Saturday, December 23, 2017

End of Year Update

As we end 2017 (thank God, some of you are saying), it's time to look at the state of the blog. The earliest stats I have for the blog are from May 2010, though I know it's been around longer than that. Anyway, here are some key stats from 2010 on.
  • Number of total visits: 262,065. About what a good site gets in a day.
  • Of those, 4,429 were for a single post about the infamous The Red & Black staff walkout. Of my top five posts, traffic-wise, three were about the walkout. I can go and on about it, but let's not. Read the posts.
  • Google, no surprise, was the #1 URL referral. Lots of people searching for research stuff land on my blog, especially "cognitive mobilization," a major topic in Europe and something I wrote about a time or two based on one journal article I published, no doubt by sheer dumb luck or lack of editorial due diligence.
  • In fact, the #1 keyword search for folks who landed on my blog was indeed "cognitive mobilization," followed by "political knowledge and political partisanship" and in third place, I'm not making this up, "titular colonicity."
  • Most visitors were from the U.S., followed by Russia (spooky), Germany, and the U.K.
  • Chrome was by far the leading browser, and Windows edged out Mac as the most popular operating system.
And that's it. The blog has been slow of late as I deal with health issues and try not to die. So far, thanks to the magic of modern medicine, I've been successful. How long the docs can be so is up in the air as I move from med to med. Right now I'm on immunotherapy, the next great thing. Will know how great the thing is in a few weeks when we do a scan to see whether it's doing the voodoo it's supposed to do.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Grand Funk Railroad. Just Because.

My blog is usually about media or political knowledge or polling or local politics. Today, because it's my blog dammit and I can do what I want, I turn to Grand Funk Railroad and the big question -- why is the band not in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame?

I was messing around on YouTube and came across a bunch of Grand Funk videos and a documentary about them. I was a huge fan in middle and high school. For those of you drawing a blank, the band is probably best known for this hit:

As a kid I loved Grand Funk. Had all their albums, then 8-tracks, then cassettes. I also had stuff by the Rolling Stones and The Who and even back then my uneducated musical brain knew there was a huge difference between, say The Who, and Grand Funk Railroad. But you still find people steaming over the band never being inducted into the rock Hall of Fame. There are even sites out there that list the Top 10 acts not in the Hall but should be, and nearly all of them mention my boys from Michigan who I so dearly loved, but who honestly do not belong. Why? Yeah, maybe the critics were lukewarm toward them, favoring East and West Coast acts, but the critics were looking for musicians who broke new ground. As much as I loved Grand Funk Railroad, even back in my youth I could see this was not the case.

Thus ends a blog post about a musical act from my youth.  It's my blog. So there.

And if you've still never heard of them, listen to this live album. It kicks ass, except for the mangling of Gimme Shelter.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Is UGA Inching Closer?

I've written far too many times in the past about UGA's chances of being invited to the grownup table of universities -- the Association of American Universities (AAU). My 2016 post here includes some analysis.

Why am I bringing this up now? A recent The Red & Black story reminded me of it. The article notes UGA jumped seven spots in a national research ranking in one year, which is significant. And by invited in the earlier graf, I mean just that. You don't apply to join the AAU, you have to be invited, kinda like getting into tapped into a secret club and learning the secret handshake.

In previous posts I tried to estimate when UGA might possibly get an invitation based on the organization's timeline of adding new members and improvement over time in UGA's research productivity. It was a lost cause, making sense of the numbers, as I'm sure politics plays a role. And really, you expect Georgia Tech to vote in our favor?  Emory, maybe, but Tech?

The AAU can go several years between invitations, then add maybe one or two worthy additions. There's no consistency is what I'm trying to say, no easily predictive outcome. They may go another 10 years. They may invite 10 schools tomorrow.

Finally, it's difficult to generate the kind of research dollars the top schools brag about unless they boast an engineering and medical school on campus. That puts UGA at a disadvantage, though that's changing somewhat due to local initiatives on both fronts. Despite all this, UGA does rate higher on the National Science Foundation research table than some existing AAU members so maybe there's a chance we'll join the 62-school group soon. It would be a major feather in the cap of a certain provost looking to move up to president at a university.

Oh, by the way, you see the survey results here for yourself, which The R&B shoulda linked to in its story so readers could see it themselves.


