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Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Relaunches As Data Journalism Website 60

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the everyone-likes-data dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "After a parting of ways with the New York Times after calling 50 out of 50 states right in the 2012 elections, Nate Silver has relaunched FiveThirtyEight as a website dedicated to data journalism under the auspices of ESPN. Silver has expanded his staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and instead of focusing on politics exclusively FiveThirtyEight's coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports. According to Silver, his team has a broad set of skills and experience in methods that fall under the rubric of data journalism including statistical analysis, data visualization, computer programming and data-literate reporting. 'One of our roles will be to critique incautious uses of statistics when they arise elsewhere in news coverage. At other times, we'll explore ways that consumers can use data to their advantage and level the playing field against corporations and governments.' The site has launched with a variety of stories including 'Many Signs Pointed to Crimea Independence Vote — But Polls Didn't,' 'Building a Bracket Is Hard This Year, But We'll Help You Play the Odds,' 'Toilet Seat Covers: To Use or Not to Use,' and 'Three Rules to Make Sure Economic Data Aren't Bunk.'

The story that caught my eye was 'This Winter Wasn't the Coldest, But It Was One of the Most Miserable' with some good data visualization that showed that although average temperature may not have set records in the Northeast Corridor this winter, the intensity of the cold when it did hit was impressive. According to Matt Lanza although most statistics cite the winter of 1978-79 as the coldest in U.S. history, the winter of 2013-14 brought a rare combination of miseries that many of us hadn't seen in years, and some had never seen. It was colder than usual, it was extremely cold more often than usual, and it snowed more than usual in more places than usual. Traditionally, big snow winters occur in a couple regions. The East Coast might have great snows, while the Midwest is quiet. Snowfall this winter didn't discriminate; it blanketed just about everybody (outside the dry West and icier Mid-South). Look how many cities had not just a little more, but way more, than their normal snowfall."
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Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Relaunches As Data Journalism Website

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  • Buzzfeed titles! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N1AK (864906) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @04:19AM (#46514339) Homepage
    Oh, for fucks sake now even statistical analysis articles have to come with these retarded click grabber buzzfeed style headlines. Next election we'll have a series of "You won't believe... what a Republican said", "Amazing facts that'll blow your mind about... the democratic party", "4 secrets that... Libertarians don't want you to know" :(
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey.
      Those links aren't clickable. Could you fix them?

      Thanks.

    • by EmagGeek (574360)

      I know, it's a huge problem. But, I found this one weird trick that can fix it for you, permanently, and it's completely risk-free.

    • by phrostie (121428)

      lies, damn lies and statistics

      • lies, damn lies and statistics

        I came here to say this. A "data journalism" website sounds like nothing more than a new way to spin stories to some ideological bent while using "statistics" to seem more credible.

        • If it came from nowhere, that would seem a reasonable suspicion. But Nate Silver's reputation for accurately predicting elections and being the "moneyball" guy backs up the claim to be non-partisan and statistics based.

          I've won a fair amount of money gambling based on Nate's political stats. Whilst I'm very politically biased, basing decisions based on the stats meant I was able to avoid my own biases. Sadly Nate's rise to fame means that there won't be much value to be had this way in future.

    • UX Webdesign hipster-trons have laid waste to yet another well known IP. When will it end? When the internet implodes into a black hole of dyslex-o-vision whitespace sites, and buzzfeed headlines, NSA surveillance crawlers. The few of us left will have to take refuge on resurrected BBS boards.

  • Hari Seldon (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @04:58AM (#46514455)

    Nate Silver aims to become Hari Seldon.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Nate Silver aims to become Hari Seldon."

      Psst! We are not allowed to know that, or it won't work.

      The Second Foundation

    • This. He's not the only one though.. People like V. S. Subrahmanian [umd.edu] looking at Computational Analysis of Terrorist Groups [umd.edu] are only going to go deeper into this field, and it's only a matter of time before they apply this work to us. We're well on our way to a whole second foundation of them. (I leave it to the reader to draw parallels between various world governments and the old galactic empire, because it'll be different governments depending on your viewpoint.)

  • I guess no one's ever heard of auto correlation. If enough people say something is what everyone else believes then it becomes the truth.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:00AM (#46514587) Journal

      I guess no one's ever heard of auto correlation. If enough people say something is what everyone else believes then it becomes the truth.

      There is this curious phenomenon, known as 'reality', that is known to exhibit behavior wholly uncorrelated with human belief states. Often painful; but occasionally hilarious.

      • I guess you don't believe you've fallen into the trap of "naive reality"?

        • I guess you don't believe you've fallen into the trap of "naive reality"?

          No, not really. My assertion is merely that at least some aspects of 'reality' are not correlated with belief state. Not necessarily that they are 'knowable' in some terribly useful way, or otherwise epidemiologically tractable.

  • by gnalre (323830) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:47AM (#46514555)

    Errr, it's just disappeared. What's the statistical chances of that happening after being highligted on /.?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:01AM (#46514593) Journal

      Errr, it's just disappeared. What's the statistical chances of that happening after being highligted on /.?

      Lower after beta than before beta, unfortunately.

    • Doesn't matter. It's a blatant attempt to commercialize on the success of using this method in a very narrow field.

      I read the article on minimum wages, and they left out some glaringly obvious factors, like how many on minimum wage are collecting government assistance of some kind. I mean, let's get real here. It's not realistic to discuss the economics of the one without taking the other into account.

      Also, it's pretty hard for me to take seriously a website that requires you to log in via Facebook in
  • Not exactly 50/50 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guises (2423402) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:49AM (#46514563)

    After a parting of ways with the New York Times after calling 50 out of 50 states right in the 2012 elections

    I don't think it's nitpicking to point out that he actually called 49/49 states right. He had Florida as a toss-up, with a statistically insignificant lean towards Obama. This is an important distinction as it's one that constantly burns statisticians - that element of randomness is always there and eventually he's going to be wrong about something important, especially when people read a minuscule lean in one direction as a prediction. People are going to use that as a opportunity to dismiss him, since there's a political motivation there to do so, just as they dismissed him prior to the last election.

    He had on interview on Colbert just before the Superbowl and I thought it was interesting to see just how careful was being not to make even the suggestion of a call about how the game was going to go.

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:31AM (#46514681)

      He knew the game was rigged. How else could the @#$%! Seahawks win? He also knew that if he said anything he'd find himself at the bottom of Puget Sound. Paul Allen is way more vicious than any mafioso.

      • by T.E.D. (34228)

        He knew the game was rigged. How else could the @#$%! Seahawks win?

        They had a much better defense. If you know nothing else about two teams in the superbowl, root for the one with the better defense.

        In fact, Nate actually did predict this [nytimes.com], with a 70% certainty the previous year. I guess he forgot. :-)

      • He knew the game was rigged. How else could the @#$%! Seahawks win?

        I'm from Denver. You can ALWAYS give the Broncos a 50% chance of losing any game, under any conditions, against any opponent.

        It's just that 90% of the time, the 50% doesn't happen. :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think it's nitpicking to point out that he actually called 49/49 states right. He had Florida as a toss-up, with a statistically insignificant lean towards Obama. This is an important distinction as it's one that constantly burns statisticians - that element of randomness is always there and eventually he's going to be wrong about something important, especially when people read a minuscule lean in one direction as a prediction. People are going to use that as a opportunity to dismiss him, since there's a political motivation there to do so, just as they dismissed him prior to the last election.

      The cool thing about statistics is that they actually tell you the strength of your prediction, and my impression has been that 538 is very careful to include "we really can't tell, but maybe there's a little lean to the right." If some journalist translates that as "It's going right," and makes a big fuss over the actual result being left, then it will be the journalist who looks like a moronic wacko, not 538.

      That said, there do seem to be a lot of journalists who make a career of looking like moronic wac

    • by vilanye (1906708)

      He had Florida as a toss-up, with a statistically insignificant lean towards Obama.

      And that is exactly how Florida ended up.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:54AM (#46514731) Journal

    Regarding the winter-misery point: the data may certainly show how unusual or extreme the winter was (as a 40-something in MN, it really wasn't that big a deal), but isn't it particularly sad how hard we're working to prove that we're miserable?

    Of course, like everything in 2014, there's a political context (because at least in the West, we have pretty much eliminated every other serious danger that humans have faced, so we obsess over minutiae that would have been lost in the static to any other generation) in proving how severe the weather has been, right?

    Yep, it was a long winter. For the bulk of human history, that's pretty much all anyone would have said, and moved on.

    Not in 2014. In March 2014, as the days start to get longer, warmer, and sunnier...we're busy analyzing (proving, justifying) just HOW UNHAPPY we were?

    That's...pathological.

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @07:01AM (#46514749)

      Talking about the weather is something new?

      Hey, remember the Great Blizzard of '88? (1888 - but that was a Northeast thing. I'm sure there are plenty of good Midwestern stories though). Now we have computers, so we can more easily analyze it in excruciating statistical detail, complete with color charts. You obviously don't appreciate all the wonderful improvements that computers have made in our lives.

      • Old men talk about the weather, old women talk about old men.

        GP's assertion that we dwell on the minutiae is a luxury we are afforded by all the improvements in tech promoted by the parent. Dwelling, nay, embroiled in fascination by the minutiae is what makes us what we are: cogitative primates.

        IMHO, using all that brain power to unravel the 'mysterious' advantage of home vs. away games is a waste of computational energy.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You'd rather they re-did the statistics in such a way that it gave you the answer you want?

    • by plover (150551) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @07:53AM (#46514969) Homepage Journal

      Maybe it's an excuse for millennials to say to their parents, "We've got it just as bad as you did, so we're just as tough as you. Our cable went out TWICE in the ice storms. TWICE."

      People want to prove they're strong, but in this technologically advanced, air-bagged, seat-belted, rubber-padded society in which we now live, there simply isn't the same level of adversity. These days 12 inches of snow means you fire up the snowblower a half hour before you normally go to work, and click on the 4 wheel drive before you pull out of the driveway. When my mom was a child, 12 inches of snow meant they weren't going anywhere for a week or two, and the woodshed and pantry better be full. As a child I never experienced anything nearly as bad, and these days my son only sees snow for its recreation potential.

      Essentially we've tamed nature, and now it's pretty much boring. We have to tell ourselves its bad, because we don't feel it.

      • by Gr8Apes (679165)
        I'd take this a different way, we finally had a normal winter, the first in a decade, and everyone is shocked, just shocked, that winter is cold, wet, snowy, icy, and generally miserable. They need to be reminded that gee, yes, this is what is normal for winter. You've just been lucky the past 10-20 years.
        • by plover (150551)

          If this is a once-every-20-years winter, by definition it's no longer "normal". Normal is the other 19.

          And yes, the TV meteorologists have become aware their audience isn't just 50-year-old native residents who grew up with this weather, and that it now consists of a broad array of people with differing backgrounds. They constantly remind the recent arrivals "it's not safe to let your kids outside in shorts". During the day's forecast, our local news station's weather segment features a couple of children w

          • by Gr8Apes (679165)

            If this is a once-every-20-years winter, by definition it's no longer "normal". Normal is the other 19.

            Except if you go back 100 years, the last 19 have been abnormally warm (guess that global warming crowd might be onto something after all) so I guess this year is "normal" by definition, the other 19 were not.

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        Funny. When I was a kid (60-70s), 12 inches of snow meant we better get to the bus stop for school. It occurs with regularity in Michigan, so they're prepared for it. Certainly, YMMV depending upon the part of the country you're from, but living in VA now, schools have been closed with just a threat of snow, and none falling. So, my anecdotal evidence seems contradictory to what you've observed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was visiting my family in a state that traditionally gets 4-6 inches pretty much every time it snows which is about 3-4 times a year.

      While I was visiting they had not had those 6 inch bits for about 5 years. Because of the drought that is going on. Suddenly they got 7-8 inches. It was armageddon. I was sitting there thinking you are all a bunch of pansies. I moved further south to get away from this sort of crap and could not figure out what they were yelling about. We would bitch about it. But the

    • by Bo'Bob'O (95398)

      Yes, because clearly the only reason we are concerned about the climate is how much we are complaining and not little things like agriculture and fresh water supply.

      Those 'minutiae' that would have been lost in the static to other generations sometimes became trends that became drought and famine.

      These kinds of things can and do still happen in many parts in the world, and the first-world may not be immune to major shifts

  • I much prefer the XKCD "What If" variety of footnotes to the ones that scroll you down the page to the end like they're currently using at this new 538. I hope they make the switch, checking sources in data driven analysis shouldn't be time consuming and tedious.
  • by Clent (717085)
    Looking at the articles its just another news site. The headlines are emotional which suppose a bias. To me, data journalism means provide statistical analyze without the bullshit of human opinion, emotion. Data is a measure of reality, which is good. Always, good to know whats real. But since every single human has a different opinion and emotional perspective, as soon as human emotion and opinion are added to data, it's no longer reality. It's delude, cloaked sources opinionated emotional interpretation
  • Like the one entitled, How to Eat at McDonald’s When You’re Monumentally Broke [fivethirtyeight.com]. Of course, this requires that you have an Internet connection and browser-capable system to read it, while being "monumentally broke"...

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