Assorted links

by on April 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why Netflix never implemented the prize-winning algorithm it paid for.

2. Criticism of on-line schools in Colorado.

3. An Economist Gets Lunch in The Daily Mail.

4. Do languages have a roughly constant rate of information transmission? (pdf), summary here.

5. The Will Wilkinson update.

lords of lies April 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

re: #5: so hopefully this means one less libertardian promulgating abstract neohippie theory with no basis in reality.

NAME REDACTED April 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

“libertardian?”
“promulgating abstract neohippie theory with no basis in reality.”

*yawns*
The trolls are getting lazy.

Chris April 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Beats why Pfizer didn’t implement Torcetrapib which they paid close to a billion for.

careless April 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

HP and webos. $3.5 billion for an OS and they were talking about using it for nothing but printers.

careless April 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Although it looks like it wasn’t $3.5

John Jenkins April 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

HP bought Palm for $1.2 Billion, including WebOS: http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2010/100428xa.html

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 16, 2012 at 4:33 am

How much did HP flush when they dumped webos?

Dean April 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Tyler,

Any news on an audiobook possibility?

Tyler Cowen April 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm

It is in the works…

Blaise April 15, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I like the paper on languages. However, I think that the French and English translation do not match perfectlty (i’m a native French speaker). But, I’m not a professional translater and I’m aware that translations may vary form one to another. These problems of translation surely mean that there is more variability in the results than what the authors found and that differences between languages may not be statistically significant.

Barkley Rosser April 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

It is one thing for an economist to get lunch in dumpy joints in strip malls with ugly women screaming at each other. It is quite another to get lunch in The Daily Mail. That is just over the top, :-).

BTW, as for the advice about going to places with feuds, the ultimate in that is the old phenomenon of whenever there is a mafia assassination in a restaurant, long lines form outside of it almost instantly, given that everybody knows that mafia dons really know where the good Italian food is.

Arjun Narayan April 16, 2012 at 1:13 am

Re #1: Netflix got a lot more out of the prize winning entry than the “Too hard; didn’t implement” the article implies. For a million dollars they got an algorithm that gave them an 8% improvement (this is pretty good, seeing as the 10% target was set pretty arbitrarily), and pretty strong evidence that even _trying_ to push that any higher was pretty futile, and they should shift their engineering focus to different departments.

This, IMHO, is pretty valuable. As CS researchers (and doubtless, in other fields), we spend so much time barking up the wrong tree that getting strong evidence that this particular tree has no more fruit is financially valuable information.

Sure, the entire business changed in the meantime, but even if it didn’t, the prize didn’t end up being “useless” to Netflix. Valuable knowledge was gained.

Rahul April 16, 2012 at 3:58 am

In any case, a million dollars is peanuts for a company like Netflix. I’d estimate that’s approximately what it costs them annually to employ about six good engineers( if you factor in non-salary overheads.)

M April 16, 2012 at 3:32 am

5. Not a linguist, but languages do not equalise in information density, but they may differ in the information that they exchange as well.

E.g. Japanese has a low information rate here, but perhaps that reconciles because the language is structured so that a lot of information content can be “reconstructed” upstream, or where a lot of “irrelevant” (redundant) information is discarded.

After considering this, it seems harder to say whether languages are equally information dense in the sense of being able to communicate equal information in equal time, in a real world situation.

Rahul April 16, 2012 at 4:05 am

Is that another way of saying some people are smarter than others?

M April 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

What, because you’d have to be smarter to learn a language with more syllabic complexity and/or a higher information transmission rate and use it at that rate? ; )

I don’t think higher inferential capacity and economy of language is necessarily smarter than transmitting information very quickly, maybe with more complex syllables, but it seems like the kind of thing people with a language with lower information transmission rate would be or if not get better at (if they were just as smart).

Rahul April 17, 2012 at 12:42 am

I was thinking your “upstream reconstruction” sounded like bit-compression and decompression. Activities requiring brainpower.

M April 17, 2012 at 3:46 am

Good analogy.

Vanya April 16, 2012 at 4:52 am

I wonder how the researchers corrected for issues like the fact that Japanese explicitly encodes social information (e.g. about the relative social status of the speaker and addressee) in a way that English or Mandarin does not. Of course English, like all languages, also indirectly encodes social information through accent and vocabulary choice. Seems like it would be very hard to truly compare the information exchange across languages when taking that into account.

Linda Seebach April 16, 2012 at 3:50 am

The story on Colorado online schools is from 2006, in case someone didn’t notice.

ohwilleke April 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

And the conclusion, “Moloney said a large part of online schools’ enrollment are at-risk, academically challenged students who go to the schools as a last resort. Auditors said it was impossible to determine how many students were at-risk because there is no statewide standard,” isn’t true any longer either. The state’s evaluation method which used to look at just the percentage of kids that are proficient, advanced, partially proficient and unsatisfactory, now has a measure of year to year learning growth that addresses comprehensively the issue of at risk v. not at risk kids by virtue of its design.

Adrian Ratnapala April 16, 2012 at 6:15 am

I was suprised that nearly all the Daily Mail commenters were North American. Is there a special edition of the website targeted to that market? After all many of the details in Cowen’s book don’t translate well to the UK (even if the principles do).

Doc Merlin April 16, 2012 at 7:00 am

The standard Daily Mail website is heavily watched by the North American crowd because they are the usually the first place to get the news out (They beat US sites often by hours).

Also, the website is run separately from the newspaper.

pmp April 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

Someone explain this to me like I’m 5 years old:

I’m embarrassed to say it, but I never was able to understand how an improved algorithm for guessing people’s movie-watching preferences was supposed to make Netflix extra money.

Can someone please explain this to me in a very simple way?

Rahul April 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

Guess viewer tastes -> Recommend Movies -> Viewers Like recommended movies -> Happy Viewers = Good for Netflix

Second order effects:
Non-clustered movie demand and perhaps viewers switch to higher plans. Both good for Netflix’s bottomline

Andrew' April 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

5. “underestimate the upside of taking a chance”

In my experience this doesn’t apply to graduate school. I certainly wish him better luck.

Joe in Morgantown April 16, 2012 at 10:44 am

Also consider that the rental business itself is not “sticky”— anybody could collect a pile of dvds and go into competition with Netflix. The review system makes Netflix much more sticky— the customer has to go to Netflix to get good recommendations.

Robert Reichardt April 16, 2012 at 11:23 am

Linda is right, that article on on-line schools is 6 years old…what is your point Tyler? There is plenty of stuff to talk about on on-line education but an article about failures that occured at a very low point in CO’s state education administration is very old news.

Floccina April 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

My son is taking a class online (in Florida each student must take at least one online class). I have help my son with some lessons and IMHO the software is still very, very bad. The class is very poorly done. It needs to evolve a lot but I still think that in 10 years or so it can be better than most teachers. Perhaps they could start with the direct instruction scrips.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: