Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight Blog will be joining ESPN

Nate Silver, the statistician who attained national fame for his accurate projections about the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, is parting ways with The New York Times and moving his FiveThirtyEight franchise to ESPN, the sports empire controlled by the Walt Disney Company…

At ESPN, Mr. Silver is expected to have a wide-ranging portfolio. Along with his writing and number-crunching, he will most likely be a regular contributor to “Olbermann,” the late-night ESPN2 talk show hosted by Keith Olbermann that will have its debut at the end of August. In political years, he will also have a role at ABC News, which is owned by Disney…

Before creating statistical models for elections, Mr. Silver was a baseball sabermetrician who built a highly effective system for projecting how players would perform in the future. For a time he was a managing partner of Baseball Prospectus.

At public events recently, he has expressed interest in covering sports more frequently, so the ESPN deal is a logical next step.

Mr. Silver’s three-year contract with The Times is set to expire in late August and his departure will most likely be interpreted as a blow to the company, which has promoted Mr. Silver and his brand of poll-based projections…

Speculation about the future of Mr. Silver and FiveThirtyEight heated up shortly after last November’s election, and he was wooed by no small number of other news organizations. Jill Abramson, the newspaper’s executive editor, and Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times Company, said earlier this year that they would try hard to sign Mr. Silver to a new contract…

He occasionally hinted in interviews and public appearances that his relationship with The Times had moments of tension. But it was mutually beneficial. The news organization gained Web traffic and prestige by hosting his work, and he received a salary, a wider audience and editorial support.

The same will most likely be true at ESPN.

Given that ESPN had the smarts to hire Nate Silver away from the TIMES, I also imagine the last couple of sentences will be true at ESPN. In another few weeks the new Fox Sports channel will debut and NBC’s first season of carrying sports from around the whole world will kick off with start of the English Premier League season of proper football.

The blog is on hiatus for a couple of days — UPDATED

Eideard icon

I get to celebrate my birthday, Thursday morning, under the hands of a plastic surgeon specializing in eye repair. Courtesy of age – and my Italian grandma’s genes. 🙂

I won’t be allowed to peer at a computer screen or television for a few days afterwards – and this is not the time for experiments with dictating blog posts to my iMac or iPad.

I should be back by the beginning of next week, Monday, 18 February.

UPDATE: 16/Feb — Peering out from inside this gray head, the surgery appears to have gone well. I can see better, a more complete field of vision than I have had in a number of years. Prognosis from the experts – doctor’s visit next week.

UPDATE: 18/Feb — Eyes appear to be working better than ever. Next Tuesday morning – the 26th – will tell the in-depth medical side of the procedures. And the removal of stitches [ouch].

Meanwhile, I’m resuming a limited schedule of posting – extending back out to all the blogs where I contribute over the next few days.

UPDATE: 26/Feb — Stitches removed this afternoon. I’m happy with progress. The doctor is happy with progress. Complete field of vision – and it will only continue to improve over next few months. The doc is going to use me as his poster child.

9-year-old’s lunch blog reinstated after online reaction to ban

A Scottish council has swiftly reversed its decision to ban a nine-year-old girl from photographing her school lunches for a personal blog following criticism from Jamie Oliver and a wave of negative publicity on Twitter and other social media sites.

Less than two hours after releasing a strongly-worded broadside calling Martha Payne’s pictures of the sometimes meagre and unappealing meals on offer at her primary school misleading, Argyll and Bute council had a change of heart…

The saga began when the aspiring journalist set up the blog with the help of her father, Dave. With the permission of teachers she photographed lunches as they arrived on their white plastic trays and gave the contents marks out of 10 on a “Food-o-meter” scale for how healthy they were and whether or not she found any stray hairs.

In little over a week the blog was being posted on social networking sites and had received 100,000 visitors, bringing a tweet of congratulation from Jamie Oliver.

The blog soon branched out, with Martha posting photographs of school dinners sent in from around the world – generally a much healthier selection of dishes than seen in the canteen at Lochgilphead primary school.

The problems began when newspapers picked up on the blog. Martha had been posting anonymously as Veg, but they named her and the school, often adding their own criticism of the food…

On Thursday came a post from Martha from titled simply Goodbye: “This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today…”

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dave Payne said the blog had never been intended as an attack on the council. “The last photograph of a meal at school which she blogged, she gave it 10 out of 10. She enjoys the atmosphere in the school dining hall, she enjoys the staff, everyone’s been very kind to her,” he said.

Phew! Ain’t it grand when a tempest in a teacup turns out OK? The whole tale could have swung in any direction; but, common sense seems to have prevailed. Even a charity dedicated to feeding schoolchildren in Africa — which Martha supports — has received a surprising increase in donations as a result of her mentions.

