Archive for November, 2010

An overview of why you can’t trust facebook.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010


 Chad Perin of Tech Republic has written a good overview of the privacy issues of Facebook including the general philosophy of the guy running it, Mark Zuckerberg.

 Basically do not put anything on Facebook that you don’t want either public or handed to some business.  That includes the private ‘only me’ information.

Diaspora is mentioned in the article.  This is an open source social networking platform, similar the Facebook but much more secure and privacy aware.  It’s not quit ready yet but when it is we should all jump ship.

Is Rate My Professor more dodgey than Eurovision?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

“Hello this is Stockholm calling, and the now Swedish vote.  12 points too…Denmaaark.”

I have been having a think about the various lecturer rating sites.  What can we learn anything from them.  Are they useful to prospective students.

Rate My Professor has been around for a while now

“Each year, millions of college students use the site to help plan their class schedules and rate current and past professors on attributes such as helpfulness and clarity. Online since 1999, currently offers ratings on college and university professors from over 6,000 schools across the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales with thousands of new ratings added each day.”

There is an Australian site “Rate my Teacher”, which has also been around  for a bit, and now there is a  (johnny come lately) Australian site called My Lecturer.

“ is your opportunity to rate the subjects and lecturers that deliver your tertiary education.  It aims to provide praise for the countless lecturers and faculties who strive to supply the best for their students. Unfortunately, we know there are some old world faculties and lecturers who drop short of what is expected in 2010.”

The first thing we need to think about is who motivated enough to go to a site like this.  
The indifferent people…unlikely.   The happy people…somewhat.   
Could it be the really jacked off people who need to vent about the unfairness of the world?   Will Estonia give the Latvian song 12 points in next years Eurovision?  The answer to both is, “yes, it’s highly likely”.

In Olympic diving they strip out the top and bottom vote.   This was useful during the Cold War because it negated the 10 points given by the Ukraine judge to the Russian diver, and the 1 point given to the same diver by the US judge.  What you were left with was something approximating a fair score.

If you applied the same system to these rating sites and stripped out all the disgruntled students, and all to over the moon happy students I suspect you would be left with nothing at all.  If they let us know the total enrollment numbers for a subject and how many of the votes were from unique IP addresses then maybe they’d be worth paying attention to.

If these sites aren’t prepared to ensure their results are valid , and if we operate on the assumption that a large percentage of voters are of the pissed off variety, then are universities morally obliged to sneak in and nudge up the ratings of a besieged professor?

In the end, I suppose the main value of these sites is as research case studies on the risks of crappy data collection.