Tracking data from the World Cup offers a great chance for Social Networking. One interesting possibility is collecting data of ‘flags on cars’. Maybe teams of families could be mobilized, counting and tweeting when travelling in different parts of the country
During the European Nations competition in 2008, I wondered what proportion of cars in England were driving around displaying the England flag. So I started started counting cars with flags. I now see how the rise of Social Networking sites suggests a way of taking part in an interesting little project.
Why stop at England?
In somewhat parochial fashion, I was only thinking of England at first. But what about all the other countries competing in the World Cup? Do they have similar proportions of flags on their cars, or are there great cultural variations?
Maybe I have hit on a new game to occupy young family members on a car journey. That’s fine. However, if you want to play the statistics game, there are quite a few pitfalls for the first-time flag-counter. Many of these are to anticipate statistical variations and bias. For example, the timing of counting is important worth noting. Are there fewer cars with flags when the home country is playing? Is there a variation as fans drive to watch the match (pubs and public areas would be expected to be heavily loaded. My passenger seemed a bit over-eager to ‘beat the record’ so getting a promise to (try to) be honest is a good idea.
If you start the counting when you see a beflagged car, you introduce a bias. Set a start point (‘at the next road junction’) and stick to the same pattern. I have settled for cars that pass in the opposite direction, and ignore parked cars. Decide if you want to include larger vehicles (I included vans, but have ignored busses).
Use a passenger
Use a passenger with a notebook to record the when and where. It’s safer and probably more reliable. (Two passeners are even better, one counting cars the other counting flags). I now ask for a count of 100 cars as a sample. Stop between samples to avoid count fatigue, and spread out the results over the journey. You may be surprised at the percentages you record, so carry out several trials to see what results you get.
Log the data
Confession. I logged data last time, and will probable do so again, now that I have thought of the possibility of recruiting others, maybe through Twitter. Comments to this post also welcomed, and I’ll do some stats on them.
Enjoy the Football
Oh, yes and enjoy the football. And if (and when) your team gets knocked out, you can always keep further records to follow track how quickly the flags are taken off the cars afterwards.
Image Image from Usborne Books at Home ’50 things to do on a car journey’.