Where's Yorkshire gone?

January 3rd, 2011

Take a chunk of anonymised data from British Telecom's database detailing the origin and destination of phone calls made from UK landlines, take steps to strip out numbers that belong to call centres, plot the calls on a map and you get Redrawing the Map of Great Britain from a Network of Human Interactions. Fascinating stuff.

I was surprised to see how Cumbria fared; it always felt to me as if places like Carlisle, Penrith, Whitehaven and Workington had strong ties to the North East, or certainly to Newcastle, but judging by this data that corner of the country seems to be fairly equally interested in talking to Manchester, Scotland and Tyneside.

[Via The Yorkshire Ranter]

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Gender Plots in Last.fm

September 22nd, 2010

Last.fm intern Joachim Van Herwegen explains the thinking behind his Gender Plot tool:

About 6 weeks ago I started a short internship at Last.fm. For my project I wanted to explore Last.fm's data to learn how listening preferences vary with the listener's age and gender. Apart from the science, the most important thing I found is that you can make awesome plots with this information.

I started by making a chart to show what kind of music you "should" be listening to if you really want to fit in with the most common artists in your age range and gender […]

The sizes of the artists' names indicate how popular they are, while their position shows the gender mix and average age of their listeners. Based on the positions of the larger names, it's already obvious which age category is most common amongst Last.fm users.

I don't care one whit about what music I 'should' be listening to at my age/gender,1 but the data plots are still fascinating – much more so once you get away from looking at the entire Last.fm user base and look at subsets of the data. The most stereotypically 'male' act on my chart is Black Grape, just ahead of Living Colour and Prefab Sprout, whereas my most 'female' acts are Rilo Kiley, Regina Spektor and Florence + The Machine.2 It's also neat to see which of my favourite artists are clustered around the mid-point of the 'male/female interest' axis: in increasing order of their average listener's age (i.e. from left to right on the chart) we have Explosions in the Sky, Pixies, The National, Eels, New Order, Stevie Wonder, Echobelly and Squeeze. I'd have guessed that at least half of those acts would skew a bit more towards the 'male' end of the axis. Shows what I know…

It would be nice if the tool could plot charts for entire Last.fm groups. I'm pretty sure that the chart for readers of The Word Magazine would skew rightwards, but I'd be fascinated to see what other trends and surprises it might reveal.

[Via waxy.org]

  1. I know: I'll bet they all say that.
  2. It's worth remembering that in the interests of legibility – not to mention processing time – these charts only plot the most listened-to subset of your library of artists. In practice the span of any given user's listening habits will almost always be a lot wider than it appears on the chart.

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Pooling risk

November 21st, 2008

Avedon Carol reminded us of Malcolm Gladwell's 2006 account of how US businesses strapped themselves to a demographic time bomb:

In the uncertain nineteen-forties, in the wake of the Depression and the war, workers wanted security, and in 1949 the head of the Toledo, Ohio, local of the United Auto Workers, Richard Gosser, came up with a proposal. The workers of Toledo needed pensions. But, he said, the pension plan should be regional, spread across the many small auto-parts makers, electrical-appliance manufacturers, and plastics shops in the Toledo area. That way, if workers switched jobs they could take their pension credits with them, and if a company went bankrupt its workers' retirement would be safe. Every company in the area, Gosser proposed, should pay ten cents an hour, per worker, into a centralized fund.

The business owners of Toledo reacted immediately. "They were terrified," says Jennifer Klein, a labor historian at Yale University, who has written about the Toledo case. "They organized a trade association to stop the plan. In the business press, they actually said, 'This idea might be efficient and rational. But it's too dangerous.' Some of the larger employers stepped forward and said, 'We'll offer you a company pension. Forget about that whole other idea.' They took on the costs of setting up an individual company pension, at great expense, in order to head off what they saw as too much organized power for workers in the region."

[Via The Sideshow]

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