Predictions are a tricky business. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to be wrong. But the public loves them and so writers and analysts constantly put themselves out there to feed the beast. As with everything, there are some interesting tricks of the trade.
Cool website of the day informationisbeautiful puts together some fantastic visualizations. They recently did a great project where they mined 22,000 horoscopes for commonly used words (Go here for a full look). The relevant quote:
“How do you gather 22,000 horoscopes? Obviously you could manually cut and paste them from one of the many online Zodiac pages. But that, we calculated, would take about a week of solid work (84.44 hours). So we engaged the services of arch-coder Thomas Winnigham to do a bit of hacking.
Yahoo Shine kindly archive their daily predictions in a simple and very hackable format (example). Thank you! So Thomas wrote a Python script to screen-scrape 22,186 horoscopes into a single massive spreadsheet. Screen-scraping is pulling the text off a website after it’s displayed. Python is a programming language. You can use it to write scripts that only gather the specific text you want. Then you run it multiple times so it mines an entire website.”
The result of this experiment is the following wordcloud:
And they used the results to produce the following metahoroscope of the most commonly used words:
The point? All horoscopes look the same and use non-specific words to convey a feeling rather than concrete action. With that in mind, here’s my touchy-feely version of the power rankings for the NBA so far (games are current as of 01/29/2011 and I excluded all Cavaliers games as I felt they were warping the numbers, NBA teams only ). Remember these are what I feel is the situation at the moment, keep that in mind and be sure that it could all change :
San Antonio feels like the the best team in the league right now. Miami,LA, Boston keep having the expected issues with injuries but they may recover promptly. Orlando and New Orleans are hot at the moment but that energy may not last forever. They all need to keep feeling the love within them to rise to the occasion and possibly contend. Maybe.
Memphis and Philly keep charging up the rankings to the point that if they keep doing so my feelings tell me that they could even win a playoff series. Then again they might not.
Cleveland is maybe hard. Changing their mind and a better mood might come along (but I’m not holding on to hope).