Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Here I Am -- or AM I???

Or, "Rule Brittonia"

©MMXI Wiseline Institute & Center For The Secular Humorism

(With update)

If there's one thing PRT Is a Joke IS A JOKE! is known for, it's our disdain for people hiding behind obviously phony sciencey-sounding nameplates. And the other thing is our hatred of skewed polls.

And so, dear readers, I give you:

Yesterday's* Experiment

Problem statement:

So I'm checking my Twitter feed, and I see a little taunt from our old friend Ken Avidor, anti-PRT propagandist to the world:
RT @worldstreets: PRT? http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/prt-proposal-for-delhi-convinces-chief-minister-but-does-it-convince-you-see-poll-result

Fer crying out loud, what is THAT about? I was going to mow the lawn. Oh, all right.

Ken wants us to see the end of the URL, that there is a poll attached to Eric Britton's World Streets piece on the commissioning of the Delhi Personal Rapid Transit feasibility study. It's an OK piece, insofar as it is well-written and Britton did us all a favor by not hiding his disdain for PRT.

Which is fine! He's entitled to his opinion. Only... on what are his conclusions based? Where are the many years of analyses to which he refers? I don't -- no, they don't appear to be in the article.

Hypothesis: There are no analyses.

Notice how I couch that as a positive, active statement? It'll look good in the abstract. Also, I can't be accused of making the experiment easy, since you can't prove a negative.

The variables:

Avidor put the poll in my lap (no jokes please, this is science), and over at CityFix Britton praises Avidor's egregious PRT Moondoggie blog as "a killer compendium," so the poll it is.

DID YOU SEE THE SIZE OF THAT POLL ON THE PAGE? IT TAKES UP SO MUCH SPACE! THAT'S -- (sorry) -- that's because it's not a poll, it's an editorial. Let's categorize those selections, shall we?

PRT for Delhi? Yes, No, I don't know

1Excellent idea. Do it nowVery positive
2Looks promising. Let's give it serious study

3Hard to say at this point. Need more info before making a decision.Neutral
4You have to know the specifics of Delhi to have an informed view on this technology solution.Neutral
5Looks rather weak. Probably not a priority at this point.

6Probably not for the Global South, but maybe a winner for other parts of the world?

7A bad idea for Delhi and most certainly a bad idea for any other city in the worldNegative
8Too uncertain, too expensive, too slow, too unproven and too marginal to make the needed contribution.Negative, with assurances of years of looking into the matter, take my word for it
9Quite an old fashioned idea really. Looked bad if naively tempting in 1970, but after years of endless discussion looks simply stupid todayNose up, nostrils flared
10This is a truly shameful, bizarre, irresponsible idea flaunted by interested parties and should be consigned to the trash heap of irresponsible proposals immediately.Flame on!

Six out of ten choices are negative, only two positives. 'Skewed' is an understatement -- how can anyone take this seriously?** It is what's known in politics as a "push poll," such as:
1. Do you support John Smith for Mayor?
2. Would you be more or less likely to support John Smith if you knew he had shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?

Methodology: The objective is to get Britton to talk about his analyses of PRT. But I don't have the patience for all that vamping that PRT critics like to do. How can I use the poll to draw him out. Yes, it's not a question.

The placebo: This is the closest I can get to a control group -- unless anyone has a spare Eric Britton? No?

I decided just to let him know I was coming, in really obvious ways. First, I tweeted it.
In this poll about #PRT in Delhi http://is.gd/GV6WsW pollster has helpfully provided 2 positive options, 4 neutral & 4 very neg options
#PRT poll; skewed http://bit.ly/jZeQm6

Second, I gave him my real DNS address by posting a comment, with my real first name, which is on my Twitter account, and my real email address.

Third, I decided I would re-skew the poll in a really blatant way, not hiding my DNS behind proxies or anything. I wasn't hacking. Any administrator would be able to tell what I was doing.

The Testing Series:

Every so often throughout the day, I would go to the poll and vote in the positive, neutral AND negative categories,*** but in a way that made up for the scarcity of positive choices.

I even sent Avidor friendly tweets updating my progress, such as:
@Avidor "shameful"=11.8% http://is.gd/GV6WsW ___ #WahWaaahhh http://bit.ly/cX3zWu
@Avidor "shameful" now =10.8% http://is.gd/GV6WsW ___ #WahWaaahhh http://bit.ly/cX3zWu


You know what? I hate to say I knew it would work, but -- I knew it would work.

Hi Mr. Britton! Thanks for posting your followup 'editorial', in which you equate (seriously, it seems) personalized, last-mile rapid transit with two-wheeled Global South equivalents of the four-wheeled Private Travel Appliances we have in the North. One of these things is not like the others.

Sorry, but I still believe anyone should be able to get around a city without having to drive. Biking and walking are preferred for short distances and the able-bodied; telecommuting and living close to work and shopping are also ideal.

But our cities can be huge. Why live in one if not able to freely access all of it? As I commented elsewhere, every square mile should have multiple rapid transit stations of 1 or more modes. We should maintain existing rail systems, expand them as feasible, and add other modes such as PRT, BRT, and GRT. Mode selection and application should use a formula that balances service and quantitative as well as qualitative costs.

It's just a vision.

In the spirit of the example of Excellence In Polling set for us by Eric Britton, please consider participating in this poll:

Also Last Weekend:
The logic-absent 'anti-PRT conspiracy' againAvidor thinks governments (at least ones in Minnesota) are so stupid
they would 1. grant PRT companies rights-of-way concessions without indemnifying themselves against lawsuits, and 2. grant the rights-of-ways willy-nilly, hither and thither, rather than along specific routes so as to complement, and not compete with, existing transit infrastructure.  Ken Avidor continues to be the Anti-PRT Boobdoggle.

* ^ Your mileage may vary according to time zone
** ^ Certainly not me
*** ^ So if you read anything, elsewhere, implying/claiming I only voted for the positive  options, that's what is called wrong

No Ken, POLLS, not 'Poles' http://goo.gl/AMlFU

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Propagandist Learns Where Babies Come From

Or, "Am I right, ladies?"

This is Ken Avidor's most bizarre blog post ever. Maybe since the beginning of time, depending on what your particular faith holds. Buckle up:


Pertinent links regarding the above post:

We already know Avidor thinks Personal Rapid Transit is "ridiculous" and "gadgetbahn." Now he reveals that he thinks smaller specula that are more comfortable for OBGYN patients are just 'gadgets.' What conclusions can we draw from these facts, dear readers?

 Reader Note: We are now hashtagging Avidor-related tweets with #prther (rhymes with Birther)

May 1, 2011: I have to remind myself to do this; much to do, much to do-

Ken Avidor: He-Man Woman-Hater?