Chris Worfolk's Blog


International Day Against Homophobia

June 23rd, 2017 | Life

Last month, we had a bake sale at Sky to support International Day Against Homophobia. The crowning jewel of the sale was this…

…which was self-described by the bake-sale team as “the gayest cake in the world”. It was also delicious.

Baby food pouches compared

June 22nd, 2017 | Video

Baby food pouches come with a variety of ingredients and flavours listed on the front. But there are often not as accurate a one might hope. With these pouches, for example, it turns out that a significant percentage of each of them is apples.

Not just a little bit of apple. In the case of the Heinz baby pouch, most of it is apples. But Ella’s Kitchen does make the grade. Their banana baby pouch is made of just one thing: bananas. How crazy is that? Apparently, far more crazy than it should be.

Watch the video. You get to hear the amusing baby screams.

But, if you’re at work, here are the stats:

Company Flavour Ingredients
Cow & Gate Banana, mango and coconut 30% apple
Heinz Strawberry, raspberry, banana 89% apple
Ella’s Kitchen Banana 100% banana

Look who has got a xylophone

June 21st, 2017 | Music

Venla seems to enjoy music and has lots of fun kicking her piano. So, I decided to take the next logical step and get her a xylophone.

Technically, it’s a glockenspiel. But it seems to me that the skills ought to be transferable if she wants to expand to actually playing xylophone in later life.

She still has a lot to learn. For example, how to use the mallet to hit the keys, rather than putting it in her mouth.

AppSpotr review

June 20th, 2017 | Tech

AppSpotr is a cloud-based service that allows you to make your own apps for iOS and Android.

I had a very brief play around with it so I won’t pretend this is anything like an in-depth review. It allows you to create apps using a drag-and-drop editor. You can add a number of different pages to the app, the basic ones are free and then there is a monthly price for the rest of them.

So, for example, if you want to add a form to capture people’s details, that costs $5 per month. Or the enhanced content pages which you need to add videos costs $1 per month.

It seems like a useful service if you are, for example, a restaurant or hotel that needs a little app with a simple menu and some content pages. But, for anything more advanced, it probably will not provide you with what you need. There is no logical, for example, it is just a list of pages.

You also need a developer account with whatever platform you want to publish to.

Canapes

June 19th, 2017 | Books, Food

A lot of my cooking revolves around main courses. It is easy to slip into this pattern: I only do a three-course meal once or twice per week. Therefore, a lot of the starter, lunch and dessert recipes get forgotten about.

However, I have been making a conscious effort to expand this. Adding some new canapes to my repertoire seemed a good direction to go.

A lot of the recipes in this book were too fiddly for me to bother. However, there are some firm favours. The Asian pork balls, for example. And the mini-burgers were not that difficult either.

Pancetta and tomato with basil pesto crostini, and a citrus avocado puree crostino.

Filo tartlets with beef.

All in all, I’ll give this the thumbs up. It has provided me with some great little recipes.

How does terrorism affect Ariana Grande’s record sales?

June 18th, 2017 | Music

As the smoke cleared on the terrible incident in Manchester and we were able to clear our heads, I began to reflect on the wider implications of what had happened. While such incidents are a tragedy that we would all would rather not have happened, it does provide us opportunities to study aspects of human behaviour we may not always have access to.

Take the adage, “all publicity is good publicity”, for example. It is often debated. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America since 9-11. Over a 6-week period, United Airlines share price actually went up after they got caught smashing up passengers luggage. So I wondered how this event would affect Ariana Grande’s record sales.

Hypthesis

If all publicity is good publicity, we should see Ariana Grande’s record sales increase. This is because the event would cue people to think of her. This would then remind them that they liked her music and go listen to her. Just like it being Friday cues people to go listen to Rebecca Black (sans the good music), as Johan Burger points out in his book Contagious.

