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Comment Re: More like "most bitched about" (Score 1) 88

Yes, one of the big stories of the US 2016 election does seem to be that states and counties which were not considered to be in play suddenly switched camps. What I'm less sure about is how much pollsters could have done to predict this.

Based on what little data I've seen so far, I think one of the tactical errors Clinton's campaign made was to focus too heavy on "attacking" (hitting not only swing-states, but also states traditionally in the Republican column) and not enough on defending states that looked like they were in the bank.

The UK's 2015 General Election again offers a direct parallel here. Labour's "ground game" focused on 100 Conservative and Lib-Dem held "target seats". The Conservatives, on the other hand, went for a "40/40" strategy. They attacked 40 of the seats they thought they were most likely to take and threw resources at defending their own 40 most vulnerable seats.

The 40/40 strategy proved far superior to the 100-targets one.

Comment Re: More like "most bitched about" (Score 3, Interesting) 88

Beware simple explanations for polling failures, particularly explanations which align comfortably with your existing beliefs.

It hasn't been a fantastic couple of years for the polling industry. After a period around the turn of the decade where people thought that polling had become a pretty precise art, we've had some major polling controversies in recent years. I actually get horribly nerdy about some of this stuff; I'm not a pollster, but I find polling fascinating.

Before I go any further; I'm in the UK and most of my knowledge is based on the UK polling scene. That said, the US and UK scenes have aligned quite a lot over the last two decades and, while polling a relatively small country like the UK will always be different to polling a very large one like the US, there are a lot of commonalities as well.

It's worth noting that most political polling is not a big earner for the companies that carry it out. It's a competitive market and margins for pollsters are not huge. Most polling companies are primarily market research firms who do most of their work for commercial clients. Political polling is often a loss-leader for them. It gets their name in the press and, if they can claim "we were the most accurate pollster for the election", that's a good way of winning more lucrative commercial business. The commercial incentive on most pollsters, therefore, is to be accurate. Contrary to popular belief/conspiracy theory, very few deliberately set out to mislead and those who do are easy to identify (generally by the wording of the questions they ask, or a refusal to disclose data) and mostly ignored by the mainstream media.

But back to some of our problems with polling in the UK in the last couple of years...

Our own 2015 General Election had a fairly major polling failure. The polling pointed to Labour and the Conservatives (our two main parties) being more or less neck or neck, to the extent that it looked almost impossible that either of them would be able to form a majority government. The final weeks of the campaign were dominated by speculation over the likely distribution of seats and the possible combinations of parties that might be able to form governing coalitions (which probably influenced how people voted).

When election day came, it became clear almost as soon as the polls closed that the pre-election polls had been very badly wrong. The Conservatives had performed somewhat above expectations and Labour had performed somewhat below them. Moreover, the pollsters had also failed to map vote totals into Parliamentary seats correctly (in the UK, each of our 650 constituencies elects a Member of Parliament and, as with US States/Districts, those constituencies do not all behave alike). The result was that, contrary to all expectations, the Conservative Party formed a majority government.

This triggered a bit of a crisis for our polling industry, not least since, following a highly accurate polling record from the 2010 election as well as various local, European and London Mayoral elections, a lot of weight and credibility had been attached the polling. The British Polling Council, which is a self-regulatory body for our polling industry, commissioned a post-mortem on what had happened.

The initial public narrative on what had happened was pretty stark. The newspapers (and various online forums) were filled with cries of "shy Tories" or "lazy Labour". These are two politically-comfortable labels that have been used to explain polling failures in the past. The first is the idea that Conservative voters might be embarrassed to admit their real voting intention to a pollster. Labour supporters like this one. The latter is that Labour supporters are too lazy to turn out and vote on election day. Conservative supporters like this one.

The actual post-mortem comprehensively rubbished both theories. The problem was one of sampling. Pollsters use a range of sampling and weighting techniques to turn a sample size of less than 2,000 people (a sample of around 5,000 is more normal in the US) into a national vote projection. In the 2015 General Election, their sampling went wrong in two specific demographics; the 18-24 age range and the 65+ age range.

The 18-24 age range is notoriously difficult to poll. Getting young 'uns to take 20 minutes to talk to a pollster over the phone is not easy. In the 2015 election, the under-25s who agreed to be polled tended to be both highly politically engaged and highly left-wing compared to their peers. This meant that the vote projections for this demographic showed them as both more likely to vote and more left-wing than turned out to be the case on polling day.

The 65+ age-range, meanwhile, is known to be both highly likely to vote and generally conservative. However, within this band, poll samples included too many 65-74s and not enough 75+s. The 75+s are both extremely likely to vote and extremely conservative.

