Improving a surface interpretation of “big data”

A silly little piece appeared in The New York Times discussing a hypothesis of a Harvard economics professor that Apple might slow down its operating system ahead of major product releases in an attempt to encourage consumers to upgrade.

One of his students used Google Trends data to investigate this hypothesis. In the article, two graphs are compared — one that shows Google Trends search volume for “iPhone Slow” and the other for “Samsung Galaxy slow”.

iphone_slow

It is shown that the spikes in searches for slow operation of Apple’s products seem to correlate with new iPhone release dates, whereas there are no search spikes in the data for the Samsung Galaxy.

samsung_galaxy_slow

These graphs are horribly misleading on their own. Both products have grown in popularity over the years, so the increase in search volume over time reflects nothing more than their widespread mainstream popularity. This could have easily been removed from the graphs by adjusting these trendlines relative to the “base” searches, e.g. “iPhone” and “Samsung Galaxy”. In the graphs as shown, it’s hard to tell whether little spikes are actually hidden within the compressed and precise trendline for the Samsung Galaxy.

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Comedy in Real Time

I caught Bill Maher’s last show last night. It was quite good; I especially liked the give and take between Joe Scarborough and Bill–Joe was in a particularly right-wing propaganda mode, but then tried to gain back “journalistic integrity” by agreeing with Bill on the issue of accountability for the Plame leak.

But Scarborough’s views on Reagan, on Bush being unpopular just due to “historical precedent,” and his conviction that the middle east will benefit from our intrusion in Iraq is just par for the right-wing echo chamber course.

I also caught Comedians of Comedy, the comedy central show with Zach G. that shows four comedians on the road joking around with each other. The show opened awesomely–with Zach resolutely telling a female comedian that “men can have fake orgasms too” in a crowded diner, and then proceeding to actually fake one.

Someone in the crowd of the diner screamed out, “I’ll have whatever he’s eating!” at the end.

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Projects I’d Like to Work On

  • Glade-3 UI Designer: This is the only real tool out there for designing GTK+ interfaces without resorting to pure-source design. Development has stagnated a bit, but there are some good ideas for the rewrite which is in CVS right now (Glade-3). I am sure if I spent some time hacking it, I could make serious usability improvements and make it a more viable tool; I’ve played with the CVS checkout and although it’s a complete rewrite in terms of internals, the UI design approach is about the same. I think we can do better, and I think this is probably the best project for me to hack if I want to really learn GTK/Glib/GObject. I’ve heard that Dan Wither is working on a GUI designer for C#/GTK# called Stetic, but he hasn’t released anything. I think I’d want a good GTK+ designer first, and then we could make it work with C#, too. Since Glade-3 is a rewrite, this seems like a viable suggestion.
  • Galeon: a tabbed. mozilla-based web browser that is fully integrated into GNOME, is lean, and has a shitload of awesome features I can hardly live without. I have a few ideas for new, useful features I could add.
  • Gnome-Vim: this makes vim a bonobo component so it could be used in other Gnome apps, like anjuta, evolution or even nautilus.
  • Nautilus: the GNOME file browser and graphical shell. I’d like to work on Nautilus’ plug-in architecture, and maybe even write a plug-in or two.
  • GTK+: a toolkit for writing GUI apps in C, I’d like to delve into its internals and focus on hacking toward fixing speed issues (particularly, responsiveness and redrawing, the two things that take the most complaints from “usability experts” coming from other desktop environments).

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