So, I devised a very rudimentary experiment. I took the top five Ariana Grande songs on Spotify and recorded the number of listens they had. I then went back five days later and recorded the numbers again. To give us some control data to compare against, I also recorded the numbers for two similar artists: Bridget Mendler and Selena Gomez.

Results

Who Title Before After Change
Ariana Grande Side To Side 483,693,301 488,517,489 1.00%
Everyday 87,312,820 90,227,131 3.34%
Into You 402,080,468 405,415,980 0.83%
Beauty and the Beast 46,523,887 48,558,482 4.37%
Dangerous Woman 302,768,313 314,709,898 3.94%
Bridget Mendler Atlantis (Remix) 3,970,759 4,244,286 6.89%
Ready or Not 38,800,495 38,964,677 0.42%
Atlatnis 7,420,371 7,508,751 1.19%
Can’t Bring This Down 976,257 1,043,250 6.86%
Determinate 10,182,265 10,295,213 1.11%
Selena Gomez It Aint’e Me 370,200,812 391,055,885 5.63%
Bad Liar 15,302,371 33,020,985 115.79%
Kill Em With Kindness 272,322,569 274,388,836 0.76%
It Ain’t Me (Remix) 9,699,872 11,413,027 17.66%
Hands To Myself 336,994,943 338,569,152 0.47%

The average increase in the number of listens for Ariana Grande was 2.70%. This compares to 3.29% for Bridget Mendler and 28.06% for Selena Gomez. However, as there is such a huge outlier for Gomez, it may make sense to remove that, it comes down to 6.13%.

Discussion

Initial results would indicate that the incident has not had a positive impact on Ariana Grande’s record sales. If anything, it has had a negative impact.

However, there are some huge caveats to the whole experiment that mean we cannot draw any firm conclusions from it. First, we’re looking at a really small sample size. I only included two other comparison artists and Gomez has two large outliers in her results.

Doing a percentage increase comparison makes sense because this accounts for the popularity of the artist. A simple numbers game would not make sense because bigger artists are likely to increase much faster than smaller artists. However, the percentages are not perfect either.

For one, assuming we buy into the snowball effect, even in percentage terms, larger artists should grow faster than smaller artists. Grande has the biggest following of the three so we might expect her numbers to be bigger.

Nor does it take into account other factors such as the age of the song. A newly released hit, for example, it likely to grow in listens far quicker than an old classic because the existing listens on a new song will be far lower. Then there are other factors at work. Some of the songs are collaborations with other artists, for example.

All of this means that the results here are a very rough estimate.

Conclusion

Terrorism appears to have had a negative effect on Ariana Grande’s record sales. This refutes the adage that “all publicity is good publicity”.

There are a number of reasons this could be the case. First, the negative associations of the incident may be reflecting on Grande herself. Even though it is in no way her fault, we’ll be unable to avoid forming some association. Dan Ariely discusses this in his book Predictably Irrational. People blame weather presenters for bad weather.

Second, people may feel it was now inappropriate to listen to Grande or that doing so was tactless in the light of what had happened.

Or, it could be a statistical anomaly introduced by a small sample size and fundamental flaws in the experiment’s methodological design, and that it is not representative of the wider pattern.

Footnotes

Image courtesy of Melissa Rose via Wikimedia Commons.

This is why nobody likes Java

June 17th, 2017 | Programming

Recently, I wanted to pass a random number into a unit test. Sounds simple, right? It probably would be if I wasn’t writing it in Java.

The problem is that the class expected a BigDecimal. But the random utils returns a string. And you can’t convert a string to a BigDecimal. So I had to convert it to a Long, and then convert that to a BigDecimal. Here is the code I ended up with:

BigDecimal pageNumber = BigDecimal.valueOf(Long.valueOf(RandomStringUtils.randomNumeric(1)));

Which started me wondering: how many ways to represent a number are there in Java? So, I looked it up. And came up with this list:

  1. AtomicInteger
  2. AtomicLong
  3. BigDecimal
  4. BigInteger
  5. Byte
  6. double
  7. Double
  8. float
  9. Float
  10. int
  11. Integer
  12. long
  13. Long
  14. short
  15. Short

Some of these are understandable. It makes sense to have separate storage for decimals and integers, for example. But do we really need a short and a Short? And a total of 15 different types of number? It’s madness.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you could just compare the two of them. Or pass in a number to a function. But it is a strongly typed language. Which means a world of pain when people use different types.