I surely wish the Internet was around when I was a kid. I did a week’s suspension in high school — for trying to organize a union of members of the school band. 🙂

Unemployment numbers are a symptom of deeper social questions


Same as it ever was…

This weekend’s Labor Day celebrations in America mark a difficult time for workers. Having experienced a multi-year decline in their share of national income, they are now suffering the brunt of the current economic malaise; and there is little to suggest that the situation will improve any time soon. As a result, the country’s economic hardships risk morphing from pressuring specific segments of the population to undermining more general aspects of social justice.

The numbers are striking — and worrisome. Over the last 30 years, labor’s share of the national pie has declined to 44 percent from 52 percent, with profits growing at twice the annual rate for average wages.

This…monthly employment report adds to the concerns. Unemployment remains very high, whether measured by the most-quoted unemployment rate (9.1 percent), the less partial under- and un-employment rate, (16.2 percent) or, most comprehensively, the proportion of total adults who are not working (42 percent compared to 35 percent 10 years ago).

The duration and composition of joblessness is very troubling. The average unemployed American has been without a job for 40 weeks, a record level, and 44 percent of the unemployed have been out of a job for more than 26 weeks. The incidence of joblessness is severe among those lacking a college degree (11 percent compared to 4 percent for college graduates). For 16-19 year olds the unemployment rate is a horrible 25 percent.

Whichever number you look at, America’s labor market problems constitute a full-blown crisis with far reaching economic, social and political consequences. If current trends continue, joblessness will become stubbornly embedded in the system and, distressingly, some of the unemployed will become unemployable…

Continue reading

Google discloses demands for censorship, user data

The country-by-country breakdown just released on Google’s Web site marks the first time that the Internet search leader has provided such a detailed look at the censorship and data requests that it gets from regulators, courts and other government agencies. The figures, for the roughly 100 countries in which it operates, cover the final half of last year and will be updated every six months.

Google posted the numbers nearly a month after it began redirecting search requests to its China-based service. Those requests are now handled in Hong Kong rather than mainland China so Google wouldn’t have to obey the country’s Internet censorship laws. Google said details about the censorship demands it got while in mainland China still aren’t being shared because the information is classified as a state secret.

In other countries, Google is making more extensive disclosures about censorship demands or other government requests to edit its search results. Google is also including demands to remove material from its other services, including the YouTube video site, although it is excluding removal requests related to allegations of copyright infringement, a recurring problem for YouTube.

Google is providing a more limited snapshot of government requests for its users’ personal information. The numbers are confined primarily to demands made as part of criminal cases, leaving out civil matters such as divorces. And Google isn’t revealing how often it cooperated with those data demands.

The disclosure comes as more regulators and consumers watchdogs around the world are complaining that the company doesn’t take people’s privacy seriously enough. Google maintains that its users’ privacy is one of the company’s highest priorities. The company also notes that, in one instance, it has gone to court to prevent the U.S. Justice Department from getting broad lists of people’s search requests.

I wonder if the number of requests from the DOJ has diminished?

Google critic actually decides to talk to someone from Google


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Yes, that’s irony. One of my pet peeves is critics who babble as if they own a solid-state crystal ball – letting us know all the evil that will be committed by rather ordinary [but successful] companies by virtue of being successful at providing a service. Rather like keeping a horse because some car companies build pretty good cars.

Circuitous logic at best. Bill Thompson’s earlier piece on why he feared Google was going to destroy literature as we know it fit the bill perfectly. Which is why I didn’t waste time blogging about it.

After my criticism of the proposed Google Book Search settlement was published on the BBC News website Google offered the opportunity to talk about my concerns with Santiago de la Mora, the company’s director of book partnerships in Europe.

We talked extensively about the rationale behind Book Search, the detail of the settlement and my worries over its possible adverse impact on other digitisation projects.

It is clear that for those within Google who are developing Book Search the goal is to enhance user choice and build the market for books, not simply driving more traffic and generating more advertising revenue for Google itself.

Throughout our conversation Mr de la Mora was adamant that enabling people to find books online will benefit readers, authors and publishers.

Am I the only one out here who notices that authors’ arguments against Google book search are identical to RIAA fears about music file-sharing or the MPAA position on movie file-sharing?

Continue reading

Mother finds her baby for sale in online scam

The dangers of the Internet struck home for a Massachusetts mother when she found her own child for sale on Craigslist as part of what appears to be an international adoption scam.

Seven-month old Jacob Brennan was busy playing with toys when his mother, Jenni, got what she called a shocking e-mail, WCVB-TV reported.

