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  1. Sam
    Sam at |

    While the interest in the call is good; there are fundamental problems with it as it stands. This comment covers gross-generalisations in order to be (still not very) short 🙂

    The cited study was possible because the team was already together, and was able to (mostly) repeat what had been done before in a previous, just finished study. Does one exist? Doing a random sample poll of tottenham phone numbers is relatively cheap, easy, and probably massively inaccurate.

    The fundamental issue is not analysing the data – it’s collecting representative, reliable (and lots of other words like that which make it usable) data in the first place. It takes some time (especially if you don’t know the area) – @benGoldacre tweets issues here. The data journalism focus is all on analysing data and writing about it; that’s great; but it’s a very different beast to collecting representative and accurate data to be analysed.

    The Guardian seems to have done an excellent job of getting reports from Tottenham (Paul Lewis went out there for a start), and twitter provides others, but those will not be a representative sample. They are deeply personal (qualitative) stories, which focus on their experience; and are great for news pieces; but such a survey would also need a large sample of people asked the same questions (quantitative data).

    Currently, we have only seen one aspect of the public side of this. As Paul Lewis mentioned in a tweet last night, lots of other bits of the story are passing between friends on BBM, and not in the public sphere. A story given to researchers will be quite different to the story given to a journalist (traditionally framed). Working together is important; but you’re after independent data. Informed Consent matters here. Anonymisation matters here. The equivalent of showing up tomorrow morning with a clipboard and a stack of questions will probably get you mistaken for a police officer. That needs aforethought to be avoided.

    Many new approaches can make it easier to get long form responses; but they can’t easily get comparable responses to the same questions and also be representative of the community.

    That is not to say that it is impossible; but to say that it is difficult at this point of time. However, given that this is likely to happen again in the next few years, doing something, limited, flawed, now and putting a group somewhat together ready for next time may provide the ability to do that for then.

    This is a conversation worthy of discussion and consideration for how this could happen after what the police term a Major Incident. I get the feeling this will not be the only time such an event occurs in the next few years.

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  5. Sam
    Sam at |

    Having reread your post, my comment, and yours, and your later comments on twitter. The scale of this is very different, now (Tuesday am), to the scale on Sunday lunchtime. That change has probably made somewhat easier (but not necessarily easy) the parts that aren’t related to the amount of computer power or communications available. Those areas were the focus of my comment.

    Not wishing to comment further apart from one note: we are probably still in the middle of this. Things will probably change more.

  6. Kevin Anderson
    Kevin Anderson at |


    Reading this most recent comment, it seems that you believe I’m suggesting a network analysis of Twitter or social media communications (I’m especially noting when you say “the communications available). I’m not. I’m suggesting a proper social survey that would inform coverage and public discussion about the riots. Surely, there has to be people with social survey expertise in the UK that could help with this, just as the University of Michigan played a significant role in the Detroit riot survey.

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  9. Lisa
    Lisa at |

    Hi there,
    I enjoyed your piece. I plan on doing some research into these riots in under two months. Is a survey really necessary or is a media analysis sufficient?
    Your opinions are appreciated

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