Friday, April 19, 2019

End of Semester - Phew!

Today, Good Friday, marks the end of Semester II this academic year - it was the 34th semester of my time at the National College of Ireland. As Easter is so late this year, our second Reading Week is actually next week - no classes or exams next week. It is always a relief to get through a semester - 13 weeks ago the end seemed so far away, but it has passed in a flash.

St John the Baptist, Blackrock.
Image source: Wikimedia.
I like to look back and reflect on a semester as I feel that I learn something new every time. This past semester I had four classes: two for Statistics, one for R Programming (on-line), and one for Data Visualization. The corresponding semester last year was very hectic, with most weeks being 50-60 hours. I made a decision this year to not do this - trying to keep it to less than 40 hours per week. While this greatly improved work-life balance, it did mean I had less time to prepare classes and grade assessments when compared to last year. I did feel less prepared for classes - even ones I had taught before. One of the things I have never been good at is preparing for classes in the shortest possible time.

I am still a rookie in the online delivery of classes - during last semester I had my second module to deliver on-line: R Programming. I was happy with the way the class went, and based of feedback from students they seemed to like to too. Much still to improve on - but I hope to get the opportunity to do more on-line education again next year.

The College is closed today and on Monday - so a nice end-of-semester break is welcome. Good Friday means choir in the mid-afternoon for me - at 3 o'clock I will be joining my colleagues at the Church of St John the Baptist in Blackrock for Good Friday prayers, before heading to Wexford for the weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

New Video: How To... Create a Simple Data Entry Form in Excel

It has been a while since I made a video based on Excel, so I am glad to be able to publish a new video showing how to create a data entry form in Excel. Many people are used to doing this in Microsoft Access, but very few people use Access compared to Excel. Fortunately, Excel make it easy to do - but it is not immediately obvious where to start. It can be awkward entering data into a sheet with many columns - a form makes this easier. This is the first of two videos on creating a data entry form...

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

New Video: How To... Calculate Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient (By Hand)

Last December I got a message on my YouTube channel as follows: "wrong formula! rookie mistake". Naturally I was concerned about this - I often get messages claiming that there are errors on my videos. The video was about how to calculate Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient by hand - it is a relatively easy calculation to do and is based on the difference in the rankings of two variables. However, the method I demonstrated had what are called "ties" (two or more values which are the same) - the formula that I used in the video should not be used when there are ties. A rookie mistake indeed! The video was only published in June 2018, but it proved popular as it racked up just over 16,000 views in less than 6 months - very good for a new video. I immediately took the video down from my channel - I did this by making it "Private" so that the 16,000 views would still count in my overall figures. This is cheating of course, but hey - they were still views!

My New Home Studio.
Yesterday I published an updated version - this time with no ties. Some data analysts/statisticians say that if there are only a few ties in a large data set that it does not matter, but the purists say to use a different formula - Kendall's Tau is the recommended one. I hope to do a video of this soon. 

The long delay in replacing the incorrect video was partly due to time pressure, and partly due to me wanting to experiment with my new GoPro camera. I set it up like a document reader and after many trials, I finally got the settings right. I also learned how to control this with my iPad - great for getting the size and settings such as resolution right. I could also start/pause/stop using the iPad. I feel that the quality was really excellent - the sound and video were fine. The GoPro picked up my voice OK, and it was able to focus on the worksheet no problem. I don't have sound proofing in my home office, which could be a problem in future. The GoPro microphone is so good that it is picking up noise from other rooms and from the road outside my house. I have to make recordings during quiet time.

So - finally corrected, here's my new video on how to calculate Spearman's Correlation Coefficient in data that does not have ties...

Monday, April 08, 2019

What does word spinning look like?

Here is my previous post "€8 a page - the price of cheating" put through the word-spinner, two posts for the price of one...!

News in the present Guardian that "US article factory firm targets new understudies through WhatsApp" does not by any means shock me - I'm certain paper factories have numerous cunning approaches to pull in the consideration of understudies who decide not to compose their very own expositions. What surprises me is the value, it is £7 per page (simply over €8). I had never referred to the expense as I clearly have no enthusiasm for completing this. 

So - what might an exposition with a guide of 2,000 words cost? As per the Howard Community College Library site page: 

For a page with 1 inch edges, 12 point Times New Roman text style, and insignificant separating components, a great principle guideline is 500 words for a solitary dispersed page and 250 words for a twofold divided page. 

