It’s just lazy.

I had a rampage on Twitter last week, because the Metro reported some figures from lawyer Tom Winsor’s report into, amongst other things, police fitness.

Now, I got a chunk of momentum when I saw this line reported;

“the… study found that 52 per cent 0f male staff at the Metropolitan Police were overweight, 22 per cent were obese, and 1 in 100 was ‘morbidly obese'”


This figure struck me, as a clawing, scrapping young data journalist, as wrong. 75% of male MET police are overweight? Surely not.

I thought they’d added up the figures, rather than take the 22% of obese officers as a part of the 52% percent of overweight offices (so, only 30% would be overweight and 22% would be obese).

Now, I’ll admit it right here and now, I was wrong. As the report shows, 75% of male MET police really are overweight, as it says on page 224 of Volume 1 of the report.

My annoyance is in the fact that despite looking through The Metro article, The Yorkshire Post article and various others online, I had to look through Wikipedia, find Tom Winsor and collect a link to that report through there. Nowhere on any online article was the report name mentioned, or a simple hyperlink provided.

You have to report your sources. Or, people won’t trust you.

And young data-journalists will get annoyed.

It’s a beautiful site doing some great investigations into education-related issues in the UK.

One of which is my investigation, The Price of a University Drop-out, which uses HEFCE data and the HESES (Higher Education Students Early Statistics Survey) to look into the number of non-completing students and how much public funding a university can lose as a result.

Here are the posts so far:

And there is more to come, with future posts aiming to look at how future higher education changes will effect the figures.

That’s all. Thanks gaiz.

I swear to god. One of these days, people will work out how to produce simple, derivable data.

I’m working a lot at the moment on the Help Me Investigate Education site, and hoped to uncover some nice information.

Instead, when going through the July released DLHE statistics (destination of leavers from higher education) from HESA, I found that there were a number of occasions where numbers were confused with percentages.

BUT THAT’S A GRIPE. Not a genuine issue. What I’m focusing on at the moment is looking at unemployment rates for 09/10 by region of and institution of higher education; find out if London study produces a greater/lesser rate of employment, for example.

This information was available through the DLHE statistics but was not available in data-form (for example, only wider-english results are accessible), and I wanted to look into why, as well as which section they derived the data from, since in my calculations, and from the data on offer, I can’t see how it was possibly calculated.

I think it’s an issue of clarity; does “employed by region of HEI 2009/10” include students working abroad and studying whilst working? Why do data-sets with unemployment listed only have “assumed” categories and not derived figures?

Why are 1st degree students the only one’s considered? Why is the data so confusing, spread apart and hard to navigate?

I’m looking into it, and if anyone wants to help, let me know, or take a look at the Help Me Investigate Education site.

Sad how rage is the best motivation.

An introduction; my phone cannot send texts, hasn’t for about a week. It’s an HTC Desire HD on orange Dolphin 30; unlimited texts, 500 minutes, something data. Possibly 500mb.

Besides the point, for now. I got through to the help centre on a home phone to find out my account number and get an initial solution, which failed.

Since then, my phone will not connect to 150 and any other phone I use, once I input my mobile number, will disconnect me, both with the following message;

“Thank you for calling Orange. Sorry, but we are unable to continue processing your call. Please hang up and try again”.

I’ve heard this about 15 times today, on both phones, and I think the real issues are as follows;

  • It appears online on forums with no explanation, so it’s obviously a common occurence with no answer and, sadly, no-one knows exactly what it means.
  • It only appears when Orange know the mobile number in question; I got through first time initially, but since then nothing. Do I get pushed to the back of the queue with this mobile number since I’ve already got through to help today?
  • Does Orange know there’s shennanigans going on with my phone because it’s ignoring this specific number? Is this why I’m getting this unique message repeatedly?

I though it’d be worth e-mailing and finding out, because this specific a message means something, and surely it’s worth finding out, since forums online aren’t answering the question.

God damn phone rage. Gets a pretty good amount done, don’t you think?

If anyone has any specific experiences or any ideas, or situations where they;ve heard this message let me know. >:(.

