31 October 2010

Crowd numbers

I just spent a happy half hour googling around on the subject of crowd numbers (yes, the recent rallies in Washington DC sparked this off).

CBS News was slated by supporters of Glenn Beck for its estimate of his rally attendance (87,000), so they published the methodology and here's their estimate for the Rally for Sanity (215,000). Both have a 10% margin of error. Their estimate for the Obama inauguration was 800,000 by the way, lower than others.
  • Blog by the expert partnering the survey company. It has plenty of links and information about the subject.
  • Plenty of first hand accounts of the latter rally.
  • Overhead view of the main crowd areas - in both cases more people were further away:

When I looked up rational estimates by supporters, one reason for disparity was obvious - crowd density. In camera shots taken from the ground (or even the top of monuments) density isn't clear, but the company CBS hired used a robot balloon camera that could do both overhead shots and oblique ones to see beneath trees. It was on the spot and could tour the whole crowd, later estimators were not.

The conclusion is much as usual. How was the data obtained? What is the margin of error? Why do you suppose you can understand any of this without having done Statistics 101 or switched your brain on before reading?

Also, take a look at who is giving you different data with no sources and no proof. If they claim that a source is wrong because they don't like what it says and then next week that the same source is totally accurate, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.

16 October 2010

Saint Hill picket report 15th October 2010

Mostly the UK OG tag on to Anonymous protests these days, but this one we set up ourselves being on a Friday:

Three Old Guard and three Anonymous went to rain on Davey's big speech day at the IAS weekend.

After a short stint in East Grinstead High Street we arrived outside Saint Hill about 14:30. Traffic into the grounds was better organised this year with no jams, otherwise things inside seemed much the same as previous years.


The 'shatter the SPs' plan this year was two big speakers balanced on the perimeter wall connected to bagpipe music. Well, first they had to connect them which took a while but when it got going it was a WIN. Like loud, really loud, right next to Mr Mid Sussex Policeman's car. I don't think he was amused. This was death metal concert head bangingly loud.

And then... a chap from Health and Safety Environmental Protection arrived. With a meter. We didn't call him, and I don't think our glum friends across the road did either. How odd. Perhaps he heard the bagpipes from his office in town. Anyway, he wanted the speakers off, and Tony on the megaphone to turn his volume down from 11. We complied - no one messes with the man from H&S.

After a much quieter second half, we departed around 17:30.

08 October 2010

Farmville is eating the Internet

The xkcd webcomic has a new edition out of its Map of Online Communities. Go take a look (the map enlarges if you click on it).

What the map does well is to place otherwise unconnected Internet communities into perspective. For example, political bloggers who suppose the wired world reads their every flame may be chastened to find the map needs an enlarged inset to show them. In some regions one group dominates - Warcraft on MMO island, Skype in messaging, and Facebook as the biggest nation.