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Wed, Mar 26, 2014

Silver vs Krugman

Nate Silver’s relaunched FiveThirtyEight has been getting some flak from critics—including many former fans—for failing to live up to expectations. Specifically, critics have argued that instead of foxily modeling data and working the numbers, Silver and his co-contributors are looking more like regular old opinion columnists with rather better chart software. Paul Krugman has been a prominent critic, arguing that “For all the big talk about data-driven analysis, what [the site] actually delivers is sloppy and casual opining with a bit of data used, as the old saying goes, the way a drunkard uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination.” Silver has put his tongue at least part way into his cheek and pushed back a little with an article titled, in true Times fashion, “For Columnist, a Change of Tone”.
Mon, Feb 24, 2014

Powered by Hugo

I was sick as a parrot with a head cold over the weekend. Being unable to do any proper writing, naturally I started messing around with my website. I’ve had some sort of website since around November of 1995, and have kept a more or less regular blog since 2002. Content accumulates, as it turns out. I have about 450,000 words of the stuff here, spread out over about 1,400 separate pages.
Sat, Feb 15, 2014

Social Aspects of Success and Failure in Cultural Markets

This week on ATP, Marco and John had a discussion about Flappy Bird, the irritatingly addictive and unexpectedly successful iOS game that was pulled from the App Store by its developer at the height of its popularity. The hosts’ views shifted around a little during the discussion, but I think it’s fair to say that they had a basic difference of opinion. Marco thought that, at bottom, the game succeeded for good reasons having to do with its own design.
Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Plain Text Papers Pandoc

Over the past few months, I’ve had several people ask me about the tools I use to put papers together. I maintain a page of resources somewhat grandiosely headed “Writing and Presenting Social Science”. Really it just makes public some configuration files and templates for my text editor and related tools. Things have changed a little recently—which led to people asking the questions—so I will try to lay out the current setup here.
Tue, Jan 7, 2014

An issue in Mavericks with com.apple.IconServicesAgent

Executive Summmary: If you are having an issue with IconServicesAgent consuming all your CPU time, open a terminal window and do this: mkdir ${TMPDIR}/com.apple.IconServices This will resolve the issue. Read on for more details. Recently I started having an intermittent problem with a process called com.apple.IconServicesAgent on my Mac. Google tells me that I am not alone, but diagnosing the issue and solving it has proven quite annoying. The symptoms are straightforward.
Tue, May 28, 2013

Updates to the Social Science Starter Kit

The Emacs Social Science Starter Kit is a drop-in collection of packages and settings for Emacs 24 aimed at people like me: that is, people doing social science data analysis and writing, using some combination of tools like R, git, LaTeX, Pandoc, perhaps some other programming languages (e.g., Python, or Perl), and plain-text formats like Markdown, and Org-Mode. More information on the kit is available here. Some of its highlights are listed here.
Mon, Feb 25, 2013

Ten Things the Emacs Social Science Starter Kit gives you

I recently made some updates to the Emacs Social Science Starter Kit. I maintain the SSSK for my own convenience, but other people have found it useful as well. By now there are a lot of little bits and pieces in the kit, so I thought it might be useful to do a listicle highlighting some of the conveniences it offers. As a reminder, the motivation behind the kit was to allow researchers, faculty, and grad students working in the social sciences to get started with Emacs.
Thu, Feb 21, 2013

Updates to the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences

I’ve made some updates to the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences. In addition to various bits of cleanup, bug fixes, and package updates, I eliminated the need for any git submodules. This simplifies the installation, and allows for people to install the starter kit from a zipfile instead of via git (although git is still recommended). Because major components like Auctex and ESS are now available as packages, less has to be contained in the kit itself.
Sun, Dec 2, 2012

Goodnight Hypercritical

In the great Mac Pro there were Channels of Control and a Naked Robotic Core and a picture of ... Just a Dinosaur And there was the Tortise and Hare, and Invisible Software And Grandpa Uncle Joe who Ran Out of Bombs Long Ago And Patent Hands, and an iLife island And Blue Ocean, a Wedge, and Objective-C And all the Housewives of Siracusa County Goodnight Pro Mac, Goodnight Brute
Sat, Nov 10, 2012

