Just use a scatterplot. Also, Sydney sprawls.

Dual-axes at tipping-point

Sydney’s congestion at ‘tipping point’ blares the headline and to illustrate, an interactive chart with bars for city population densities, points for commute times and of course, dual-axes.

Yuck. OK, I guess it does show that Sydney is one of three cities that are low density, but have comparable average commute times to higher-density cities. But if you’re plotting commute time versus population density…doesn’t a different kind of chart come to mind first? y versus x. C’mon.

Let’s explore.
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Mapping data using R and leaflet

The R language provides many different tools for creating maps and adding data to them. I’ve been using the leaflet package at work recently, so I thought I’d provide a short example here.

Whilst searching for some data that might make a nice map, I came across this article at ABC News. It includes a table containing Australian members of parliament, their electorate and their voting intention regarding legalisation of same-sex marriage. Since I reside in New South Wales, let’s map the data for electorates in that state.

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Lots of “open goodness” in the AU/NZ region

January/February are exciting months for open [data|research|science|access] proponents in our region – by which I mean Australia and New Zealand.

First, we’ve enjoyed a speaking tour by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, during which he discussed the benefits of open data several times. I was able to attend two events in Sydney in person and a third, linux.conf.au, by video stream. The events were the work of many people but in particular, Pia Waugh. Go follow her on Twitter, now.

Next – I wish I had been able to get to this one – the Open Research Conference on February 6-7, University of Auckland. I’m enjoying the high-quality live stream right now. Flying the flag for Sydney are Mat and Alex.

Not strictly under the “open” umbrella but worth a mention anyway: software carpentry is in town, February 7-8, just up the road from me at Macquarie University. Looking forward to hearing some reports from that.

Science publication and assessment: our national debate

The Australian, our national newspaper, is usually not my preferred read but does have a good higher education section. Our new government has just thrown out an assessment exercise named the Research Quality Framework (RQF) – it will be replaced with something very similar, no doubt. Disturbingly, Thomson Scientific were given a licensing agreement by the previous government to supply the data for the RQF.

Imagine my delight to find newspaper articles discussing the shortcomings of impact factors, the rise of Google Scholar and the open-source software of Anne-Wil Harzing:

  • Research Review Heats Up
  • “…commercial rivals such as Elsevier’s Scopus database and software built on Google Scholar have entered the market while the rise of research assessment linked to promotion and funding has made academics ask searching questions about the integrity of Thomson ISI as the key player.”

  • Metrics debate is the rule
  • “Australia’s closer embrace of metrics comes at a time of fierce international debate about research assessment.”

    Not entirely unrelated:

  • Scientists ‘obliged’ to share wisdom – so says the science minister
  • Science left to rue a roo genome – on the sorry state of genomics in Australia

Think Free – then think again

ThinkFree is an online office productivity application in the same style as Google Docs and Zoho. I read a favourable review and was all set to try it out…

…when I discovered that for those of us in Australia or New Zealand, ThinkFree is distributed exclusively via BigPond – the internet service provided by Telstra, our largest telco. Which means: not a BigPond customer, no access to ThinkFree.

We have a saying in Australia: all telcos are bastards. Now you know why.

Ah yes, the election

election.pngI suppose a brief comment on our recent Australian election is in order, although I prefer not to litter the blog with personal politics. The collage at left, culled from the weekend newspapers, summarises it for me.
It is quite uplifting when after a long, stale and conformist period in history the populace turns around en masse and says “enough, time for change”.

The Labor Party talked the talk during their campaign on science issues: higher education, IT infrastructure, skills shortages, maths/science degrees, technology development and action on climate change. Let’s just hope they deliver on some of those policies.

Our pitiful broadband

The OECD currently ranks Australia’s broadband performance at 17th in the world based on the number of subscribers per 100 using an internet connection faster than 64Kbps, Market Clarity said.

Australia would immediately move up to 11th place based on raw subscribers numbers using a higher speed benchmark of 256Kbps, the firm said.

  blog it

So broadband penetration is measured by the number of subscribers to a particular plan? What this typically useless, biased article fails to mention is that broadband plans in Australia are pitiful in terms of speed and quotas seen in comparable countries. Since when did 256 Kbps even count as broadband?

So much for “market clarity”.

Stupidity or altruism?

‘Fair go’ not stupidity gives scammers millions: police

Apparently, up to AUD 400 000 a month leaves Queensland, bound for Nigerian-based email scams.

“I think the Australian culture is to give everyone a fair go and I think we give people the benefit of the doubt and I think because of that sometimes we’re more prone to be a victim to scams.”

Non-Australians will miss the subtext of this story. You know how every country likes to joke that the residents of one particular region are – how to put this – not too smart? So it is with Queensland. It’s not true, by the way.

So the good superintendent is just being protective of his residents. I’d suggest that stupid doesn’t mean “lacking in intelligence” – it means “prone to not using what intelligence you have”. By that definition we’re all stupid once in a while and most definitely if we fall for an email scam.