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#239642 - 01/11/2004 14:32 www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum
genixia
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/02/2002
Posts: 3411
Yep, the most visited electoral site in the country was set up and is being run by Andrew Tanenbaum.

http://www.electoral-vote6.com/info/votemaster-faq.html
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#239643 - 01/11/2004 14:40 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: genixia]
jimhogan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 06/10/1999
Posts: 2591
Loc: Seattle, WA, U.S.A.
Quote:
is being run by Andrew Tanenbaum


I know who he is WRT Minix and a little history there, but what (if anything) does that mean politically?

(Site currently slashdotted).
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Jim


'Tis the exceptional fellow who lies awake at night thinking of his successes.

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#239644 - 01/11/2004 15:53 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: genixia]
mschrag
pooh-bah

Registered: 09/09/2000
Posts: 2303
Loc: Richmond, VA
Yeah I have loved this site over the past couple of months ... I donated to him as well. It's got a ton of great stats to analyze. It's a stats-dork wonderland.

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#239645 - 01/11/2004 16:24 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: mschrag]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
I loved Andrew's Operating Systems book in college, but unless I'm misunderstanding his methodology, his use of statistics here is poor.

I'm *horrible* with statistics, but one thing I know is that if you do a poll that has a +/- 3% margin of error, and the score is, say, 49% Kerry, 48% Bush, then you can't call that poll "barely Bush." The poll is, in reality, a dead heat, and NO realistic prediction or projection can be made from it, because the spread is within the MoE.

I understand that what he's trying to do is provide a lot of different pictures of how the vote looks using different algorithms, different polls, etc., and a map with 10 or 12 states that are "too close to call" doesn't look very interesting... But the way he's splitting hairs with these poll results, he might as well investigate further into a 49% - 49% poll and see whether it's really 49.3% - 49.1%, just so he can color one of the states "barely Bush" or "barely Kerry."

I guess the biggest problem I have is that anyone who casually glances at this site might be misled into thinking there's some sophisticated statistical jiggery-pokery that's allowing Tanenbaum to make projections that are somehow more accurate, so he can color in more white states either reddish or blueish... And that's just not the case.

Or, to put it another way, statistics don't lie, but disgruntled Computer Science professors do.
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#239646 - 01/11/2004 16:58 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: tonyc]
mschrag
pooh-bah

Registered: 09/09/2000
Posts: 2303
Loc: Richmond, VA
While I agree statistics can be used to mislead, I think he's very open about his intepretations of the data.

In his FAQ:
"What do the terms "strong," "weak," and "barely" mean?
By definition, "strong" means support of 10% or more; "weak" means 5% to 9%, and "barely" means less than 5%. The states marked barely are statistical ties."

Also, I would read:
http://www.electoral-vote.com/info/polling.html
Where he says:
"In the first above example, with a 3% MoE, the 95% confidence interval for Kerry is 49% to 55% and for Bush 45% to 51%. Since these overlap, we cannot be 95% certain that Kerry is really ahead, so this is called a statistical tie. Nevertheless, the probability that Kerry is ahead is greater than the probability that Bush is ahead, only we cannot be very sure of the conclusion. When the ranges of the candidates do not overlap (i.e., the difference between them is at least twice the margin of error), then we can be 95% certain the leader is really ahead."

I think anyone looking at ANY statistics needs to take it upon him/herself to understand how the interpreter sliced and diced it to give you the view you're seeing, because polling is inherently "fuzzy math". Personally, that he backs up all the stats he puts up there with explanations of how he arrived at the final numbers along with the actual source data feeds is far more intellectually honest than almost any other polling/estimations that I've seen on the web.

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#239647 - 01/11/2004 17:15 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: mschrag]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
I didn't say his intentions were to mislead, and, unlike the Slashdot crowd that's mulling this over, I don't think he's got any particular candidate he's trying to twist the statistics in favor of. But I just have a problem with distilling very tenuous, fuzzy statistics down to a little website image that says "Kerry: 298, Bush: 231." It's about six too many levels of abstraction and extrapolation, and unless you drill down to all of his qualifiers and disclaimers about the "fuzzy" data, you might think he's actually got better data than someone else. All he's really doing is over-simplifying and making judgement calls when most responsible statisticians concede that no real judgement can be made. It's surely a harmless oversimplification, but it still irks me. Not that I'd have any problem with a 298-231 Kerry victory.

Tangentially, the electoral college blows.
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#239648 - 01/11/2004 18:01 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: tonyc]
mschrag
pooh-bah

Registered: 09/09/2000
Posts: 2303
Loc: Richmond, VA
Quote:
All he's really doing is over-simplifying and making judgement calls when most responsible statisticians concede that no real judgement can be made.

