Archive for May, 2010

So is there a brain drain?

May 26, 2010

A colleague from another part of City University drew my attention to this piece from the Sunday Times last year.  While it makes some interesting points, I can’t help feeling that ‘brain drain’ is an emotive term that doesn’t apply here.  For a start, despite the talk of bursaries, any British student wishing to study at a top American university will find it an expensive business.  It isn’t a coincidence that most of the students mentioned in the article came from expensive independent schools.  But it’s also evidence of something rather different, that higher education, like many other sectors, operates in an increasingly global market.  British universities attract students from all over the world (including the USA) and it should be no surprise that the traffic in students goes both ways.

iPads and Advertorials

May 26, 2010

Apple’s launch of the iPad in Europe is imminent and there are prominent advertisements for Apple showing screen dumps from the Guardian.  The same images appear on Apple’s British web pages.  The original American web pages showed similar images but with screens from the New York Times.  For France the screens are from Le Monde, for Italy they are from Corriere della Sera, I guess an interesting displacement activity for somebody would be to go round Apple’s websites from different parts of the world and compile a list of which newpapers Apple had partnered with.

Which raises the same question that I raised about advertising for iPod adverts last year.  Given that this is advertising both a device (the iPad) and a content provider (the Guardian) do they both contribute to advertising costs?  Or is there some other deal around mutual promotion?  I ask partly because today’s Guardian has a piece where a number of early adopters – one of them the editor of the paper – write about their experiences of using an iPad, and several readers have commented that this reads as something of an ‘advertorial’.  To be fair, it’s paired in the paper with a not uncritical article about Steve Jobs, but I still wonder what sort of deals are behind all of this.

Vodafone and identity

May 26, 2010

I’ve had a couple of phone calls from Vodafone (of whom I’m a customer – I don’t think these are cold-calling sales calls) lately.  Unfortunately I’ve been unable to discern what they’re about.  The first call didn’t work because it sounded as though Vodafone had relocated their call centre to the platform of a tube station, such was the level of background noise from the other end.  The second was more successful, and the person at the other end set out to take me through security.  One of the questions – straightforward enough – was what month I was born in.  December, I told them.  But that didn’t match their records,  So I guess I’ll never find out what Vodafone really wanted to tell me because their record of my birthday doesn’t match my own

Dell’s next step

May 25, 2010

I’ve done very little blogging lately as I’ve been preoccupied with a large pile of marking and a couple of other things that I’m writing.  But I was struck by this story, partly because Dell does already make the sort of tablet computer that the term referred to during the ‘noughties’, a conventional laptop with a swivelling screen.  Perhaps most intriguing is the revelation that Dell’s Streak is to be sold through the carphone warehouse.  For one thing, along with the Android operating system, this defines it very clearly as a big phone and not a small PC, or for that matter a PC accessory.  But for another, it deviates from Dell’s long-standing policy of selling directly if possible, either over the phone or the Internet, and I’m intrigued by what might be behind that

FiveThirtyEight comes out nerdfighting

May 7, 2010

I’ve already mentioned the American site, which aggregates opinion poll data and produces predictions for elections.  In the run-up to the British general election they produced an elaborate model based on a variable swing among different parliamentary constituencies.  Rather charmingly, they used the term ‘nerdfight’ to discuss their differences with a group of British-based analysts who are attempting to build a similar model.  As fights go, it’s a very civilised one: Nate Silver, who created FiveThirtyEight, observes at one point that ‘there’s much we agree on’ and expresses the wish to meet his British rivals for a drink sometime.  But it’s good to see so much attention given to mathematical modelling.

As it turns out, FiveThirtyEight’s model (along with many others) overestimated the extent to which Nick Clegg could turn his debate performances into votes and seats for the Lib Dems.  But it would be interesting to analyse how it could be refined.