Tag Archives: twitter

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Pirates of the Powerpoint

How to Lie with StatisticsHow to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

My Rating★★★★☆

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Pirates of the Powerpoint

Darrell Huff uses a simple, but effective literary device to impress his readers about how much statistics affect their daily lives and their understanding of the world.

He does this by pretending that the book is a sort of primer in ways to use statistics to deceive, like a manual for swindlers, or better, for pirates. He then pretends to justify the crookedness of the book in the manner of the retired burglar whose published reminiscences amounted to a graduate course in how to pick a lock and muffle a footfall: The crooks already know these tricks; honest men must learn them in self-defense.

This keeps the book interesting and entertaining, though for anyone even partly trained in statistics, it has very little educational value.

Of course, the title of this book and Huff’s little charade would seem to imply that all such operations are the product of intent to deceive. The intelligent reader would be skeptical — it is the unfortunate truth that it not chicanery much of the time, but incompetence. On the other hand, Huff is pretty clear that the ‘errors’ if that is what they are always seem to come down on the side of the interested party. As long as the errors remain one-sided, he says, it is not easy to attribute them to bungling or accident.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

After being fellow pirates for much of the book, in the concluding chapter Huff finally lets go if his pet charade and faces up to the more serious purpose of the book: explaining how to look a phony statistic in the eye and face it down; and no less important, how to recognize sound and usable data in that wilderness of fraud to which the previous chapters have been largely devoted. He lays down some thumb rules, which in the end comes come down to asking intelligent questions of the stats, especially of the conclusions. Asking such questions require the readers to be aware of the tendency of stats to mislead and to not be dazzled by the numbers.

Huff’s book is primarily an attempt to pull down the high estimation automatically awarded to anybody willing to quote numbers. It is a fun evening read for the expert, who may then roll his eyes and say that there is nothing of real value in the book. But as its popularity attests to, it seems to be an important book for the lay reader, just by serving a reminder that the pirates are still out there — wielding their charts.

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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Book Reviews, Books


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Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century by Shashi Tharoor

Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century

Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century by Shashi Tharoor

My Rating★★★★☆

Joe Nye aka “Mr. Soft Power” in ‘The Future of Power’ has argued that, in today’s information age, it is the side with the better story that wins. This book is Tharoor’s conscious or unconscious attempt to ensure that India is the party with the better story (of course to one’s own eyes one always has the better story). To Tharoor, India is gentle and reasonable and completely justified in all its actions; where they can’t be justified, they can be explained away with the excuse that a functioning democracy will take circuitous routes (the elephant metaphor). Thus the benign elephant dances with starry-eyed smaller countries, reluctantly peeping neighbors, a very naughty dragon, a ferocious but almost toothless opponent with a weapon that can’t be used, some failed states and a big circus master with a big funny hat. But all that is incidental because the elephant is gentle enough to be above reproach. So, who is the hero of the story? I leave that to your guessing skills.

Other than that, this reads like a sequel/update (with even the metaphors not being spared) to Malone’s wonderful book – with all the edges carefully shorn off and decorated in cheerful Diwali lights.

The second half of the book which takes a look at North Block and UN and their many idiosyncrasies, arguing for and against continuing relevance is more entertaining – because Tharoor actually has original stuff to contribute here along with many anecdotes which are well-worn but still funny. And though the book’s cover boasts that he tries to evolve a grand strategy (which Malone had criticized India of lacking and Tharoor wants to prove exists inside of the folds), it only delivers some passably good platitudes.

In the end though, I cannot forgive Tharoor – the primary reason for me picking up this book was my irrepressible curiosity on how the author would justify such a presumptuous title. And Tharoor never bothered to oblige, except for a two-line justification which only talks about a redefinition of what the ‘pax -ica’ latinization means in this new century. Disappointing? Yes. But, perhaps true too – it gels well with Pinker’s Angels.

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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books


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So who is pining for Pinterest Invites?

