When I began to blog regularly a year ago with a post on academic writing, I wasn't quite sure about this experiment: will anybody read what I have to say? Will I have enough to say? And the less obvious nags: how will it feel to be a public frog, and will people accuse me of shameless self-promotion?

An anniversary is a good time to reflect. Nobody has accused me of shamelessness so far, and being a frog feels nice enough (though I would prefer to think of myself as a buffalo, or indeed as one of those most anthropological goats). More importantly, and more surprisingly, I also had indeed something to say every week - and found readers for it! Around 15 readers on an average day, to be precise, mostly from India, the US and the UK (and more, sometimes considerably more, on Mondays, when I put a new piece online). According to my stats, these readers - you - found the following posts most interesting:

Questions for better research (impressive, given that it's fairly recent)
Muslim belonging in Lucknow (kind of expected)
How to get an Indian research visa (a true surprise, see below)
Academic writing (which is also the oldest post, and still one of the best)

While the servers at Oxford are still processing my electoral roll experiment, and while I prepare the first anniversary of this blog next week, today's post will be very brief - just an alert to two pieces I recently wrote elsewhere:

The first is an interview with yours truly at Watershed, a very interesting resource for connecting intra-BRIC policy debates, calling itself "Brazil's hub for Chinese and Indian affairs" (well, Russia seemed to have dropped out). The interview is on my current and previous research.

The second piece is a guest post comparing book and other kinds of reviews for phd2published. I basically argue that writing book reviews prepares you for grading student work - and vice versa. For those who don't know it yet, P2P is one of these useful grad student support sites which came up lately - check it out, not just for my piece on book reviews!

I am not sure if I will continue guest blogging, but it was a nice experiment to start. Next week will feature a reflection on academic blogging more generally - and in two weeks from now, the electoral roll data should be ready for some follow-up on both elections and the name question posed last week. As a teaser, I can already say that it works far better than expected...

Can one infer the religious community to which an Indian belongs from his or her name? Intuitively, the answer would be yes: Indians and those familiar with the country certainly develop a pretty good sense for such inferences. And even though names remain only one among several clues (including dress, language, etc), names alone are sadly often reason enough to discriminate against people (for instance to deny Muslims housing). But most Indians also know the flurry of probing questions along the lines of "What's your name?" - "X" - "No, your full name?" - "X Y" - "Where are you from?" - "Z" - "No, I mean: Hindu?". Clearly, names are not always good indicators to gauge an individual's community.

Today's post sheds a probabilistic light on this problem. First, I discuss why it could be useful to infer communities from names. Next, I introduce a name matching algorithm which I developed to achieve this task (building on others' earlier efforts, and available for download below under the GNU Affero GPL license). Finally, I give a first indication of how good my algorithm works: what's in a name? Your comments are of course highly appreciated - and I apologize in advance for a rather technical post (which is in fact as much a writeup for my own memory as it is meant for you to read). Once I develop empirical applications of this software, I promise more lively prose...

After my first experimental population map of Lucknow I am now embarking on more serious business: today I will attempt to map political strongholds in town. Where are the firm support bases of the four major parties of Uttar Pradesh - Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?1 To me and many others (including the parties), this question became particularly interesting after the assembly elections earlier this year, in which the traditionally BJP-affine capital city almost wholly embraced SP candidates in a surprise landslide. Pockets of stability within this major sweep, so my contention, would surely signal some sort of stronghold. Let's see if we can find these pockets...

As a data basis for the following maps, I obtained the locations of each polling booth in Lucknow from the National Informatics Center and calculated the areas they serve using a simple Voronoi transformation (after some necessary data cleanup). I then meshed in booth-wise results for both the 2012 assembly elections and the 2009 parliamentary elections, obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer of UP. Finally, I added last week's river (in blue), my own home (red dot), and the MODIS built-up area polygon to beautify the map somewhat.

  • 1. I am only interested in the four major parties against each other; the following map does not show other candidates (though they may have gotten a sizeable voteshare).

Over the last weeks of heat-induced desk-work, I took a deeper look at some of the statistics and maps acquired over the last months. It has been a pain to get them, and I am still hunting for more - but I now have enough to get started. As a teaser, I thus got my act together and set TileMill in motion to tell you a first spatial story about Lucknow: where do people live (including me)? And where are all the women (and men)? This first map shows ward-wise population density based on 2001 census data1 (a larger version is available here):

  • 1. 2011 data is not available yet at that level of detail, and also maps on a slightly different set of wards post-delimitation; the latter is also true for 1991. I will post a diachronic perspective once I sorted these issues out