The Freedom of Information Act is now edging on 7 years old, and despite some difficulties in using it effectively, it has proved an important and useful tool for journalists and members of the public.

In a similar vein, ‘civil society organisations’ have now launched, with which any EU citizen can file a request to obtain information held by public bodies within the EU.

“The right applies to the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and most other EU offices, bodies and agencies. For some EU bodies such as the European Central Bank, however, the right only applies to the administrative functions of those bodies.”

Essentially, there is a wide range of bodies to seek information from and unlike the FOI Act, your request will be sent to the appropriate body by AsktheEU and a response is required within 15 working days.

There are search tools within the site to find other requests that may be similar to yours and all requests are made public on the site; however, no private requests can be made on this site, similar to using Whatdotheyknow.

And I don’t mean to sound naive, since there have been deals going on for years that have ‘released music onto the internet before it’s scheduled release date without prior knowledge’.

As the Guardian states, “People – even downloaders – only have a finite amount of money. In times gone by, sure, they would have been buying vinyl albums. But if you stopped them downloading, would they troop out to the shops and buy those songs?”

But, I think we are beyond the point of these kinds of arguements now.

I think that film companies especially are confusing the issue; their films will end up on file-sharing websites such as sidereel and tv shack, so why aren’t they, rather than fighting a losing battle, pushing people to watch their films on these sites and shifting public opinion?

I started realising this since writing my foreign film review blog; one minute the industry is dead, the next it’s re-born, and frankly, it’s because smaller films are doing better than ever because they can be watched for free online.

Take it from me; films, especially indie/foreign films, will only ever be available online or on DVD. and no-one, unless dedicated, will buy a DVD just on a description and a few reviews, and will look to watch it online.

And, chances are, it’ll be a massive hassle for that person. If they like the film, in amongst the ’72 minutes watched today, take a break’ messages on video-hosting sites like megavideo or videobb, the chances are they will a) recommend it to someone else or b), especially for foreign films, they will buy the film so they can watch it again.

Megavideo and Videobb know this; they can host the videos whilst simultaneously avoid blame for doing so, and I am not blaming nor accusing.

It is, whetherwe admits it or not, a win-win situation. Not the biggest win that could be hoped for, but a win none-the-less.

So, why are foreign and indie film advertisers (and the same for music) not marketing this avenue? It’s easy enough to push public opinion (and traffic) towards certain websites by placing a few comments underneath trailers and simply starting off a word-of-mouth chain.

If someone is going to steal your ingredients and make a cake out of them, you may as well share the cake out, let the public get a taste for it and want to but the real thing from you…

Metaphors were never my strong point.

The government have made commitments to a whole new range of data transparency initiatives, which look set to make the UK government (and a world leader in open data.

The Guardian reported that in an open-letter to the cabinet, David Cameron announced a range of initiatives that will “represent the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world, and demonstrate our determination to make the public sector more transparent and accountable”, including a release of the Treasury’s Coins Database and details on Government spending over £25,000.

The twenty-strong list of commitments are best explained in The Guardian Datablog’s breakdown but were announced on the Number 10 website in an article with some comment from Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister.

Her words seemed to promote the data release as a benefit for everyday life;

The new commitments represent a quantum leap in government transparency and will radically help to drive better public services. Having this data available will help people find the right doctor for their needs or the best teacher for their child and will help frontline professionals compare their performance and effectiveness and improve it.” 

These proposals follow on from the announcements in May of last year that data on government spending and crime data would be made more accessible, leading to the launch of the National Crime Maps in February.

There are still issues with how the data will be handled and received by the public, and the public may also be sceptical of a massive data release set to aid the progress of investigative journalism, especially in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and the closure of the News of the World.

The National Crime Maps were slated by critics and the data used was said to be near impossible to extract and use in a constructive way. It will be key to see how the government plan to release the new datasets and whether they will be in a usable, translatable and extractable format.

The criticisms of the Coins data set are a perfect example of data being collated, ‘distributed’ and still being difficult to extract journalistic value from.

Let’s just say it’s hard to remain positive.