Heard of the latest sensation?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes. It’s highly addictive, and you could spend hours a day on it if you’re not careful.

Take a look at my Pinboard & make sure to follow me on Pinterest. If you are curious about the browser layout, it is Rockmelt magic.



If you’d like an invite you can leave your email in the comments section and I will try to send you one. If you really really want the invite, you may: Follow me on twitter @RenegadeTramP OR Add this blog to your RSS reader OR Follow my blog @ Networked Blogs OR Like my facebook Page. Do any two of these and you have a 100% chance of getting an invite sent to you.

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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in facebook, Social, Social Networking, Twitter


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Twitter is Better: Why Twitter will be The Most Comfortable Social Platform For You

Did You Say No to Twitter?     .


The Twitterverse is growing.

I am sure every reader who stumbles here is already on Facebook, but are you active on twitter?




The most frequently cited excuse by non-users is that they feel twitterdom is too fast and hence probably too aloof for their liking. They feel it adds nothing and that the data is too fleeting to be of any value.

I will address only the first part, but by the time I finish,I hope to make it clear that Twitter is not about data but about connections and relations. Is this your Reason?

Too Much Traffic?

After all, statistics indicate that close to or less than 25% of your followers actually read any of your tweets, and that too if you are lucky enough to have very attentive listeners!

I completely dig it if this is the first reaction you formed after testing out twitter.


Indeed, I first tried twitter long ago when I decided to make the switch to Facebook and I personally found Facebook too intensely personal for my liking.

  • I could not make any sense of Twitter, nor could I get a grip on how or why anybody would use it.
  • I was convinced it was a passing fad.

I was more comfortable with the one to one format of Orkut where only me and the people who take the trouble to visit my ‘scrapbook’ would know what is happening. Switching to Facebook meant that every conversation I have is broadcasted to every one of my friends.

It took me a long time to get used to that, and even now I am quite shy about saying/sharing anything personal on Facebook.


What exactly is Twitter?


But now I am a die-hard believer in Twitter

Here are the reasons why you would also grow to love Twitter.

All it takes is a little perspective shift on how you see Twitter. I assure you that it is an environment you will feel completely comfortable in.

Why? Let me tell you how I grew to love Twitter and try to shape your new perspective on Twitter from my own example.

The reason I started to love Twitter was because it recreates for me the atmosphere of my beloved old school classroom whenever we had a free hour.

It was an utter chaos and everybody had a topic to discuss, be it Sachin Tendulkar’s latest batting display or the latest WWF match or the library book or the fashion fad or the new contest by NASA or next months exams or best friend’s new crush or Dad’s new car…. the topics were literally endless!


To me at least, twitter recaptures that classroom atmosphere where everybody had a hundred things to say about a hundred things and everybody wanted everyone else to listen.

  • Oh how I used to love it when somebody turned their attention towards me so that I could tell them about this wonderful new book series I had discovered called Doctor Who!

Imagine the similarities:

In the Twitter Feed, millions of users are talking about what they love and about things that interest them, all the while hoping that somebody would be interested enough to follow them or pass along their message.

Comparing to the earlier example of doctor who, imagine that I was trying to talk about a new doctor who book I had bought.

  • And if another friend joined the conversation or your buddy decided to talk about it, suddenly we have a #doctorwho going around!
  • And if he finds it interesting enough and thinks that the topic will get him attention from others, he might start talking about it himself to others as if it was his own idea even! Learn to retweet old buddy! By the way, these social etiquettes are very important.
  • To extend the comparison even further, I might have hit upon a really wonderful topic but unless it gets noticed, soon it will be buried in the torrent of other topics that everyone wants to talk about (why did x cry yesterday??).
  • And yes you can always retweet your old conversation and try to bring it up again or dress it up in new form as a new tweet (Hey, time travel, what happens if you were time traveling and you met yourself before the last physics exam? Talking of time travel there is this really cool book in which…).