The combined impact of these two sampling errors was enough that the polling position under-stated the Conservative position by 2-3% and over-stated Labour's by a similar margin. This appears broadly in-line with the scope of the error in the US 2016 election. Moreover, the General Election 2015 polling also struggled to cope with shifts in votes for "other" parties; in particular, the collapse of the vote for the Liberal Democrats (the UK's traditional third party) and the spread of votes for UKIP (which had been expected to hurt the Conservatives more than Labour, but ended up doing the opposite).

Our other polling controversy was, of course, the Brexit vote. However, it's debatable whether there was ever an actual polling failure here. There were 34 polls carried out by BPC-affiliated firms during the formal campaign period. Of these, 17 showed a lead for Leave and 14 for Remain, with 3 showing a dead-heat. It's true that polls in the final few days generally favoured Remain, but a high level of postal-voting meant that a good portion of the electorate had voted a fortnight or so earlier, when Leave's campaign was peaking. You could, therefore, argue that the polling industry collectively and correctly predicted a very tight race, with a probability of a small victory for Leave.

However, this isn't how the Brexit vote polling was reported. There was a stark divide in the polls between those conducted via phone, which showed, a lead for Remain, and those conducted online via pre-selected panels, which showed a leave for Leave. Inexplicably, the media chose to attach much more weight to the phone polls and reported a narrative throughout the campaign which put a Remain victory as by far the most likely outcome.

There hasn't been quite such a detailed post-mortem of the Brexit polling, but what we have seen suggests that yet again, sampling and weighting problems were to blame. Pollsters traditionally weight down low-income and low-education voters in their samples, as these demographics have historically been less likely to turn out on polling day. This long-established trend did not, however, hold true for the Brexit vote. Those voters turned out in roughly the same proportion as the rest of the electorate and tended to vote Leave. The impact of this was probably worth a 2-3% swing between the polling and the actual result.

I haven't yet seen any really substantial data-driven analysis of why the US 2016 election polling was wrong. And it was wrong; this wasn't like the Brexit vote where the media just ran with the wrong narrative from the polling. However, before claiming widescale lying to pollsters (which has never been found in statistically significant levels before), it would be better to look at polling methodology; to look at how the pollsters were selecting and weighting their samples and whether there were any historically unprecedented trends in turnout.

It might not act as such a fuzzy political comfort blanket, but it is a more useful way to understand what really happened.

Comment Re:Congratulations Sony! (Score 1) 72

Most of the consoles on that list reached end-of-life some time ago. The PS4 is still in the middle of its lifespan and, with the PS4 Pro just launched, is likely to remain live for quite some time.

In terms of sales trajectory, which makes for better comparisons, the PS4 was tracking broadly equal with the Wii (the previous record holder at the 3-year point, though it also flatlined not long after that) until Sony announced the PS4 Pro earlier in the year. That dropped their trajectory a bit, as people who had been planning to buy a PS4 over the summer deferred their purchase until the Pro was available.

There's still every chance that the PS4 will eventually hold the number 1 spot. Cheaper hardware and a larger (and cheaper) games library means that console sales traditionally hold strong through the mid and late parts of the cycle. At the 3 year point, the PS2 was still at 70 million sales and, as recorded by your own link, it would eventually go on to sell around 155 million.

Comment Bit of fact checking needed here (Score 4, Insightful) 114

The quotation in the CNBC report here is just a little bit disingenuous. "The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever" is 50% true; with an estimated 155m units sold, the PS2 does indeed sit at the top of the pile for home-consoles (though the Nintendo DS handheld roughly level-pegs it). The Xbox, however, with sales in around the 24 million range, is very much in "also ran" territory.

It wasn't a failure by any means. It was a toe in the door for Microsoft and it did eventually beat out the Gamecube in the battle for second-place on units sold among the 6th generation consoles. But attempting to lend credibility to an argument by claiming that views are from one of the creators of "one of the most successful consoles ever" when said console was the original Xbox is simply misleading.

And as for the content of TFA... the case for VR in gaming is not yet proven. Sales of consumer VR units are ok but not spectacular and are showing some signs of diminishing now the launch-hype is over. Perhaps more importantly, there has yet to be a game that really makes the case for VR as anything other than a tech demo. A range of factors, including problems with using the headsets for an extended period and, most importantly, control problems mean that nobody has yet produced a really great VR game (Elite: Dangerous is almost certainly the most successful, but that's a fairly niche product). For the most part, VR experiences to date have fallen into one of three categories:

a) the pretty but shallow glorified tech-demo
b) the cut-down version of an existing game (e.g. Driveclub VR)
c) The existing pre-VR game which has had VR support added

Last generation's fad, motion controls, eventually faltered after people realised that they just weren't as good as regular controls for actually playing games. Nobody was ever going to be chosing to play through a Dragon Age or a Call of Duty using motion controls and, after the novelty wore off, people went back to their controllers or mouse/keyboard combos. If VR is to avoid the same trap, its best hope comes from my category c) above; but so far, that's only been made to even remotely work in the driving and space-combat genres, both of which are niche.

