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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Drumroll please...

...and this is what I was hinting about earlier.

Okay, it's not exactly anything impressive right now. In fact at one point I was considering hosting it on Da Blog until I realized there wasn't much point to that and hosting it on the web site allowed more potential functionality.

New episodes will appear each night probably around 11 PM PT, with some leeway. Although I had originally intended for the "web site news" tag to refer to every single change I made to the web site, part of the reason I'm not hosting this on Da Blog is that I don't want it to take over Da Blog. Therefore I won't post every time I put up a new episode. They'll be going up like clockwork every night sometime after 11, so you know where and when.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A new way to watch election results

(No, this isn't what I was hinting at earlier.)

Assuming you live in the United States, you're probably used to races being called virtually the instant the polls close. Networks, not wanting to deal with - heaven forbid! - uncertainty (or losing the scoop to a rival network), use exit polls to "cheat" and declare the winner of a race certain without having any actual results to go by. No doubt you may have been confused in 2000 when Gore was called as winning Florida when Bush was consistently leading.

I believe I have a better system to call results based on one thing and one thing only: the results themselves. But it appears complicated at first glance because, as it's evolved over the years, it involves four different methods of calling a race - four different levels of certainty.

Projection was developed originally as a way for me to avoid having to wait for validation of a foregone conclusion. Used when one candidate leads another by a statistically significant margin consistently, it's most akin to the networks' approach but "projection" isn't really the right word. It's really more of an expectation. I think as of late I've been drifting towards using this as a reflection of what the networks call or aping the AP's calls.

Auto projection and the other automated methods assume all precincts have an equal number of voters, which isn't necessarily true but it's good enough. If Candidate A leads Candidate B by A% to B% with P% of the precincts reporting, then with all percentages expressed as fractions of 1, if A%>B%+(1-P%), the race is autoprojected to A. In other words, A must lead B by at least the percentage of precincts not reporting. This one's in here for its simplicity and the ability to provide some satisfaction before the really significant one.

Confirmation is a result of the implications of the above assumption, which indicates that A has really won A%*P% of all the votes in play. (Similarly, B has won B%*P%.) Thus, this test involves multiplying A% and B% by P%, and repeating the auto projection test: A%*P%>B%*P%+(1-P%). If A passes this test, and the assumption above is true, it is mathematically impossible for B to pass A. B has been "eliminated" and, if B was second, A is no-doubt-about-it first. A network using this system might still say A "has been auto projected" to win, but once A crosses that confirmation threshhold, you don't say A "has been confirmed" - you say A has "won", no doubt about it.

Majority confirmation is one I'm considering dropping. In a two-man race it's the same as regular confirmation. In large or tightly contested races it might not occur, as I've found out in the early presidential primaries. In all races it's meaningless because the confirmation threshhold has already sealed A's victory, unless having a majority is meaningful in some way. It basically puts A up for confirmation but against the 50% threshhold instead of B's reporting-adjusted maximum: A%*P%>.5.

I have tried to keep track of all of this in the past on the general election day, but with 435 House races, 33 Senate races, and 50 Presidential races, I have often lagged behind, which gets worse because I get hooked to what the networks are saying. I'd like to be able to get a constantly updated feed of results that I can plug in easily. The more effective solution at the moment is to enlist any of you who may wish to volunteer; e-mail mwmailsea at yahoo dot com or leave a note in the comments if you're willing and able to take the challenge November 4. What I'd really like is for some way for a web page to automatically pull up results from a central file and I would only have to make the human projection at most, but even if it were possible I don't have the requisite knowledge in stuff like JavaScript. Still, I do intend to hold a test of my own abilities to handle the system relatively free from distraction on Super Tuesday, February 5.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why I haven't put up the results of the Golden Bowl (and a few other news and notes)

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted the results of the first Golden Bowl between LSU and USC, and it's for the same reason I decided to drop the SuperPower Rankings. The Golden Bowl tournament turned out to be a lot less fun than I had hoped.

For almost every game, I had to pore over the numbers and probably reached a lot of wrong conclusions. I found myself breathing sighs of relief when the two people who voted on the second and third rounds agreed. It wasn't as time consuming as the SuperPower Rankings but it left me with a sense of dread entering each round.

I had been planning on having a grandiose, John-Facenda-esque description of the Golden Bowl, but I barely managed to work up the knowledge or desire to write any description at all throughout the tournament. I have a feeling I would have fallen well short. Not only is a college football playoff far from an original idea, but others are doing much of what I intended to do a lot better than I would have.

That said, unlike the SuperPower Rankings, I'm still doing this next year. I like the Golden Bowl name, I'm hoping Da Blog grows enough in the next year that I won't have to break ties at all, and I feel that a lot of simulated playoffs or proposed brackets blindly follow the BCS standings. I've heard it argued that a plus-one system would have ignored Georgia or USC in favor of Virginia Tech or Oklahoma; what that ignores is that a plus one would have forced the pollsters to pay more attention to the top four the way they pay attention to the top two now, which likely means #5 Georgia would have gotten past V-Tech or the Sooners, since they arguably had a stronger case for a national title shot than either. (Yes, I know V-Tech was my number 1 seed.) A true simulated playoffs that follows close to what the reality probably would be should follow the NCAA guidelines.

So, this ends the brief spurt of productivity from Da Blog from football. Sure, we're a few steps away from the Super Bowl - the Patriots just blew past their 17th team, as reflected on the site - but that's a fairly small part of what we do around here.

No, don't run away! Come back! I know a lot of you are here for the football, so what can I do to get you to stick around?

Well, let's start with my 100 Greatest Movies Project, which has been described in the past on the off chance you came here before it was cool. If you happen to be a fan of the movies, and not just the standard popcorn fare but all the classics from Hollywood's golden age to the present day, I could use you to explain to the masses why they better recognize. If you want to write tributes and descriptions for Hollywood's greatest films, let me know in the comments or at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com.

But I have another plan to induce the teeming masses to come here. And stay here. I have plans for a new regular feature that I have high hopes for, one that could potentially attract a much larger audience than what I've achieved so far. One that could start as soon as tonight.

What is it? Well, let's just say you can expect to see a lot of this sometime soon: