Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a Junkie

For those people who are wondering: no, this isn't about poker. Or even gambling. But I feel like I want to get something off my chest. You see, I'm an election junkie. Not a political junkie (though I am definitely interested), but an election junkie. I have a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics, but somehow managed to title my Honours Thesis: "A Test Bed for Evaluating the Effect of Different Counting Procedures on the Results of an Election". Fun!

In Australia we have a vastly different, though still Democratic, electoral system. We have no real concept of the Executive branch, and have different counting methods for determining representatives for the House of Representatives and the Senate (the lower house method encourages a two party system, while the upper house encourages minor party participation as well as being really difficult to understand). We also do not have a fixed "cycle" like the US has every four years. If you are really interested: knock yourself out. Read about the Governor General, particular the crisis of 1975, and feel your head spin!

One of the perks about living in the US, and particularly in Washington DC, is being here during election season. The endless analysis is fascinating for someone like me; for example I did not watch any of the debates from the last month, but what I did do was consume analysis of the debates with great gusto. As such, one of the blogs that I have plugged into my RSS reader is Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish". His somewhat prolific output has been extremely useful for helping point out interesting articles and nuggets. Another cool resource has been FF00FF, which provides a number of links and such for perusal.

Both of the outlets I have mentioned repeatedly refer to FiveThirtyEight, a polling analysis site which came out of nowhere to predict eerily correctly some of the results of the Democratic primaries (when most of the opinion was in the opposite direction). Polling analysis is something I am very interested, and not just because polling (and especially exit-polling) during the last election seemed so out of whack with the actual results of the election. I still recall fielding calls from Australia enquiring what was going on, and having to reverse field quickly and suddenly once it appeared that the projected outcome was going to differ bigtime from the actual outcome.

The author of FiveThiryEight eventually dropped the pseudonym he was using and revealed himself to be someone named Nate Silver. I didn't really pay attention to that, until an article from New York Magazine revealed that this is the same Nate Silver who is one of the guys behind Baseball Prospectus, and is the chief one responsible for PECOTA, their analysis and prediction engine.

Holy worlds colliding, Batman!

FiveThirtyEight isn't the only site I peruse (I also like to peruse, Real Clear Politics, and and it seems the only downside to the wide array of electoral goodness out there is that it is taking over my life. In less than two weeks, though, it will all come to a head, and I can spend another night in front of the TV with beer and take out, watching the numbers come in, seeing what projections are correct. And who gets to lead this country for the next four years, of course.

And then I get my life back. Just in time for the NBA season.


  • My web-browsing at work is some pathological combination of (oh no, the dow is down again),, and 538. Lately, it's really just the first and the last, and the last brings me a lot more joy.

    By Blogger SoxLover, at 7:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home