“Out of the blue, some girl e-mailed us and said, ‘I think you should know someone’s using Jake’s picture in an adoption scam’,” said Brennan, who said she found the message hard to believe.

Brennan followed the link included in the e-mail and found an ad on the Craigslist Web site. The ad promised that a “cute baby boy” was available for adoption, but did not include a picture.

Brennan decided to play detective and sent an e-mail to the address listed. She quickly received a picture in her inbox.

The picture he sends you is a picture of Jake,” Brennan said. “It was horrifying. I never would have thought in a million years that I would have the emotional reaction that I did.”

The e-mail claimed her son is Canadian born and living at an orphanage in Cameroon and said that for $300 she could begin the adoption process…

At least they didn’t Hot Link to the photo. Har!

Goldman Sachs and blogger quietly end trademark question


TARP repaid with interest – $20 billion spare for bonuses
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Goldman Sachs Group Inc has quietly reached an agreement to end a legal dispute with a blogger who will be allowed to keep running a website critical of the investment bank.

The agreement required blogger Michael Morgan to post a disclaimer on his goldmansachs666.com website, saying it has no affiliation with the financial firm.

Morgan, a Florida investment adviser, uses his blog — whose name combines Goldman’s name with numbers used to evoke connotations with the devil — to criticize the bank and its large profits.

The bank this week posted a 33 percent increase in quarterly earnings on blowout trading results, putting its employees on pace for big bonuses at a time when many Americans are struggling…

Goldman spokeswoman Gia Moron said on Friday that “our concern about this site ceased when Mr. Morgan posted a prominent disclaimer making it clear that his site was not associated with Goldman Sachs.”

If the little financial smurf had posted a disclaimer from the beginning, he never would have been bothered by Goldman-Sachs’ legal beagles.

All the decades I spent in the commercial world, anyone who took the time to look around at the network of legal crap overlaying business in the United States learned about trademark and naming requirements.

Yes, all the lawsuits sound silly and petty. What you don’t realize is that they are required to protect rights to a brand name. The classic defense goes back around a century with Bayer filing to defend its rights to a product they called “aspirin”. They were too late and the word went into the public domain.

Judge rules against anonymity for “Night Jack” police blogger

The High Court has refused to preserve the anonymity of an award-winning policeman who has blogged about the force and government ministers.

Mr Justice Eady refused an injunction to prevent the Times identifying serving officer “Night Jack”, winner of an Orwell prize for blogging.

The judge said said blogging was “essentially a public rather than a private activity“.

Night Jack’s lawyer said preserving his anonymity was in the public interest.

Hugh Tomlinson QC said the thousands who communicated via the internet under a cloak of anonymity would be “horrified” to think the law would do nothing to protect their identities if someone carried out the necessary detective work to unmask them.

But the judge ruled any right of privacy on the part of the blogger would be likely to be
outweighed by a countervailing public interest in revealing that a particular police officer had been making such contributions.

In his blog “Night Jack – An English Detective” the unnamed officer chronicled his working life in an unnamed UK town: descriptions of local criminals and his struggle with police bureaucracy.

Like most bloggers, I disagree with the Judge’s decision. The quality of anonymity is what draws many to speaking out, identifying and discussing what they feel needs examination within their nation and society.

This decision lays a blanket of suffocating bureaucratic oversight on the process.

Oh, the photo? That’s some Lancashire copper named Richard Horton.

Copper’s ‘perfect’ blog wins Orwell prize

The pages of a policeman’s notebook, clumped as they are with impenetrable acronyms and tales of suspects proceeding in northerly directions, seldom crackle with urgent prose or lapse into howls of sardonic anger and moments of compassion.

But one serving officer, who used his daily jottings and professional experiences as raw material for a blog, has just been rewarded with the Orwell special prize for blogs.

According to the judges, the pronouncements of “Night Jack – An English Detective” provided a perfect example of the medium’s power and importance.

“The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night’s wonderful blog offered was – everybody felt – something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly. It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do – by the first blogpost you were hooked, and could not wait to click on to the next…”

Although he suspended his blog activities this month, Jack posted a message to accept the prize – the need to stay anonymous meant he did not attend in person.

He said he had pledged the £3,000 winnings to the Police Dependents’ Trust, and is adamant that no one outside his family and friends will learn his true identity. He is also currently working on a novel.

“It would appear I can write so I’m trying to see whether I can write more than a chapter of a police procedural,” he said. “After 20 years on the job, it’s all I know about.”

RTFA. I’m recommending it – and Night Jack – to a couple of mates who are coppers, retired or otherwise.

It’s worth a grin to fellow blogging insiders to note that Night Jack also happens to live in the realm of wordpress.com.

This is UPDATED here.