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Comment Maybe Scott just wasn't listening that hard... (Score 3, Interesting) 163

Cute: at the start of TFA Ridley Scott provides the quote given above ('... if there had been anything suspect they would've said so'), which is kind of suspect in itself given that we know that 'The Martian' isn't technically flawless. Then later in TFA, NASA's director of planetary science cheerfully and honestly demonstrates exactly this by listing a bunch of things that were understood as being 'close but not exactly correct', including the Martian dust storm which sets up the entire story of the book. At which time Weir states that he 'deliberately sacrificed reality for drama with the dust storm'. At which point Scott pretty much demolishes his own earlier quote by saying, 'there's a bit of cheating here and there. Eventually they all say, well, you're making movies, so we’ll forgive you!'

On the whole the article reads as though Weir and Green are on the same page throughout, including a shared understanding of the inconsistencies that did make it into the story; not so much Scott...

Comment Re:Whatever ... (Score 1) 141

For example, someone walking around a museum might borrow some sort of headset that guides them on a tour and provides background information about each exhibit they are looking at.

We've been able to do that for a very long time. Typically we do it by 'punch the number into the keypad' technology (admittedly not a very high tech solution but it works and unlike naive location-based technologies it lets users decide for themselves when they're fed up of the current spiel and want to move on). In the early '00s we were playing with RFID, infrared and similar for this purpose, but for most contexts most of the time it turned out to be more effort than it was worth. Turned out that application doesn't need Google Glass and can be achieved using cheaper and less creepy means, is the point. Which is more or less what you're saying.

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

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

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

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

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

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 (Score 5, Insightful) 89

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 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

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...

The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time.