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May 29, 2006


Dr. Crippen makes a really good point in this post. Unfortunately, it occurs half way down the page, so I reproduce it here:

The journalists have just discovered (see the BBC report here) that no one knows the optimum treatment for patients with early prostate cancer. Doctors have been saying this for years but have been ignored by the journalists who have campaigned to increase the demand for routine PSA screening. Trouble with journalists is that once they discover something they did not previously know, they assume that no one else knew either. Now they will be telling us we do too much screening.

I love that line near the end, so I'm going to print it again, bigger:
Trouble with journalists is that once they discover something they did not previously know, they assume that no one else knew either.

And now I turn to Sunday's edition of the Observer:

Sunday's Observer

Down on the bottom, there is a mathematical formula in the headline, heralding a great new way to predict football results. The formula itself is that for the Poisson distribution. I first learnt about this in my A level maths course at school, but I think that it might be even older than that. In fact, it was originally published in 1838. Hmm. Not as new as we'd first thought.

The journalists, of course, are totally correct. Given an average number of goals in a match, the Poisson can be used to provide probability estimates for the scores. None of this, however, is particularly novel. The article moves on to mention the "advanced techniques" now used to predict goal scoring. The Poisson distribution isn't mentioned. Of course, that could be because actually the Poisson distribution isn't particularly suitable. After all, goals can't even be assumed to be independent events. And the value of lambda (the average number of goals) has to be tailored to the individual match.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

May 27, 2006

Web Sue.0

Point 1: The term "Web 2.0" was originally coined by O'Reilly - the computing book people - in this article. Since then, they've tried to obtain a "service mark" (trademark) on the term.

Point 2: The term "Web 2.0" is used throughout the web. In this sense, it is clear that O'Reilly cannot pretend to exercise "ownership" over the term, in the same way that "Hoover" and "Linoleum" are valueless trademarks. (Although my father still calls it a "vacuum cleaner").

Point 3: CMP Media Ltd., on behalf on O'Reilly, have sent a cease-and-desist notice to a not-for-profit company, IT@Cork, who are organising a half-day Web 2.0 Conference. Apparently O'Reilly have decided to pull the plug on the Web 2.0 term; they own it and the rest of us can go to hell.

This post contains a good summary of the events.

Result: The whole blogosphere has erupted. There's tales of people cancelling contracts with O'Reilly and binning their books. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, much of the anger is for one reason. Web 2.0 is all about collaboration and community building. O'Reilly have just spat on that ideal.

I know I said I'd stop posting about the BBC

... but I think that this is interesting.

Biased BBC are making a big fuss over this article in the Times.

THE BBC has persuaded the creator of the 1970s television series M*A*S*H to turn his fire on the Bush Administration.

President Hillary Clinton is in the White House, and George Bush is on trial for crimes against the American people in Abrogate, a one-off radio comedy written by Larry Gelbart. Radio 4 is rushing the "merciless" satire to air in tomorrow night’s Friday Play slot. Radio Times acclaimed the play, saying that "every line is a barbed swipe, a dazzling barb that hits home".


Abrogate is set during an imaginary congressional hearing which is “sifting through the debris of the post-Bush regime to discover what, if anything, went right”.

Originally, I think I agreed entirely with their summary, that "persuading the creator of M*A*S*H to turn his fire on the Bush administration" isn't entirely impartial. But, in the interests of "balance", I'm happy to entertain some alternative viewpoints. The take-home messages are:

- Firstly, this play appears to be a satire. Satire is inevitably going to criticise somebody. Perhaps we should just shut up and let them get on with it.

- The BBC's definition of "satire," however, seems to be "criticism of George Bush." Now, I know that the Bush administration gives a well-polished impression of ineptitude, but one could easily argue that they must be doing something right - after all, they got voted in again. It'd be nice to see a satire of liberals, or of the Democratic party's bungling, or of Michael Moore's production crew. When pigs fly. Original programming is obviously no longer important.

- The line "Hillary Clinton is in the White House" is rather amusing. I recall a time a few years ago when the BBC news was constantly speculating that she might make it to the Oval Office. American opinion now seems to indicate that this is unlikely, but the BBC still entertain this fantasy.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course. I'd be perfectly happy to listen to a well-written, witty satire that made me laugh, no matter who it was pointed at. But there's some indications that it might not be:

- Satires of George Bush are never funny. The chimp jokes only last so long, and his trademark garbled speeches soon run out of steam. The gag-writers soon run out of material.

- If it were a well-written, witty satire, then one imagines that the Radio Times reviewers might have noticed, and said so.

- "Every line is a barbed swipe, a dazzling barb that hits home" is what they did say. As the B-BBC commentator pointed out: "With a write-up as jut-jawed as that we can safely assume that it was awful and the Radio Times knew it was awful."

But now, of course, it's Saturday. I even went to the BBC website to see if I could listen to the programme itself. But they wanted me to download RealPlayer. So I had to make do with this review:

I listened to the first 20 minutes. It was a total rant, totally unfunny.

Worst Tech Products

Thanks to PCWorld.com, the 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time. AOL at the top, no surprises there. Interestingly, RealPlayer came second worst. I still wonder why the BBC insist on using RealPlayer for their online streaming service. Is it because they want us to break our computers?

May 18, 2006

Comment Spam

Today I've had to turn on comment moderation. I didn't want to, as I think it kills the conversation (not that there is much).

But unfortunately, some f*cking spamming halfwitted tw*t has added 250 comments advertising his stupid product, which are going to take me about a week to remove.

The worst part of it is, that he's only had to sit and wait for about 2 seconds while his script executed, whereas now I'm going to waste a metric assload of time.


May 15, 2006


I finished my exams on Saturday. That's right, with a paper at 9:00 on a weekend. Following my Sunday afternoon off, I've been launched straight into project work, having spent nine hours in the department today.

Somehow I thought that finishing exams would be quite nice, and that I'd be able to relax. Not so, it would appear. Still, at least the work is somewhat more interesting than the dull routine of lectures which I'm used to.

50 Feeds

Some inane chatter to celebrate my return...

I just noticed today that I'm currently reading 50 different blog feeds. In fairness, I must confess that one of these is a test for my new CUGCR website, but I still think I'm doing quite well.

May 04, 2006

RSS Subscriptions

Down at the bottom of the sidebar I've added a whole heap of buttons to let you subscribe. If you're an existing user of Yahoo! or Gmail then it's a doddle. Even if you aren't click one of the buttons, and it'll show you the feed experience you could be having.

Blimey, I sound like an advert writer. All I need to do now is write something worth subscribing to.

May 03, 2006

Yahoo in trouble

Apparently, Yahoo! have been getting themselves into all sorts of shady dealings with spyware vendors. And now they're being sued, by the chap who wrote the post behind the first link.