But that is what you get for trying to use a proper language, I guess.

London vs Leeds: what will £32m get you?

June 16th, 2017 | Life

The property price differences between London and anywhere that is not London have been well documented. A small garden shed in the capital will set you back far more than a three bedroomed house in Darlington. But what if you have some cash to splash?

This came to mind recently when I saw two properties for sale.

One was this £30,000,000 house in London.

What can you get in London?

Technically, it is detached. But, if you look at how close the next building is to it, you could be forgiven for not realising this. And there is no doubt that it is a nice house. But if we look at the description…

Today this Grade II listed building currently extends to circa 9490 square feet (881 square metres).The property is in need of full modernisation but retains a number of period features.

…it turns out it is a fixer-upper.

What can you get in Leeds?

Compare this to the £32,000,000 property you can get in Leeds. It is two million pounds more, of course, so you are expecting something a little better.

That’s right, it’s Leeds Dock. It is a 1,200,000 square foot site complete with 1,100 apartments. And loads of office space. And a bar. And a restaurant (but it’s only a Pizza Express). And a casino (now closed). And the Royal Armouries Museum.

Recently put up to sale for £32,000,000 by its owners Allied London. Which is significantly more than the £1.5 million they paid for it just five years ago.

Why Udemy pay their instructors £2.68 for a £100 course

June 15th, 2017 | Life

I like Udemy, both as a student and an instructor. As a student, I have done some brilliant courses on there. As an instructor, it has been easy to create courses and make them available for sale.

But there is one downside if you plan on using Udemy to make a living: the payouts are terrible.

Take a look at My IT Contracting Master Class, for example. It is a £100 course. I was excited when the first customer signed up via Udemy. That is until I realised that I would only be getting £2.68.

What is going on here?

First, Udemy discount everything. The £100 price tag is basically a lie. I’m not sure what they do is legal in the UK. They have an advertised price, but you never pay that. In the five months, I have been using them, there has not been a single day when the have not had a sale on. It’s like going to a furniture store with their ever-revolving discounts.

Sometimes the discounts are bigger than others. Sometimes it is £10, sometimes £15. But as a UK customer, you are getting screwed anyway. The US consumer gets a bigger discount. In this case, the course was sold for $9.99.

Then iTunes take a cut, so that’s $3 gone, and then Udemy split the remaining money with you 50/50. There is $7 left, so that makes £3.50 each. Or, translated into Sterling, £2.68.

Technically, I think you can opt-out of these discounts. But, in practice, very few courses do. And this means that you are competing against a market of discounted courses, which makes it impossible to do business. And Udemy is more favourable to the courses who do not opt-out. So, in reality, I don’t feel like I have a choice.

Udemy is a great platform. However, I wish they would be more transparent about their prices. You don’t ever pay the list price and so instructors are paid very little.

Grammarly weekly report

June 14th, 2017 | Tech

Either I have become the most prolific writer of all time, or Grammarly’s numbers are incorrect.

According to my weekly report, I checked over half a million words last week. Now, I do write quite a lot. And it picks up the spell checking I deliberately do for my articles, as well as most of the content I write in online forms.

However, I am pretty sure I did not make my way through over 600,000 words.

One explanation is that the numbers are simply incorrect.

Another is that the Grammarly for Mac app isn’t great: it freaks out when it loses internet connection and you have to reload the page. It could be repeatedly sending everything back to its server for checking.

Or, I’m sleep writing.