There's almost no data on the site that is backed by only a single poll, though. Especially now. And he talks about how he breaks ties by averaging several recent polls together. While I completely agree with you that it's far less of a science when you get to the higher level summaries, there is a reasonable amount of science that he is using to get to that point, so it's not completely false. Ultimately, though, I admit that I look at the site as infotainment and not a math journal. He does a lot of grunt work to pull together a lot of data and writes some interesting articles that I enjoy. It's also one of the few sites that I have found that looks at the analysis in terms of electoral votes (I hate the "so-and-so is at 49% nationwide" polls -- that's not how our election system works, so what does it really matter?). The funny/sad thing to wonder about is whether the ACTUAL election process is any more accurate than what he's doing

Quote:
Tangentially, the electoral college blows.

Yes. Definitely.

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#239649 - 01/11/2004 19:26 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: tonyc]
genixia
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/02/2002
Posts: 3411
Hey, it's all a moot point anyway - the only important statistic came in yesterday...

Redskins lost.
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#239650 - 01/11/2004 19:41 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: mschrag]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
Quote:
The funny/sad thing to wonder about is whether the ACTUAL election process is any more accurate than what he's doing

True dat. I guess I shouldn't be that bothered by fictitious analysis of an even more fictitious process.

What I really wanna see him do is a map of the U.S. with lawyer-per-square-foot density mapped out by party. Then they could track the results of each lawsuit and how many votes each one invalidates/allows. It could get really exciting using animation, to show the effect of the Ohio provisional ballots, all the various recounts... Man, who needs reality TV?
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#239651 - 01/11/2004 19:43 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: genixia]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
Quote:
Redskins lost.

Joe Gibbs should demand a recount, then. He's a Republican after all...
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- Tony C
my empeg stuff

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#239652 - 01/11/2004 21:00 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: tonyc]
mschrag
pooh-bah

Registered: 09/09/2000
Posts: 2303
Loc: Richmond, VA
Quote:
lawyer-per-square-foot density mapped out by party.

LOL

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#239653 - 01/11/2004 23:25 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: mschrag]
DWallach
carpal tunnel

Registered: 30/04/2000
Posts: 3728
Another good site for "meta" analysis of electoral polls is done by a biophysics professor at Princeton. No mystery about who the author is, plus much more rigorous statistics, including MatLab code if you want to run your own numbers. On the other hand, Tanenbaum's site is much prettier and better organized. If I had to hazard a guess, Tanenbaum has pretty much given up on his day job to keep that web site going, while the Princeton guy is still trying to make his day job work for him.



I feel sympathy for the Princeton guy. My phone has been ringing like crazy with press inquiries about tomorrow's election. I gave interviews today for BBC Scotland (but the interviewer had a British accent) and for the local ABC news channel. Tomorrow will be the big blitz. My university's PR guy has set up an entire camera studio on campus with a terrestrial fiber network feed so that CNN or whoever can punch me up directly. I've also been posting on a new E-Voting Experts Blog and written up a detailed guide for election observers. Sleep? What's that?

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#239654 - 02/11/2004 00:56 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: DWallach]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14106
Loc: Canada
Great work, Dan. Keep it up, eh!

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#239655 - 02/11/2004 02:37 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: DWallach]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
Awesome. Now give me the backdoor codes to the Diebold machines so I can break into them and inject 120,000,000 votes for Homer J. Simpson!
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my empeg stuff

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#239656 - 02/11/2004 02:40 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: mlord]
kayakjazz
member

Registered: 10/09/2004
Posts: 127
Loc: Bay Area, CA/Anchorage, AK
Checks and balances...now *there's* a concept...!

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#239657 - 02/11/2004 07:09 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: DWallach]
canuckInOR
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/02/2002
Posts: 3162
Loc: Portland, OR
Quote:
If I had to hazard a guess, Tanenbaum has pretty much given up on his day job to keep that web site going, while the Princeton guy is still trying to make his day job work for him.

Nah, that's what grad students are for!

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#239658 - 02/11/2004 10:00 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: kayakjazz]
pgrzelak
carpal tunnel

Registered: 15/08/2000
Posts: 4859
Loc: New Jersey, USA
Checks and balances...now *there's* a concept...!

You know you are getting a bit cynical (and are from New Jersey) when you read that line and immediately respond - "Those that cash the checks and have the biggest balances..."
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#239659 - 02/11/2004 12:15 Re: www.electroral-vote.com and Andrew Tanenbaum [Re: tonyc]
DWallach
carpal tunnel

Registered: 30/04/2000
Posts: 3728
Quote:
Now give me the backdoor codes to the Diebold machines


It's "1111".

Have fun!

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