Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fifth anniversary!

Today is the fifth anniversary of me, as one observer had it, "ragequitting" Tasmanian Times and starting this site.  This Blogger site was something I set up just to make sure I had a new home right away, but as it's turned out, as basic as Blogger is in some regards, I haven't seen a compelling reason to move.

Sometimes people ask me why this site just bears my name, rather than being called something snazzy like "The Poll Bludger" or "The Tally Room".  I have simply not come up with any alternative name that I am happy with.  At one stage I was tempted by "The Morning Mist", after a fantastic old quote from Sir Joh about polls that "come and go like a morning mist".  But it occurred to me that people would then start unkindly calling it The Morning Missed whenever I got something wrong, and besides the name would have at least one unsavory connotation in German.

In these five years this site has published 429 articles and 2241 comments (about a third of the comments mine).  It's had about 1.5 million pageviews from, conservatively, tens of thousands of readers (Analytics says almost 200,000 but is probably not accounting for people who change their IP addresses a lot).  I'm tempted to say "hey TT, all of these clicks could have been yours!" and "ha!" but in reality my output here has been much greater than it ever was there, and I doubt that they could have afforded, let alone edited, all of this stuff.  Speaking of editing, I only have time to write these articles, not to properly proofread them, so thanks to all those who have helped catch all the gremlins.  The top three gremlin-catchers have probably been my partner, my mother and @sorceror43.  I've considered setting up a Gremlin Notification Form in the sidebar for people to email me when they spot incomplete sentences, misspelled candidate names and so on.

I have considered writing detailed site rules to cover what comments are or aren't allowed but have not found any good reason to do so (and think if I had such rules that would only encourage people to game them).  Comments are moderated to keep fanatical trolls at bay, but trolls aside I've very very rarely rejected one.  Virtually all posters here are sensible and well behaved and the number of people I've banned has been tiny. Thanks to all non-troll commenters for the thought and, at times, work they've put into their comments.  That especially goes for those who have helped out with some of the most complex electoral modeling that's been beyond my computing abilities.

The decision to strike out on my own was risky as for the first 18 months or so my finances were shaky, and I was giving up a paying gig for something that might not make me any money at all.  I was only able to cover some of the elections in 2013-4 thanks to the kindness of those who donated money to this site.  It might be in my interests to pretend things are still like that now, but they're not.  This is partly a result of the well-paying specialised electoral work that I've been able to attract from time to time because of the higher profile that has come with having my own site and a Twitter account linked to it.

With an increased professional workload in my main job as a freelance invertebrate researcher as well, I don't have quite as much time and energy for writing here as I once did.  Given that writing this site is not only not something I do for a living, but only one of the many things I do that aren't for a living, I think I'm still very prolific.  However if from time to time nothing is posted for a few weeks, that may just mean I'm too busy or too exhausted to write, or sometimes it means there's just nothing I feel inclined to comment on going on.  So long as I remain able to write here, and keep avoiding work of a sort that would ban me from writing here, there'll continue to be new stuff up sooner or later.

Starting my own site with its allied Twitter feed has also led to a great increase in the frequency with which I am contacted by the press - especially but not exclusively within Tasmania - for public comment about electoral, polling and political matters.  The great benefit of it - predicted by people who encouraged me to start my own site for years before I did - is that people can find what I say about things without having to wade through the tinfoil-hat fringe-green slop Tasmanian Times has always been awash with.

While I used to look at polls a lot even back in the TT days, my strongest impression of polling in Australia over the last five years has been the increasing opacity of it.  Polls are reported in the media in vast numbers but finding even basic methods details or full results in a clear format is getting more and more difficult.  The documentation of public polling is remarkably weak compared to other similar countries, and that's before we even consider the far greater number of polls that are commissioned.

The more I look at commissioned polling in Australia the more I think that nearly all of it is, scientifically speaking, misleading junk.  The simplest good advice I could give a general audience is simply to ignore all polls unless you know who they were commissioned by and know that it wasn't a pressure group or a political party.  The public voting intentions polling has the runs on the board to show that it is, on average, accurate, but with so few details published the public can't even be sure that what they're seeing is the result of a repeatable scientific method that the pollster nailed down all details of in advance.  These things are troubling, but unless Australia someday gets a serious national polling failure, I don't expect anything to change.

Thanks again to all who have helped with or been interested in my work here.  I hope I can continue it for at least another five years!


  1. And a damned fine blog it is. It is required reading for poll watchers IMHO. Well done sir

  2. I adore your analysis and articles in general. Congratulations and here is to another successful five years! At least :D

  3. Comment from Barry Reynolds:

    "G'day Kevin,

    Congrats on 5 years and may there be many more."

  4. Congrats KB.

    I still looking for a name for the site you could do worse than "Bonfire of the Vanities"

  5. "I hope I can continue it for at least another five years!" So do we all, Kevin!

  6. Well done Dr Kevin, tis not to often one can say that the huge task of becoming a respected psephologist is an easily accomplished task.
    However you have romped home with another fine performance leading up to and including Pembroke by election today.
    Hope to read more of your genius in times forthcoming in this narrow field of respected psephologists.