Webometric Thoughts

August 18, 2010

Writing for different audiences: academic journals, professional magazines, and blog posts

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:39 pm

Having just read an article on the differences in the readability of texts in the Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts and Humanities, I decided to distract myself from my massive pile of work with a quick and dirty investigation into the readability of my own writing in an attempt to answer the question:

Does my writing differ according the audience?

Methods adopted

Microsoft Word was used to analyse the readability of 15 texts: five academic papers where I was the primary author; five feature articles I have written for Research Information; and five blog posts I have written for www.davidstuart.co.uk. All tables, pictures, and bullet points were extracted from the documents before carrying out the analysis. The were analysed in terms of:

  • Number of words per sentence - generally speaking longer sentances may be considered more difficult to understand.
  • Characters per word – longer words are considered more difficult.
  • Number of passive sentence – passive sentaces are thought to inhibit the flow of reading and make it more difficult.
  • Flesch reading ease – a readability test where the higher the number the simpler it is thought to be. [0.0 - 30.0: best understood by university graduates].

If my writing does indeed vary according to the audience, it would be expected that the results would look like this:

Academic Articles Professional Magazines Blog Posts
Words per sentence Highest Middle Lowest
Characters per word Highest Middle Lowest
Passive sentences (%) Highest Middle Lowest
Flesch Reading Ease Lowest Middle Highest

With the academic articles being more difficult to read than the professional articles, and the blog posts being the easiest to read of all.

Results

Academic Papers:


1 2 3 4 5 Average
Words per sentence 26.8 26.3 33.0 29.6 31.6 29.46
Characters per word 5.1 5.5 5.2 5.1 5.4 5.26
Passive sentences (%) 26 56 52 42 48 44.8
Flesch Reading Ease 35.2 22.7 27.6 30.3 17.2 26.6

Professional Magazines:


1 2 3 4 5 Average
Words per sentence 24.3 25.6 24.5 26.2 24.6 25.04
Characters per word 5.2 5.2 4.9 5.1 5.2 5.12
Passive sentences (%) 16 5 18 33 14 17.2
Flesch Reading Ease 35.0 34.6 40.8 32.1 30.2 34.54

Blog Posts:


1 2 3 4 5 Average
Words per sentence 30.0 28.5 22.0 26.1 30.3 27.38
Characters per word 4.7 4.8 4.8 4.6 4.9 4.76
Passive sentences (%) 10 15 30 9 11 15
Flesch Reading Ease 48.5 39.2 47.1 46.0 26.9 41.54

Whilst I may not think that there are vast differences in the writing style or vocabulary I use in different forums, reducing it to a few crude numbers would certainly suggest that there are. The only unexpected result was that there were more words per sentance within my blog posts than within my professional magazine articles.

It is also comforting to see that the numbers go in the right direction. If I had discovered that my blog posts were more turgid than my academic articles, it would have probably been time to hang up my keyboard.

Conclusions

The main conclusion is that I am far too easily distracted from work, and if I continue I will probably end up in the poorhouse….although it might be interesting to do a webometric study combining readability with impact factor….

August 12, 2010

Cheap Hotels in Wolverhampton – the Webometric City

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:03 am

After locking myself out of my flat on Tuesday in a moment of stupidity I’ve spent the last two nights staying in a couple of Wolverhampton’s cheaper hotels. As such I though I would give them a quick review. It’s a bit off topic, even for me, but as everyone interested in webometrics eventually comes to Wolverhampton to see Guru Mike, I thought I’d write the post anyway.

Anyone looking for a cheap hotel in Wolverhampton is likely to quickly come across the Britannia Hotel and the Connaught Hotel. Both are large hotels offering double rooms for £39 a night, and as I had two nights until my girlfriend’s return I thought I would compare the two.

Britannia Hotel

The Room – I was given a double room overlooking the main road, which meant it was quite noisy, even on a Tuesday night.  It had seen better days and there was a noticeable mark on the carpet where the radiator had leaked in the distant past, but it was clean and comfortable. The usual tea, coffee, kettle, and a couple of biscuits.

The Bathroom – The usual soaps, shower gels, shower caps, and a shoeshine kit, and about a million towels.

The TV – Just the five terrestrial channels (and Sky News if memory serves me correctly).

Breakfast – Booking online meant that breakfast was included in the price. It was a buffet breakfast including all the cooked breakfast essentials – even the all important black pudding.

