Posts Tagged ‘manchester’

Trip to Manchester

Sunday, January 7th, 2018 | Friends

On the last Saturday of 2017, we headed over to Manchester to see Michelle. She was stopping there on her way back to China. I don’t have a photo from the event, so here is a stock image.

It went well. The trains ran on time and Venla was reasonably well behaved. She had a lot of fun shuffling around Manchester Piccadilly station but was not a happy baby when I told her shuffling time was over.

Most of all, it’s nice to spend time with old friends and that while life circumstances and locations may change, the things you love about each other never do.

We had lunch at a place called LEAF. It was very good; recommended if you’re in the area.

How does terrorism affect Ariana Grande’s record sales?

Sunday, 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.


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.


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%.


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.


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.


Image courtesy of Melissa Rose via Wikimedia Commons.

On the Manchester Arena bombing

Friday, June 2nd, 2017 | Thoughts

I, like everyone else, was shocked and appalled to see the pictures coming out of Manchester after the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena. Not in the hyperbolic sense: there was a literal shock (well, not shock, but shock) and appalling. That someone would do that for a concert aimed at children genuinely takes you aback.

It’s the kind of propaganda you might expect to have spread during the Second World War. Goebbels would have been proud to convince his citizens that the enemy was deliberating bombing children. But here was someone so brainwashed by a political-religious ideology that they were actually doing it. At the M.E.N., a place where so many of us in the north have pleasant memories.

I would like to say I was inspired by the reaction of the community in supporting the victims. But the truth is better: I wasn’t surprised because that is just standard. Of course, people rushed to help, gave people rides, took them into their houses. Who was surprised by this? When did we set the bar so low? Not us.

Leeds Samurai in Manchester

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 | Sport

July saw Leeds Samurai travel over to Manchester for a conference flag day. Ironically, despite it raining on every game day we have had so far, it was only when we went to Manchester, the place where it never stops raining, to have a dry day.

We lost our games to the Honey Badgers and Manchester Crows, but came up good against the Manchester Titans, taking our second league victory of the year with a last minute interception that secured a one point victory for us.

North West Humanist Conference 2013

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 | Foundation, Humanism

After a great time last year, we returned to the North West Humanist Conference last weekend to represent our work in Leeds.

Organised by Greater Manchester Humanists and Central Lancashire Humanists the organisers do a great job of putting together a programme. This year featured a keynote by David Pollock, Sara Passmore talking about the BHA, Robin Cross talking about Humanism in the Armed Forces, Amy Walden talking about Humanist chaplaincy in prisons and the inaugural performance of the North West Humanist Choir.

Videos of the talks will be available via Worfolk Lectures at a later date and you can see the full set of photos on Flickr.

IMG_2803 IMG_2808 IMG_2812 IMG_2822 IMG_2825 IMG_2831


Sunday, October 13th, 2013 | Programming, Tech


Last weekend I headed over to Manchester for PHPNW13.

I really enjoyed last year’s event and came away having learned a lot from it. This year was also quite interesting, though on returning home and reviewing my notes, there is only really one new thing that I want to look into.

Arora Hotel, Manchester

Saturday, October 12th, 2013 | Reviews, Travel

I recently stayed at the Arora Hotel in Manchester. Given I paid £220 for a room, I have to say I was very disappointed. Especially as that was room only, breakfast was an extra £28. Things I didn’t like about it:

  • There was no manual in the room explaining things like breakfast times, how the room worked, how to use the internet, etc
  • The room was very warm and the cooling system didn’t seem to do anything
  • Despite this, the cooling system continued to make a noise all night
  • The windows didn’t open very far
  • The wifi didn’t work properly as far as I could tell. I was supposed to get 30 minutes free (there was a charge for using it longer) but when I connected to the wifi network, it wouldn’t let me select hotel guest and any other option required me to login
  • There was no 3G signal, so I couldn’t hotspot on my phone
  • The heated towel rail did not work
  • The shower was very weak

The “Cloud 9” bed was okay, but nothing amazing. It did have some nice features – there was a bidet in the bathroom and the breakfast was good. Overall, I was quite disappointed though.

Urgent notice

Monday, October 7th, 2013 | Photos


This notice was in a broken lift in Manchester. It was clearly broken due to the number of signs around it and the fact that the doors were held open. But they also felt the need to post an “urgent” notice.

I’m not quite sure what was urgent about it. Though they have put it in quote marks, so maybe they don’t know either.

QED 2013

Friday, May 10th, 2013 | Events

Last month, I attended QED for the first time. I’ve not been in previous years due to the cost, but having more disposable income now, I’m making an effort to get round the various conferences.

They certainly had a good speaker line up. I don’t think it was as good as TAM, but is better than the BHA’s conference this year, and both TAM and BHA Con are twice the price that QED was. In value for money terms, it was OK. There was no food provided during the weekend, so the £99 ticket price is actually more when you factor that in.

I also attended the Gala Dinner, which was supposed to have Brooke Magnanti on our table. She missed the dinner, which I didn’t mind too much as I was hosting her at Leeds Skeptics a few days after, but I might have been rather disappointed if not.

The speakers themselves varied in quality. Natalie Haynes was a bit of a disappointment because her speaking style is incredibly erratic – she was constantly darting back and forward on the stage and her talk had very little structure. It was still interesting and funny, but could have been a lot better. Rose Shapiro also seemed a bit out of her depth when it came to public speaking.

Stevyn Colgan justified his place as opening keynote though, with a brilliant talk about applying skepticism to police work, Rachael Dunlop was as entertaining and charming as ever, and Carrie Poppy delivered a brilliant talk too. Brian Thompson was a delight as Master of Ceremonies as well – imagine an American version of Andrew Copson and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture.

The star of the show for me, and I imagine many other people too though, was Lawrence Krauss, who presented an outstanding talk on how you get a universe from nothing. Well worth watching the video for that once it is posted.

IMG_1049 IMG_1052 IMG_1056 IMG_1071 IMG_1076 IMG_1088 IMG_1093 IMG_1100 IMG_1114 IMG_1140 IMG_1149 IMG_1150 IMG_1153 IMG_1158 IMG_1168 IMG_1178 IMG_1182 IMG_1187 IMG_1194 IMG_1201 IMG_1203 IMG_1216 IMG_1221 IMG_1241

Manchester Mercure Hotel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 | Reviews

While I was at QED, I stayed at the hotel the conference is in – the Mercure. It is a good hotel for a conference, as it had the facilities right next to the bar, as I discovered when I was there last year for PHPNW. However, staying there, I was a little disappointed.

I will say that the staff were very friendly and accommodating – which really made the stay a lot better than it could have been, and they are a real asset to the hotel.

However, I’ve clearly been spoilt by too many stays at The Marriot. The room was small and if you wanted room service, there was a £3 tray charge. The room had internet listed as a feature, which I naively took to mean free internet. I’m told it wasn’t free, but I couldn’t even find out, because it wasn’t wireless and I hadn’t brought my little adapter, so I didn’t have a network port.

When we got there on the Friday night, we ate in the restaurant bar, which took ages to order and even when we only ordered two burgers, took around 35 minutes to arrive.

At breakfast, I felt the food was rather overcooked, and their lunchtime sandwiches, that master of ceremonies Brian Thompson joked “cheap sandwiches are available – I don’t know if that means inexpensive…”, were £2.50 and lacking in filling.

Given the Britannia Hotel is just across the road, I’m not sure the Mercure represents best option.