Also, you can just sit where your clique is and talk about particular topics, maybe even from book clubs or science clubs.

There you go, you had invented #hashtags long before twitter though of it. It is after all just an extension of people tuning into one topic of interest among myriads of them.

  • You could also give out phone numbers to select people whom you really feel like bonding with, and that is what you do when you decide that you like someone on twitter enough to invite them over to your friends list in Facebook. I am sure less them 50% of your classmates had your phone number and a much lesser percentage if you are a pretty girl!
  • The next step would have been to invite him/her over to your home, and the corresponding level in the Social Media world is of course to share your personal email id even though the main page of your email is called “inbox” and that of Facebook is called “Home page”.




If you are in my Facebook friends list that only means we keep each other updated.

Facebook might be a great social medium but my take on it is that it is a medium for staying in touch and sharing with friends rather than dynamically exploring the global community for people who might enrich your life. Here are some links on why twitter trumps facebook.


So, for me twitter is where I share my interests and shout and grab for attention just so that I meet some like-minded people who will single me out from all that chatter purely because we are in the same wave length.

Then we might have a few conversations, I will start noticing him/her when they speak and the more our thoughts and interests match, the more I interact with that person.

This all happens in the same natural way we used to form friendships in school, no rules, no restrictions, talk whenever you feel like and listen to only what interests you as long as you are colleagues.

Other people might be talking but as long as you are talking to each other, you are lost in your own world, your own @names are all that matters even when your neighbour is shouting loud about the circus in town.

But of course, as you get closer and share numbers and going over etc then you migrate your friendship to a more personal space and everything you say will be listened to and get the right to intrude whenever you want and eventually you become fast life long friends.


All the above was to illustrate for you how intimately Twitter ties in with how we formed our earliest friendships.

It IS Only Natural!

There is a reason why our oldest friends are our most cherished friends. It is because those friendships were formed with complete selfish intent based on the ability of the people involved to engage each other over a long period of time.

You might be friends with everyone in school (read 10,000 followers/following) but you might listen to very few of them even though you might give polite nod ever now and then to the casual remarks from others.

Also, on a lighter note, much like in our old classrooms, the percentage of people actually willing to LISTEN is more or less the same on twitter. Everybody has their piece to say and wants everyone to listen and talk about it. But as it was then, so it is now in twitter, the ones willing to listen and interact are the most popular in class.

Oh No!! 🙂

One more quick comparison while we are still on the lighter note… The teacher enters the class room. And? Welcome, Fail Whale! 🙂

I think the next logical step for twitter is to provide ability to have private conversations, but then it would move away from its core strength of replicating my classroom and move into the sphere of Facebook or Orkut.  Unfortunately Twitter is already moving in this direction with the introduction of lists which allows a user to screen out other users they follow.

From Chaos to Order?

And this would take away the most important feature of the classroom which was that five people might be talking about the latest Star Wars movie and you could always try to butt in and even if you were not noticed, you could always listen in (read follow) and talk about it to others (read ReTweet).

And if they find you interesting they might always turn to you and say good point (read @mention).

If you really do find the flow of information too much to handle, by all means resort to lists rather than opting out of twitter altogether. Also be TwitterSmart and check out some wonderful tips by my good friend neuesweb on staying on top of twitter.



But, try to stay true to the core strength of twitter – The ability to sample the entire world to find people like you and to form real lasting meaningful relations progressively. Be careful in how your interaction progresses over time, keep it true to the concept I have tried to explain above and remember that you are in your old classroom!

Good old days are back?

As long as the users keep twitter innocent and use it as an organic medium for communicating their interest with anybody who might lend a ear, twitter will soon grow to be the best social media yet.

Twitter, to me, is my classroom atmosphere taken and magnified a million times and I am completely at home in it and I hope you will be too, soon.

Find me @RenegadeTramP and let us match ideas and interests!


Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Social, Social Networking, Twitter


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