Privacy

Britain Has Passed the 'Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy' (zdnet.com) 359

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous." The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter," was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. Civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online." It's no wonder, because it basically does. The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand -- though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch. Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions -- such as journalists and medical staff -- are layered with marginally better protections. In other words, it's the "most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy," according to Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

Comment Twitter's format is a big part of the problem (Score 5, Interesting) 427

Twitter itself is a huge part of the problem in the coarsening of political debate. The emphasis on short, snappy "soundbite" statements and the e-peen benefits of being retweeted serve as powerful incentives for people to forgo civility and mean that the most extreme voices, whatever their persuasion, get the most prominence.

When you are trying to fit your thoughts into a character limit, what kind of clauses are you going to cut? How about:

"I see your point, but have you considered..."
"I understand why some people are attracted to that argument, but..."
"I know there are exceptions to this rule..."
"I might be oversimplifying here..."
"This is purely anecdotal, but..."

Twitter is a remarkably effective tool for stripping conversations of all of the little niceties, qualifications and acknowledgements that keep things civil. It's a platform for thumping certainties, hysterical over-reactions and wanton attention-seeking. I've known rational, well-spoken people, often well-regarded in their professional fields, who turn into flaming morons on Twitter.

It's not a problem of Twitter's moderation policies or editorial stances, but rather a fundamental problem with the medium. Being mischievous, maybe 140 characters should be the minimum rather than the limit.

Comment Re:Ita about time! (Score 1) 230

For those not familiar with the UK context, I'd point out that an Employment Tribunal is a first-line body. I would eat my hat if this decision isn't appealed and the higher courts do have a long track record of overturning Employment Tribunal decisions.

Don't assume this one is settled.

Comment Re:What with this size thing Sony? (Score 1) 71

The Wii was an odd beast and I suspect the wider industry is right not to emulate it. At the time of its launch, the Wii was supported by a particular press and publicity zeitgeist that gave it a big advantage over two rivals who appeared desperate to shoot themselves in their feet (MS with the RROD fiasco, Sony with the PS3's price-tag). It also had a quickly-grasped concept that appealed to a lot of people who didn't usually play games.

The problem is, while the Wii made some super-profits in the first 2-3 years, its success turned out not to be sustainable. The second half of its active lifespan was pretty miserable for Nintendo, as hardware sales fell and game sales plummeted. The company fell to its first ever annual losses in the second half of the Wii's lifespan. The Wii's successor, the Wii-U, was a dead-duck pretty much from the moment it left the door and has only managed around 13 million units sold, making it Nintendo's lowest selling home console ever by quite some way. Poor hardware played a big role in that; people didn't want to jump to a new console that only really offered comparable performance with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 at a time when those consoles were almost ready to be replaced.

Besides, Sony did ok out of the "we have bigger numbers" game with the PS4. Up to the point where the PS4 Pro was announced, which obviously impacted sales of the current hardware, they'd shipped more than 40 million consoles in just three and a half years on sale. That's decent going and those sales seem to have resumed again with the PS4 Pro available.

That said, I still don't disagree that the emphasis on specs is a bit of an own-goal in the longer term. Oddly, they've actually played somewhat into the revival of PC gaming; if you make the marketing battle all about specs, resolutions and framerates, then a console is only ever going to be able to take second place behind PC, and PC game-sales have revived sharply over the last few years, eating into the console manufacturer's revenue bases (the license fees from game sales, not hardware sales, are where the real profit is). I suspect the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio are at least in part a reaction to that.

Comment Re:Fascinating .... (Score 1) 315

Or alternatively, Ecuador simply decided that Assange's political beliefs and ambitions no longer align with their own. Whatever you may think about Trump, he is not exactly preaching love and peace towards that particular part of the world.

If a regime offers you sanctuary because you are politically convenient for them, you really should ask yourself what happens the moment you become politically inconvenient.

Comment Re:Correlation to age (Score 2) 326

Sorry, I might not have been clear enough about what this scheme was and who was on it. To be clear, this was not "a few hours temporary work" for "experienced and qualified professionals". This was full time work, on a 6 month contract, for young people from "disadvantaged" backgrounds. What "disadvantaged" meant was "school drop-outs with chaotic lives and, in most cases, some incidences of minor criminal activity (though no theft or fraud)". The work paid reasonably well for entry-level work (as much as some of my graduate friends had in their first jobs).

It was, if I recall, 75% funded by the taxpayer; so effectively, 75% of the direct and indirect employment costs were not picked up by my employer. We met the remaining costs and, as part of the deal, agreed to offer permanent appointments to a reasonable number of people who had a satisfactory record at the end of their 6 months. We were participating in this in good faith and in the year I was acting as a mentor, we had a target to get a 50% retention rate.

