games. It seems easier to go from Portal 2 to Osmos than from Portal 2 to Left 4 Dead... much to my disappointment.

Comment: Re:We are not angry that he was arrested. (Score 1) 430

by kaiidth (#42633401) Attached to: After Aaron Swartz's Death, the Focus Now Falls On the Prosecutors

You might be surprised. Check out pseudosci.org. I still get threats about that web site from time to time.

You're right, I am surprised. That is somewhat hilarious.

But I do believe in the old adage of "When all is said and done on the Internet, far more is said than done."

I agree... but it is to be said that the same is true of academia. I was at a conference session just the other month on the subject of text analysis, in which most of the attendees were managers with no relevant background or experience. It is currently flavour of the month. In two, three years' time they will be after something else, without having solved this one - not that they will admit to this. Academic funding agencies have ADHD, and therefore so does academia.

It is possible that the public at large will not benefit directly from games played with JSTOR, as JSTOR itself is a somewhat specialist resource. Even if the result is just a few people learning a little about available tools, theory etc, that in itself beats a slap in the teeth with a wet kipper.

My own years of experience have taught me strong collaborative teams are far, far more likely to do great things than some brilliant lone wolf in seclusion. And if that lone wolf does do something great, he's far more likely to use it to become rich than donate it for the good of mankind.

My experience has been rather mixed. What works for software development is not always what works for innovative but relatively theoretically routine applications. There is a lot of money in biomedical text mining, so that area attracts big dev. teams. However, there's been something of a time lag between profitable specialised applications of text analysis, which have in some cases attracted a lot of funding, and the idea that text analysis is another tool in the cross-disciplinary toolkit. Text analysis in the humanities is great fun but you can't cure cancer with a well-aimed Socratic dialogue, so in most cases that level of cash just isn't there (a lot of text mining already occurs in the humanities, but there are many more subjects/applications waiting in the wings).

Thanks for the link to the OTMI, by the way. It looks like an interesting concept, but given that it seems to have been abandoned since 2009, I'm not persuaded that a huge demand exists to data-mine journal papers in this manner.

Certainly not with OTMI, which went down like a lead balloon. It effectively shreds the paper and hands you the remnants to play statistics with. Better (slightly) than nothing, but not by much - and with the paywall in the way and no guarantee of long-term interface availability, why waste resources on it when you could play with openly available free stuff instead?

There must be more to life than having everything. -- Maurice Sendak

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