Bars & Restaurant – As well as its own restaurant the hotel has its own bar – The Wave Bar. The Britannia web site claims that it’s a “regular meeting place for theatre-goers”, but I am doubtful. It’s a very cheap bar, and the clientele tend to be locals who are there all day long. Luckily as the hotel is in the centre of town there are plenty of other  places to get a drink.

Service - The staff were polite and efficient.

Connaught Hotel

The Room – I was given a room at the back of the hotel, but it was by no means quiet, lots of noise from the lift. The room had a stupidly sized bed, as it was in fact two single beds pushed together. Nonetheless clean and tidy, and not as rundown as the Britannia.

The Bathroom – Shower gel – like it or lump it – which is very annoying as I’m a soap man and was in the mood to shine my shoes.

The TV – The main five, plus half a dozen others, including Sky 1, Sky Sports News, and Nickelodeon.

Breakfast – To have breakfast included was £45 (£52 for two people). I don’t know if it was just because it was quiet, but rather than a cooked breakfast buffet you had to order it. Full English consisted of 2 sausages, bacon, fried egg, beans, and half a tomato; which is pretty rubbish as it costs £9.95 if its not included in your room price -although you can have as much cereal and toast as you want. Unfortunately breakfast was accompanied by GMTV on a giant screen.

Bars and Restaurant – The hotel seems addicted to have ITV1 on televisions in public rooms, and my evening meal was accompanied by Emmerdale in the hotel bar. Both the beer and the food were expensive for a cheap hotel: £3.20 for a pint of Carling, and £9.95 for a burger and chips. However, by being a bit further out of town they have a captive audience. In the end I paid £10.05 for a cheese sandwich, some onion rings, and a pint of Carling. It definitely wasn’t worth the money, and despite asking me twice whether I wanted the onion rings and sandwich at the same time, they came about 10minutes apart.

Service – Bloody awful from first to last. Despite booking through the hotel’s web site, and giving my card details at the time, they had no record of my booking or paying; this means I now have to keep an eye on my bank account for the next couple of days to see if they’ve charged me twice. Ordering both drinks and breakfast involved a lot of standing around waiting for staff to appear, or else trying to hunt them down. Even checking out the hotel was annoying, as the receptionist failed to even bother looking up from the computer screen as I handed her the key and she grunted a response. And for some reason the hotel has decided to save on signs, so if you want to know where anything is bar, restaurant, lift, or toilet, you have to ask.

Conclusion

Next time I lock myself out I’ll be choosing the Britannia for a cheap Wolverhampton hotel. It may be more rundown than the Connaught, but I preferred the overall experience. Those who prefer their hotels ‘all fur coat no knickers’ will prefer the Connaught -  their addiction to ITV1 says it all.

[Nb. I locked myself out without  my laptop, so have no experience of the wi-fi, and I don't really have enough hair to test the hairdriers.]

[UPDATE: Indeed the Connaught Hotel did charge me twice! It turns out they charged me once for taking the room, and once for failing to turn up and take the room!!! They have assured me I will be getting a refund, although I don't have much confidence in their abilities.]

August 7, 2010

Lazy Lazy Daily Mail…probably want handouts too…

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:23 am

If you are going to write a piece about how lazy people on benefits are, it’s probably a good idea not to resort to extremely lazy journalism.  Today the Daily Mail are having another rant about people on benefits:

Britain’s benefits bonanza: How 100,000 households rake in more than average wage in welfare every year

Such stories are just part of the usual right-wing crap – along with bringing back hanging, workhouses, and compulsory Latin. They couple their news story with the details of the Davey family’s lifestyle – 42″ tv, people carrier, etc…obviously to the average Daily Mail reader anything more than gruel, sterilization, and a sound thrashing is too good for them.

What is clearly missing from the story is the fact the Claire Davey deserves every penny as a national treasure! She’s about 11 months pregnant with her eighth child by my calculations. When they first wheeled the family out on April 13th she was 7 months pregnant, and when they repeated the story 3 days later they were even more  precise saying she had 9 weeks to go, and today she is seven weeks overdue! Will she ever have her eighth baby, or will she just keep growing larger and larger as the Daily Mail wheel the family out again and again.

There are a couple of points here: 1) the Daily Mail is a crap newspaper 2) Shouldn’t someone be stepping in to stop the repeating of a story with no news value which is so obviously to the detriment of the children (if indeed the family even exists).

[nb. Oops - this post was actually intended for my Politico-Mania blog...oh well.]

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