In reality, across all three years, the retention rate was 0%. Not one person successfully completed 6 months and almost half didn't finish the first week. When they deigned to come into the office, they would generally describe their career aspirations as "professional footballer" or "rapper". A couple of the more honest ones would say "benefits", as this was in the days when you could more or less permanently stay on quite generous unemployment benefits in the UK (it's much harder these days). In so far as this was a distraction for looking for a "real job", the "real job" they were after was unemployment.

The Government funding for this particular scheme largely dried up before the 2010 election (as finding firms to participate got harder and harder).

Comment Correlation to age (Score 4, Interesting) 326

This is purely anecdotal, but my experience is that there isn't so much a generational correlation to work ethic as there is an age-based one. Which is to say, a person's work ethic can vary significantly over the course of their adult life.

What I've seen in my own workplace is new entrants (whether at graduate or non-graduate level) entering the organisation but generally (and of course there are outliers) without making a full commitment to it and, particularly in the case of graduate entrants, trying to keep their student lifestyle running for a few more years. Over time, usually by the late 20s, this transitions into a much stronger work ethic; more time spent in the office and more "commitment" to the organisation. Eventually, somewhere usually in the 50s, this lapses into a degree of burnout. Now, all of the above is a huge generalisation and based on personal experiences only, but I've seen a couple of generations go through that cycle now.

Of course, there's a far bigger correlation between work ethic and social class. Behaviours liked to worth ethic, such as the ability to focus on deferred reward have a strong hereditary component, whether based on biology, culture or both. Again, there are exceptions, but this is where I've seen the strongest correlation. In the mid-2000s (at the height of the UK's New Labour touchy-feely period) I worked for an employer which took part in a Government-subsidised scheme to give placements to "disadvantaged" young people. This was actually a pretty cushy detail; the pay for those brought in through the scheme wasn't huge, but it was significantly above the minimum wage (almost £10/hour) and the work was white-collar administrative. Moreover, there was an expectation in place that if you did well, you would be able to turn it into a full-time job (this was in the land of silly-money before the big crash, when the UK economy appeared to be in full boom). Hell, there wasn't even much of a dress code beyond "use your common sense and don't wear anything that would actively harm our reputation".

I was involved with this scheme for three consecutive years, once as a mentor and twice as one of the "lucky" managers "given" one of the apprentices (yes, there was a degree of corporate arm-twisting). Across all three years, with an intake of 8-10 people per year, not a single one stuck with it for more than 2 months. The simple basics of being expected to get into the office at a sane time (we had a flexitime-within-reason system), to come into the office every working day and to follow the instructions of a manager once in the office were too much for the participants.

Comment Re:Might as well break the ice (Score 2) 342

It depends on the film. If it's a big special effects blockbuster, like a new Star Wars film or something, then yes, going to the cinema can add something to the experience.

For almost anything else, however, home viewing is definitely preferable for me. All too often, there's a film I'd very much like to see but don't want to have to watch in a cinema. Then by the time it's available to watch at home, I've forgotten about it or just lost the inclination to see it.

If the Movie Theater chains are really confident that they offer something above and beyond the home viewing experience, then they should be a lot more relaxed about simultaneous releases.

Comment Re: I Lol'ed, did you? (Score 1) 62

Except... not really.

Our voting system is one that has developed incrementally over hundreds of years. We actually voted on whether to replace it a few years ago and chose, by a large margin, to stick with what we had.

But the point is that our voting system, whatever its flaws may be (and no system is perfect; STV, AV and proportional representation can all produce flawed outputs as well), is something that can be voted on and changed by popular consent if desired. That's actually perfectly democratic.

Don't forget that if the 2015 UK General Election had been fought on a proportional representation basis, the vote shares that were achieved would have resulted in a Conservative/UKIP/NI Unionists coalition. That would have given us a very socially-conservative (and economically protectionist) Government. FPTP's benefits in (mostly) keeping the fringe voices out of Government are not to be sniffed at.

Comment Re: I Lol'ed, did you? (Score 1) 62

I'd agree that the moderate Remain and Leave positions get very little traction in the press compared with the extremists. I know a couple of people I work with were fairly fanatical Remain and my Dad was pretty fanatical Leave, but almost everybody else I know was basically conflicted over the whole affair. I've got good friends who voted Leave and I've certainly not fallen out with any of them over it.

The problem is that angry people make better news. If you're doing vox pops on the street for the evening news, you don't want to show the clip of the guy who says "I voted Remain, but I've got real worries about the direction Europe is going" or "I voted Leave, but I know we're in for some economic pain now".

The swivel-eyed fanatics get more coverage because they make better news.

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