Forgot to include a page that outlines the many criteria for being asked to join. Some day I'll break them all down and see where UGA stands, but that's a lot of work.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


OK, I admit to being a bit baffled by the abstract of this study. Skim it yourself, or I'll paste below the key part that has me confused. Basically the study examines the difference between what people know (knowledge) and what people think they know. To explain, they're not the same but they're often correlated. Knowledgeable people also think, correctly so, that they're knowledgeable. But a lot of folks think they know a lot -- and they don't. Imagine your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving. That person.

So here's part of the abstract. I'll explain, best I can, below.
An online experiment reveals that cognitive style moderates the assumed relationship. Participants with a high need for cognition (NFC) feel more competent when confronted with a comprehensible news item; for participants with a low NFC, reading a less comprehensible news item resulted in a more pronounced sense of competence.
NFC just measures how much you enjoy thinking about stuff. It's a common variable in social science research, it's roots in persuasion studies. Anyway, those high in NFC feel more competent after a news story that makes sense. OK, we all get that. But those low in NFC feel more competent after reading a news story that makes no sense. WTF? What's wrong with these people? The study suggests they build this from peripheral cues in the story itself, such as technical terms and abbreviations.

Simply put, low NFC people grasp at straws to make themselves feel competent when they're not.

Yeah, your uncle.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Boosting My Ragged Self Esteem

Sometimes to boost my ragged self esteem I like to go online and look at who's citing my work. It requires some effort, mind you, but if I did hard enough via the magic of Google Scholar I can often find a few suckers scholars who pointed to my work while building their own theoretical arguments.

Examples, you ask?

This 2017 study includes a cite of one of my older studies from, wow, 1995. The study here is about need for cognition and political knowledge.

And this 2017 study is about knowledge of nanotechnology and cites my 1995 and 1996 papers.

I could go on, but I'm bored and you're bored and it's a holiday week. I will take a second to point out my most cited works, which when compared to colleagues the numbers are not that great, but I'm the top cited person in my household. So there.

  1. By far #1 cited is my study of young people learning from late-night comedies. It's from 2005 and has triple the cites of my #2.
  2. So, #2 is that 1995 "new news" and knowledge piece discussed above.
  3. Close behind with only two fewer cites than the one above is another piece with a good title and data over time, which helped get it attention.

Fourth and fifth places are talk radio studies. I did a lot of those and they got me tenure. Sixth is maybe my favorite piece, a study of why people believe Obama is Muslim and one of the first of its kind. If I'd published it in a bigger journal is would have gotten a lot more attention, but that's the way it goes.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Slow Going

Due to health issues, I've fallen behind in posting here. Apologies to my tens of readers worldwide. Hopefully I will pick up the pace soon.

I do point to this study that says basically the greater an individual's news literacy, the less likely they are to believe in conspiracy theories. It's main flaw is it doesn't cite me.

Also there's this brilliant piece of research that everyone should read, memorize, and recite to random strangers on the street.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

About that Alabama Poll

A new poll on the Alabama U.S. Senate race has it a tie between Roy Moore the Republican and Doug Jones the Democratic, both at 42 percent.

Don't believe it.

I'm not raising doubt because it's a Fox News poll. Their shop does good work. It's just that previous polls had Moore with a steady lead. Now maybe that lead has faded. Maybe news about some questionable charity monies or a bejillion Russian bots following him on Twitter have eroded Moore's lead, or maybe it dissipated because some folks realize he's kinda nuts.

Or maybe this poll is an outlier. These happen. Statistically speaking every poll has a 5 percent (1-in-20) chance of just being wrong. That doesn't mean it takes 20 polls for one to be wrong. The first could be outlier. I think it may be an outlier because all the other polls show Moore with a lead. For example, one earlier this month had Moore with a solid 8 percentage point lead.  Every public poll previous to this latest one had Moore ahead by 6 to 8 percentage points.

Unless another poll validates the latest result by showing it a lead or within the margin of error, I wouldn't make much of it. I get why Alabama Dems like this poll result and how they'll probably use it to raise money and energize their base, but as an observer I just don't think it's right. I've lived and worked in Alabama and I know you'll never go broke betting on the Republican candidate, even the crazy Republican candidate.

As an aside I did take a few minutes to dig into the crosstabs to see if anything odd shows up in this latest poll to explain the tie. Sometimes you'll find something there, such as more respondents of a particular socio-demographic group included than you'd normally see, thus skewing the results one way or the other. For example, more educated respondents than normal would favor Jones and more white evangelical respondents than normal would favor Moore.  Nothing jumps out at me, but then again I don't have baseline numbers to work with. We'll just have to wait for another poll to see if Jones has indeed clawed into a tie with Moore.