Installing Minion Pro

Setting up a new machine is usually a pain, especially if—like me—you have a bunch of additional stuff installed that isn’t living in your user directory, like a TeX installation. Cloning from the old machine is often a good idea, but things don’t always work as they should. And sometimes you just want to set up from scratch. I’m at the point where my most of my text editing and data analysis stuff can be up and running fairly quickly: install Xcode via the App Store (or just the command-line tools if you want), then MacTeX, then R, then Emacs, then my Starter Kit for the Social Sciences, then my own LaTeX style files and bib files.
Wed, Jul 18, 2012

More 5by5 Data

Thanks to a link from Marco Arment, the Talk Radio post got a lot of traffic. Following up on some twitter and email requests, here is some additional stuff. First, the data again, but with The Incomparable added: Click for a larger version. Second, a different look at variation by show: Click for a larger version. And finally, for those interested, there’s a github repo with the data and R code.
Tue, Jul 17, 2012

Talk Radio

After our analysis of the Hypercritical data it only seemed fair to check whether other 5by5 hosts were prone to talk longer the longer their show has been on the air. As it happens, the spreadsheet-like layout of iTunes makes it easy to copy and paste episode data into a usable format. (Although, inevitably, some cleaning is required—a pox on you, inconsistent time formats.) I used the episode-length data for the 5by5 shows I subscribe to that also had a large-enough number of episodes to look at.
Fri, Jul 13, 2012

Trying to Rein it In

Following original work by Nic at 2000 Nickels (a fellow Octopress user, I notice), here’s another effort to answer the vital question of the moment about Hypercritical, namely whether John Siracusa’s effort to control his logorrhea has met with any success. Click for a larger version. Click for a larger version. The lines (they are loess lines) show the trend in the length of Hypercritical shows. The upper panel shows the overall trend.
Fri, May 11, 2012

No Respect these Days

This week on Hypercritical John Siracusa noted that a quote he had referred to about how kids have no respect for their elders these days—apparently often attributed to Socrates and allegedly found somewhere in Plato—in fact originates in a student essay from the early 1900s, summarizing such views in the ancient world. The context was John’s observation that a lot of cultural criticism purporting to be about real (and negative) social changes reduces to intergenerational grumbling about how the world used to be full of old people but increasingly seems to be full of young people.
Mon, Apr 23, 2012

Updates to the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences

I’ve made some updates to the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences. The kit builds on Phil Hagelberg’s original and Eric Schulte’s org-mode version, and incorporates some packages and settings that are particularly useful for the social sciences. See the Starter Kit’s Homepage for more details. The new version requires Emacs 24, which is not quite officially released but is in very good shape. See the project page for more information about what’s included in the starter kit and how to install it.
Wed, Apr 18, 2012

Visualizing iOS Text Editors

The other day Brett Terpstra posted a gigantic and quite beautifully-executed feature comparison of all of the text editors available for iOS devices. The table is really terrific and also a bit overwhelming, as there’s so much data. On the bus home yesterday, it struck me that it might make for a nice data visualization exercise. There are all kinds of ways one might choose to represent the information, of course—how you visualize data depends on what you want to do with it.
Sat, Jan 28, 2012

No-One Cares About the College Bookstore

On yesterday’s Hypercritical, John Siracusa discussed a recent post by McKay Thomas which argues that Apple is following a “brilliant strategy” in education of “going high school first [and] applying the heat to university textbook publishers and bookstores”. John Gruber linked to it as well. Here’s Thomas: The new iBook textbooks are being marketed in a way that circumvents the university bookstore. Brilliant. Go right to the student in high school.
Thu, Jan 19, 2012

Apple for the Teacher

Yesterday Apple launched some new applications and services aimed at the education market. They extended the iBooks app to include a textbook store; they announced some deals with major textbook publishers; and they released a free application you can use to write textbooks, and which allows you to publish them on the store. They made their iTunes U service a separate application. The app replicates what’s already available on iTunes, but also seeks to replace some or all of what’s offered by course management systems.
Thu, Dec 8, 2011

Books I Did Not Read This Year: An Ebook

I’ve been using the Readmill ebook reader on-and-off. I like it quite a bit. Using it prompted me to make an ebook of my own. Because I moved this entire blog over to Octopress a little while ago, everything I’ve ever written on it going back to 2002 is now in Markdown format. So over lunch today I took advantage of John MacFarlane’s amazingly useful Pandoc, which can make EUPB format ebooks out of markdown files, selected thirteen posts from the Archives and made a little anthology called Books I Did Not Read This Year.
Sun, Dec 4, 2011

