Category Archives: Media commentary

Meaningless Tables: When Journalists Compare Apples, Oranges and Countries

The London edition of Metro featured the following table:

It lists five endeavours that lasted 11 years and 9 months or maybe less. Among these, Alexander the Great conquered the world and Fermat’s last theorem was solved.

Blair Iraq War

First, let’s focus on a couple of inaccuracies: Alexander did not conquer the world, far from it (ask a Chinese or Balinese) and that Fermat posited his last theorem in 1637.

The main obfuscation here, is that these endeavours do not have anything to do with one another and do not prove anything. For instance, why not include the fact that Apollo 13 went to the moon and back in less than 6 days?

A more common version of this is to compare corporations with countries. Specifically, corporation revenues and countries GDP. Again, these comparisons have no merit.

Corporations for instance do not have to provide many of the services that countries do. Corporations aim at maximising shareholder’s returns and in general making money. Countries and governments, work with budgets and try to balance them.

Furthermore, corporations can easily call it quits, they can sometimes go into bankruptcy, fire a lot of employees, sell assets, change name and start almost from scratch. Countries, tend not to disappear so easily and even if they do (from Soviet Union to Russia), the new country cannot fire former citizens.

25 US Mega Corporations: Where They Rank If They Were Countries

Read the list at Business Insider.

This is not to argue that countries are more virtuous than corporations or vice versa, but rather, that each should be compared and assessed within a peer group; e.g. Scandinavian countries with one another, same for search engines such as YAHOO and Google.

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Framing The Issue: Facebook and Terrorism

IMG_0836.JPG

Daily Telegraph 4/11/2014

Three World Cup Predictions

Just five more days before the first world cup games and predictions abound as to who will win the title.

Yet, if you want to stand out from the crowd and have your prediction noticed, you need big names.

First let’s look at Goldman Sachs. In a paper by Jan Hatzius and Jari Stehn which generates more than 340,000 on google (“goldman sachs world cup predictions”) the prediction is that Brazil is going to win against Argentina in the final by 3-1.

http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/outlook/world-cup-sections/world-cup-book-2014-statistical-model.html

Next is Stephen Hawking whose “formula” generates 140.000 results on google (search “stephen hawking world cup prediction”).

Professor Hawking, who admits being “slightly more qualified than Paul the Octopus” and sponsored by the bookmaker PaddyPower, recommends England play a 4-3-3 formation, with a European referee and a 3:00pm kick-off.

Finally, we have Jose Mourinho, who, in a video for Yahoo, forecasts an England – Portugal final with England taking the cup. His judgement is motivated by personal interest (“I want to be able to have a holiday in Portugal”) rather than his deep insight of the game and the form of the players going into the tournament.

The first two models rely on statistical analysis going back decades to amass enough data points (who plays whom and the final result). The problem with this approach is that most of the games taken into account in the statistical analysis are irrelevant. The 23 players of each world cup delegation have nothing to do with the players who played in the games in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. For instance, all the games between Germany and England taking place more than 4 years ago have no impact on a possible England vs Germany next month. Neither Gary Lineker nor Franz Beckenbauer will be playing. It wouldn’t occur to you to take your amateur league in Uzbekistan as data to predict Colombia’s world cup performance but that is precisely what is going on. Colombia 1994 or 1998 is alien team to today’s Colombia.

So, forget the predictions, but do remember the brands: Goldman Sachs, PaddyPower and Yahoo.

Media Watch – Ukraine, Crimea Old News Already?

Is it because the issue is too complex?

Is it because this is just grand posturing?

Is it because we are approaching a solid week-end of sports?

Whatever the case may be, the focus on the situation in Ukraine seems to have faded from social media and, at least in the UK, newspaper front pages.

Last week-end 1/2 – March – 2014

Click here for more front pages from today.

This Saturday 8 – March – 2014

Click here for last Saturday’s front pages.

Twitter Chatter from 6 – February to 8 – March

Crisis? What crisis?

Crisis? What crisis?

But let’s leave the last word to Private Eye. (Putin says: “I think Russia are going to win the shooting”)

PrivateEye Putin

Daily Mail on Sherlock: information or advertisement?

Sherlock-Daily-Mail.jpg

Jimmy Kimmel, China Affair