Elections and Quarantines

Postal Voting The Electoral Commission’s recent plans for accommodating those in quarantine make sense from a democratic point of view, after all, every eligible voter should be given a chance to cast their vote. The drive-through solution verges a tad on the absurd, but it’s worth bearing in mind Malta still never got around to implementing a postal voting system, a rarity in western democracies. Normally, this just means that the state has to subsidise flights for citizens living abroad who have to vote, but this time round it also means we can’t use the mail to vote in a pandemic like the US did. [Read More]

Deepdiving into Survey Methodology and that new ToM Poll

New Esprimi Poll Times of Malta/Esprimi came out with a new poll last weekend with some newer methodology than we’re used to. Though I have a feeling it largely made the rounds and captured the imagination of many because it bumped up the “40,000 lead” net figure to “50,000”. Percentage wise however, we’re bang on to other recent polls, in the 41% range for PN and 58% range for PL. [Read More]

Measuring Urban Heat Islands using Sentinel 3

How Pronounced are Heat Islands? I was inspired by this visualization to create something similar to see the extent of the urban heat island phenomena over the Maltese islands. Unfortunately, there isn’t a city of Washington D.C. equivalent ready to provide us with a calculated raster. I could either use Landsat 8 and try to calculate the Land Surface Temperature using one of the many algorithms devised or work with Sentinel 3 data from the EU’s Copernicus Programme. [Read More]

Tracking Frontex's Newest UAV

This is a high level article on the UAV operations. If you want more background on how I load and store the data, head here. Reports in a number of portals including Times of Malta show that an unmanned aerial vehicle has been deployed from Luqa airport. The timing, right ahead of the typically busy summer migration time, seems to be an indication of what the main mission probably is. [Read More]

Building a Pipeline to Store Flight Info Using RSQLite, httr and jsonlite

This is the “how the sausage is made” post of this subject, detailing how I created a process to save ADS-B data from OpenSky Network into an SQLite database. If you just want to read the article about UAV operations, head here. Step 1: Sketch up the plan Going into this project, I knew I wanted to use OpenSky Network’s API to query the activity of the UAV in question, but it became clear I needed some way to run an automatic process and store data locally because the two services I’d be using had some limitations. [Read More]

Who would have been elected if we had the gender reform bill in the past?

With Parliament’s Gender Quota bill passing it’s third reading, it’s only a President’s signature away from becoming law. Whether the mechanism has the desired effect or not can only be assessed in the future following a few Parliamentary cycles. What we can do is play around with data and entertain what some previous Parliaments might have of looked like had these rules already been in place. This sort of backtesting is quite common in some domains, so adopting it to policy decisions shouldn’t be that much of a leap. [Read More]

Where Facebook Thinks you Live

Researchers at Facebook and Columbia University have been trying to create much more detailed population density maps for close to a decade. They delve into their weakly supervised approach here, but in a sentence my understanding of the approach is that they enhance national level demographic data with Facebook/Instagram data and remap that “population” onto satellite imagery. These population estimates have been released under their “Data for Good” umbrella here, (and this data can do a great deal of good, from helping NGO’s target their key demographics to informing the most mundane social policy decisions like where to install a bus stop). [Read More]

Text Mining Historical Mass Meeting Speeches

Intro The Department of Maltese at the University of Malta launched a splendid website available here, and it also spotlights some of the dissertations by its students. Two of them immediately piqued my attention, Il-kelma Maltija ta’ Eddie Fenech Adami by James Aaron Ellul and L-arti tal-kelma fid-diskorsi politiċi ta’ Duminku Mintoff (1962) by Christabelle Borg. Both dissertations included sizable appendices with political speeches that are relatively hard to come by on the web, so I got curious to see what some old school text mining can reveal. [Read More]

Making 'Tracking Malta's Vaccine Rollout'

This is intended to be a companion article to this shiny app for those who are more technically oriented and want the details. Where is the data from? Originally, I was going to use OurWorldInData as a source, but then I discovered they were actually just piggybacking off a local project on GitHub which seems to be managed by the Department of Health, so I used that! The only additional field I add is the daily rate of vaccinatations, which I calculate by subtracting the day’s total from the previous day’s. [Read More]

Donkey Voting Part 2

I had given donkey voting an exhaustive treatment here, but Mark Anthony Sammut brought it back to light in this video. His argument for the presence of Donkey voting is essentially the lack of a uniform distribution of MP’s surnames across all the letters of the alphabet (given there are 30 Maltese letters, and 67 seats, you would expect each letter to have 2.2 seats). This distribution would make sense if surnames are evenly distributed across the alphabet… but it almost certainly isn’t. [Read More]