Sweave.sty and the MinionPro package

In the spirit of DenverCoder9, here’s a gotcha for those of you using Sweave in conjunction with a the MinionPro package for LaTeX. If you’re writing an .Rnw file, you may find it breaks your nicely-formatted PDF pipeline—e.g. of the sort that you can find here. Instead of rendering in Minion Pro or what have you, everything degrades to Computer Modern instead. Although you will tear your hair out for a while wondering what bit of LaTeX’s notoriously fragile and unfriendly font setup has accidentlly broken, the reason for your trouble is in fact that the Sweave.sty file that you’re using in your .Rnw file itself calls an outmoded style file, the ‘ae’ package.
Wed, Nov 30, 2011

Is Carrier IQ a keylogger installed on 145 million phones?

While you have to ask carefully if you want family-planning advice from Siri, owners of Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones may be facing other problems. According to this report in Wired, Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher in Connecticut, has found that third-party performance- and usage-monitoring software installed by default on millions of Android-based handsets sees every user action and—possibly, because I’m not sure based on the video whether this part has been demonstrated—logs and transmits it to the software maker, Carrier IQ.
Sat, Oct 15, 2011

Siri in Practice

Some quick comments on using Siri in practice—for things other than asking it to open the pod bay doors. Siri’s voice recognition is very impressive, and the scope of what it understands is very good given the difficulty of what it’s doing. But it has a lot of trouble with certain sorts of proper names, and certain kinds of contexts. On the first issue, take Irish names, for example, which are completely intuitive to someone with a bit of a blas, but admittedly are often not spelled in the way a naive English speaker would pronounce them.
Mon, Oct 10, 2011

A Sociology of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs had charisma. What does that mean? Narrowly, it means something about the force of the man’s personality and its effects on those who worked for him at Apple. More broadly, it has something to do with his gradual emergence as a cultural icon over the past decade. The wave of emotion that washed across the Internet following the news of his death is evidence of how important he was to many people.
Fri, Jul 29, 2011

Text Editors in The Lord of the Rings

Prompted by a passing thought about TextMate, I thought I’d make a comprehensive, accurate, unbiased, and irrefutable survey of text editors by way of comparison to locations in The Lord of the Rings. TextMate: Minas Tirith A once-great but now decaying city. Only the King has the power to renew it, but he is a long absent, indeed half-legendary figure—though there are persistent rumors that he is alive still in some distant land.
Tue, Apr 19, 2011

Present More Effectively. For Science.

Because of the day that’s in it, here’s a simple Aperture Science Keynote Theme. The theme requires you have Univers installed. For maximum effectiveness, the use of this theme is best accompanied by a well-prepared text, a clear speaking voice, and—for fielding questions—a functional Aperture Science military android. I’ll probably use the theme in class tomorrow (though the turret is still being shipped to me). Here are some samples: Title Slides Should Credit Your Supervisor.
Fri, Apr 1, 2011

Workflow Articles in "The Political Methodologist"

I’ve written a few times before about how to choose the software you work with, and what you should and should not care about when making those choices. I maintain a page with various resources related to this, if you’re interested, most notably the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences. A revised version of an article of mine on this topic called “Choosing Your Workflow Applications”, which I’ve had online for a while, has now been published in The Political Methodologist, the newsletter of the Society for Political Methodology.
Tue, Mar 8, 2011

Content Strategy and the Birth of Occupations

This morning I listened to an interesting interview on one of Dan Benjamin’s shows. He was talking to Erin Kissane about her new book, The Elements of Content Strategy. Say you are using a website to communicate something to someone, or enable communication between a group of people, or both. The something you are conveying or facilitating is your content. According to Kissane, the job of a “content strategist” is to figure out how best to make sure that content is assembled, presented, and maintained in a way that’s appropriate to its audience.
Fri, Jan 21, 2011

Exporting Org-Mode to PDF via XeLaTeX

Note (September 2013): Recent changes to Org-Mode since version 8 mean that the instructions here are no longer valid. My Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences contains a more up-to-date export setup consistent with Org-Mode 8 and higher. The reason the instructions below were complicated was partly because of difficulties exporting with XeLaTeX but partly because I wanted—for perhaps irrational reasons—to preserve the ability to have different export pipelines for XeLaTeX and pdfLaTeX.