A 2,000 word exposition would in this manner cost about £28 (€32.56) - exceptionally shoddy. No big surprise understudies are enticed. While most assignments will get a multi week's notice of the accommodation date, it isn't exceptional for understudies to postpone beginning their task until the last minute. At the cost of 5 or 6 pints they can get an exposition factory to take the necessary steps. I don't have the foggiest idea if any of my understudies in the course of recent years have utilized article factory administrations - I surely have never found anybody doing it, nor have I ever even had the smallest doubt. Either these administrations are great, or none of my understudies bamboozled - I want to believe that the last is valid! 

Exposition Mills is one of these administrations who guarantee to be "one of a kind" and who guarantee to give "just 100% literary theft free article papers". I can't help suspecting that one of the strategies they use is word turning (where programming can swap expressions of comparable importance to beat literary theft) - here's certain instances of sentences from their Essay page: 

We appreciate that in the present time of developments; clients want to gain admittance to the rendered administrations from anyplace. 

Regardless of you are in class or at play area, you can get to our administrations from anyplace. 

Regardless of whether you have one percent question that the task composing administration which is taking your well deserved cash from you would not work with an unwavering methodology, you should look for different choices. 

No one composes normally like this. While I have identified word turning previously, any indication of strange sentence development, as in the over three precedents, would quickly raise my doubts.

€8 a page - the price of cheating

News in today's Guardian that "US essay mill firm targets new students through WhatsApp" does not really surprise me - I'm sure essay mills have many clever ways to attract the attention of students who choose not to write their own essays. What does surprise me is the price, it is £7 per page (just over €8). I had never known the cost as I obviously have no interest in getting this done.

So - what would an essay with a guide of 2,000 words cost? According to the Howard Community College Library web page: 

For a page with 1 inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font, and minimal spacing elements, a good rule of thumb is 500 words for a single spaced page and 250 words for a double spaced page.

A 2,000 word essay would therefore cost about £28 (€32.56) - very cheap. No wonder students are tempted. While most assignments will get several week's notice of the submission date, it is not uncommon for students to delay starting their assignment until the last moment. For the price of 5 or 6 pints they can get an essay mill to do the work instead. I don't know if any of my students over the past 17 years have used essay mill services - I certainly have never caught anyone doing it, nor have I ever even had the slightest suspicion. Either these services are very good, or none of my students cheated - I prefer to think that the latter is true!

Essay Mills is one of these services who claim to be "unique" and who promise to provide "only 100% plagiarism free essay papers". It seems to me that one of the tactics they use is word spinning (where software can swap words of similar meaning to beat plagiarism) - here's some examples of sentences from their Essay page: 

We comprehend that in the current era of innovations; customers desire to get access to the rendered services from anywhere.

No matter you are in class or at playground, you can access our services from anywhere.

Even if you have one percent doubt that the assignment writing service which is taking your hard earned money from you would not work with a faithful approach, you should seek other alternatives.

Nobody writes naturally like this. While I have detected word spinning before, any sign of weird sentence construction, as in the above three examples, would immediately raise my suspicions.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Selling my Coin Collection

Today at the Whyte's Auction I sold almost my entire coin collection. I have been collecting coins since I was a boy and have enjoyed having them over the years. However, in recent years I have stopped purchasing coins at fairs and coin shops - I had really lost interest. Last September I went to Whyte's Auctioneers in Molesworth Street with a suitcase full of coins. The suitcase was divided into nine lots for the auction - some, such as the 1986 coin set below, sold for less than the guide price, but others, such as the box of collectibles below, made more than the guide price. While I felt a little sad at selling some coins I've had for over 40 years - I also felt it was time to let go. I hope whoever has bought them enjoys these coins.

I didn't expect to make a lot of money on coins over the years. Many of the official Mint sets I purchased were worth less than what I paid for them, and I am certain that I paid far more than the sales total that I received today. None of the individual coins or sets were rare or valuable - though the 1986 set below sold for €240 (it was estimated to sell for up to €400). 

Friday, April 05, 2019

12 Years on YouTube

This weekend 12 years ago I set up my YouTube Channel. This was just 7 months after Google bought YouTube (for $1.65 billion!) - YouTube was founded by  Jawed Karim, Steve Chen, and Chad Hurley on 14th February, 2005. It seems to have been around forever, and it has been part of my life for a long time.

My first video was published on 11th December 2007. It now seems very antiquated and very much out of date (it has just 6,436 views in 12 years). This was very much an experiment to use the (then) latest technology to view class notes created in PowerPoint. The quality compared to today is poor, everything was done as screen shots rather than video capture. Even the use of an iPod seems old - smartphones were not yet anything like as ubiquitous as today - the first iPhone was launched by Steve Jobs just over 5 months earlier on 29th June, 2007. I can remember having fun making this video and also having many "takes" before getting it right. There's no way I would have believed anyone if they told me that I would have 18.5 millions views on my channel 12 years later.

A little bit of nostalgia...