Junior Cert Languages in Ireland

For pretty much most of my adult life I have been regretting the fact that we do not teach languages effectively in Ireland. One of my key concerns is that as a country, Ireland does not value those skills.

During the week, Richard Bruton, Minister for Education, announced that in the future, all students for the Junior Certificate (this is the exam taken at around age 15 or 16 in Ireland) would study a foreign language. He is quoted as saying a couple of things which interested me:

“We are going to have to, post-Brexit, realise that one of the common weaknesses of English speaking countries – that we disregard foreign languages – has to be addressed in Ireland.

He is also targeting a 10% increase in the number of students taking languages at Leaving Certificate level. There is also a desire to expand the range of languages taught in Irish schools. All of this is laudable.

“We need now to trade in the growth areas – and many of those speak Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. Those are the languages that we need to learn to continue to trade successfully.”

One of the key issues which we need to address, however, is the lack of teachers in these areas. And we need to take a long hard look at how successful we have been with the more common languages like French. It is one thing to say we will teach more languages. It is an entirely different kettle of fish when it comes to acknowledging we have made a hamfisted mess of it so far. We teach people Irish from the age of 5 and have not yet got that right for example.

There are other issues. If you take a look at the availability of languages at third level, you’ll find Spanish has reasonable coverage. The others do not. It might be possible to take Portuguese in UCC under their world languages program but most common across the university system in Ireland are French, German and Spanish with possibly Japanese as the outlier.

Against that, in absolute terms, more students study foreign languages in Ireland (even if we don’t count Irish as a second language) than do in England and Wales.

On the plus side, I’m really happy to see that there is a will to fix the gaps in foreign language acquisition in the Irish school system. But I think there is a lot to do outside simply putting a curriculum together and getting kids to study it at school. What does not support language acquisition in Ireland is the chronic lack of credible media in foreign languages. If you listen to radio in most European countries, they are playing a wider range of pop music in a bunch of different languages. Our media is incredibly anglo centric. When I was at school in the 1980s there were two French pop songs in the charts, one called Voyage Voyage and one called Joe Le Taxi (it catapulted Vanessa Paradis into the big time). Foreign language television tends to be relegated to the smaller stations, in Ireland TG 4 and in the UK, BBC 4. The rep for TV5 has his heart broken on twitter trying to make it clear that TV5Europe is available on most sat systems available in Ireland.

I learned an awful lot of my French by watching of all things Beverly Hills 90210 dubbed into French.

If we are going to say “We, in Ireland, recognise that we need to learn foreign languages”, we also need to say “And we will try and get the media to get their asses in gear to support this”.

In a way, this is recognised by his counterpart in opposition, Thomas Byrne.

Any modern language strategy must be across all Government departments as well. It can’t just be about the education system – it has to be how we live our lives, how we interact with the wider world.

I’d also add that in one respect, I think that Richard Bruton maybe should reconsider this:

At the moment if you look at Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, French dominates. French is a lovely language, but we need to recognise that we need to diversify into other languages

In the grand scheme of things, he is probably aware that a stated element of Irish foreign policy at the moment is to encourage and support as many people as the country can into the European institutions. One of the key issues we have in this respect is that not enough people come out of school with fluent French or German. We may need to diversity into other languages but I think we need to ensure that in the future, we are not looking at one foreign language, but two and that Irish people have a command of two of the working languages of the institutions of the European Union.

I’m very glad that education policy is being looked at in this context. It would be interesting to see more concrete plans and a timeframe for making this reality.

The report on the matter is here on the Newstalk site.

All for the want of a nail

Last week, it was announced that the Web Summit would be leaving Dublin and this caused a certain amount of handwringing about the impact this would have on Ireland. There were muttered comments about hotels and room rates as well.

I found it very difficult to get excited and upset about this. The bigger news in Dublin last week was the “delaying” of the interconnector, a massive, massive piece of infrastructure which the city is screaming out for and has been screaming out for since I do not know when. Dublin public transport is painful.

The other issue is that I’ve never really seen the Web Summit as anything to get excited about. I have never seen it as a technology conference and most of the people I know who went to it worked in marketing or were students. I’ve always felt a lot of claims have been made for it but when push came to shove, they really only seemed to mention one big deal that was done there. And it was the sort of deal which doesn’t happen without a lot of advance preparation. In short, it was the sort of deal which I suspect would have happened anyway.

So where does that leave us? Well, I still don’t care about the fact that the Web Summit is relocating to Lisbon. My personal experience of rush hour traffic getting from Lisbon to the airport in Lisbon would not necessarily lead me to believe things are massively better there. But there are linked issues. We don’t really have the infrastructure for a large indoor conference like that (although let’s face it, we do a decent enough job on music festivals and ploughing championships). The question is, would it be worth our while building somewhere to handle conferences and fairs with an attendance of tens of thousand? I have some doubts. If we learned anything much in the last 10 years – and I doubt it was much – it was that Build It And They Will Come is not a recipe for success. I cannot see the point in doing something like that unless we could identify a minimum number of annual events to make it worth our while to build it. I’m not in event management so maybe someone could come up with it. However, I do have certain interests and can say that frankly I have had cause to look at some of the events which go to the Hannover Messehalle and Frankfurte Messe. We’ve a long way to go.

That being said, the big issue I have with the Web Summit is that it’s not a technology conference much and it certainly isn’t tech sector in my view. It’s event management and that’s it. I don’t think it’s a loss to our tech sector and for all that’s said about it, evidence that it has a major impact on our tech sector seems to be scant. Given the ability to shout about it, I find this curious.

If we are to be concerned about the Web Summit at all, it is purely in the context of whether we want to be able to attract large conferences/fairs/shows to Dublin and whether, given our relative isolation, we would be able to. We can be expensive enough to reach if you’re not on a point to point connection. So no decision on whether the loss of Web Summit is good or bad should be made in the context of ochon o my chroi, we’ve lost the Web Summit, but in the hard cold calculations of whether we can, at least 4 times a year, get large numbers of people to come to Dublin for a conference of any description. When I look at the conferences I’m more familiar with such as CeBit in Hanover and the London Stationery Show (I have diverse interests), I recognise that we are nowhere close to even being able to start with these things. And for all the big shows which take place like the various car shows, yes these places have airports. Most of them also have rail connectivity to other urban areas. Put simply, I doubt you could argue in favour of a large conference venue in Dublin absent a high speed train connection to more places than Cork and Belfast. We are not Frankfurt, we are not Hanover. We are not London. Our hinterland is too small for things like this in my view. For all that Portugal has a bigger population, I’m not convinced that they are any better either.

I’m of the opinion that if Web Summit genuinely had a vision of a future where they were huge and could bring that level of audience to Ireland consistently, they would be able to build their own premises as a conference centre. If the demand for large conferences in Ireland was there, it would make them a profit. If it isn’t, it wouldn’t. They’ve very obviously voted with their feet.

National bus stops

Having done Dublin Bus, it occurred to me to see if the Bus Eireann network was available. It is.


This is actually a bit more interesting than the Dublin Bus one for various reasons, specifically the gaps. I’m fascinated by the big hole in the middle and I will probably look at doing some additional work in terms of other spatial data.

I’ve just been asked where I get the data and it’s remiss of me not to credit the data source. The data for both Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus, plus a number of other operators is available on Transport for Ireland’s website. The link is here.

I haven’t cleaned up this graph all that much and I have additional plans for this and the other transport data that I have been looking at.

Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2015

Much was made in Ireland, this morning, of the news that Dublin had rated highly in the annual Mercer Quality of Living Survey. This survey is carried out to provide some guidance for companies who are expatriating staff in terms of cost of living, suitable salaries for staff being relocated, and related matters. I have generally relocated myself so this is not something I have ever worried about but I had a look at the reports anyway.

Dublin came in joint 34th place with Boston. This placed it higher than London and New York, and depending on which reports you read, outranking either London or New York was the hook most of the media went with.

You can, with a little cooperating with Mercer, have a look at the data by clicking on “See Full List” on this page. So I did that because I wanted to have a closer look at the list and perhaps think a little more about whether, in fact, 34th place was good for Dublin or not. The only other Irish city on the list was Belfast and it came in at 63rd place.

One of the single most interesting things that struck me about the top end of the list was the prevalence of German speaking cities. The highest ranked English speaking city is Auckland. There are only two other English speaking cities in the top ten, namely Vancouver and Sydney which squeaks in at 10. Five cities are German speaking and of those five, three are in Germany and Switzerland.

No other country has more than one city in the top 10. Even if you stretch that out to the top 20 cities, Germany is still looking good.

Top 20 cities by country

Basically, a quarter of the top 20 cities ranked by quality of living, are in Germany. After that, if you stretch it out to include the top 50, the US squeezes in 8 cities. Germany still has 7. Australia has 6 which has to include pretty much all their major cities when you think about it.


Once I was done being surprised at the prevalence of German cities in the top ten, and Australian cities in the top 50, the other thing which caught my interest was that realistically, none of the top ranked cities were particularly big.

Here’s how they rank, left to right, in terms of population.

Top 50 cities by population

and here’s how they rank, left to right, in terms of population density.

Top 50 cities by density

There is a point to be noted about the population figures. If you look up population figures for most of these cities, you will find a number of figures, namely the figures for the city’s administrative area, and a metropolitan area figure. Taking Paris as an example, its population is 2.273 million inhabitants. The Paris metropolitan area, however, includes around 10 million people. For Tokyo, the difference is even more extreme: its population is given as around 13 million inhabitants; its metro area as 35 million.

That being said, Paris and Tokyo are two of only 6 cities in the top fifty cities in this ranking whose populations exceed two million. After you come to terms with the idea that the best quality of living standards are basically in Germanic speaking countries, the next point to be picked up is that the best quality of living is in comparatively low population cities. The highest ranked city with a population greater than 2 million is Sydney which comes in at 10th place; the next highest is Melbourne.

An interesting feature about Sydney, and Melbourne, and in fact, other English speaking new world cities (so Auckland, Ottowa and Brisbane as well) is compared to most of the other cities around them in the rankings, they have very low population densities. In terms of population densities, the three high hitters are Geneva, Paris which is way, way out in front in terms of population density, and Barcelona.

So while you could suggest that there is a quality of living premium to be gained from living in comparatively small cities by population, the same pattern doesn’t exist in terms of population density. The vast majority of cities come in with a population density below 5000 inhabitants per square kilometre and above 1000. There are notable outliers either side of that band. All six Australian cities come in below 500 inhabitants per square kilometre including both Sydney and Melbourne, the two biggest Australian cities featuring in the list.

What I do not have access to at this point is a detailed description of the features on which this ranking is calculated and that is a pity as I would be interested to see what those features were, and how weighted they were, and more to the point, whether all of them were necessary.

I would also be interested to see on what basis cities were selected for review. The populations for Bern and Geneva, for example, are below 200,000. The lowest ranked city is Baghdad. Manchester does not feature which is surprising bearing in mind that Aberdeen does and it has less than half the population. Of the five UK cities in the list as a whole (not just the top 50), two are in Scotland. Only two cities from France feature. It is hard to argue that quality of living wise, Nice comes in somewhere below Baghdad. It is clear that the choice of cities is not on the basis of population but given Mercer’s primary business, it may well be in terms of the cities they get inquiries about.

From an Irish point of view, you could ask whether Dublin is doing well coming in at 34th place. Coming in ahead of London and New York City might look good except both London and New York are large cities and as already noted, larger cities are not ranking very highly here. Without knowing what the basic criteria for the survey were, it is, to some extent, guess work, to identify where the gaps are in terms of improvement. I would suggest that arguably, the following items could be addressed:

  • public transport
  • health system
  • cost of rental accommodation

Connection wise, Dublin is well connected with most of Europe and some key locations in North America. Culturally, it is reasonably well served, if not as well as some of the other cities on the list. Shopping wise it isn’t terrible. But then, this is true of cities ranked more highly on the list, like Brussels in 23rd place. Admittedly, accommodation and public transport, in my view, almost certainly should rate Brussels higher than Dublin.

If I were somewhere in Dublin City Council where policies get made and implemented, what would I want to do with this, if anything? Is it something useful to have under random news or is there anything to be learned. Given the audience of Mercer reports, ie, companies relocating staff, and Ireland’s heavy dependency on foreign direct investment, is there anything to be noted here?


Ranking data available from Mercer

City and density data from Wikipedia

Density data not available for Kobe, Japan


The value of full time education

Brian Mulligan has a piece in today’s Irish Times, or at least, it has appeared online overnight anyway, questioning whether we can afford to send all our young people into full time education. It is worth noting that he is pushing online and distance options as a replacement for same, and that he is a lecturer and program manager in the Centre for Online Learning at the Institute of Technology in Sligo.

I wish to address a number of points he raises, but, in the interests of transparency, I will outline my own experience in this matter before proceeding: 1) I have studied full time in DCU for four years. 2) I have studied full time and worked part time at the University of Westminster for one year; 3) I have studied part time at DCU and worked full time for 2 years 4) I have worked full time and studied via distance learning with the Open University for 2 years and I studied full time at UCD, including 2 modules which were delivered online. I may not be a program manager for an organisation which is selling distance services but I have been a user of education services in most forms at this stage.

There is a trope in existence that when a story regarding some form of science opens with a question, the answer is usually No.

Brian Mulligan opens with a question.

Could it be that sending our children to college is an extravagance?

I think it is fair to say the answer to this question is actually No. No it is not an extravagance. In fact, if I had to say anything, the ongoing debate about the cost of education and what it brings is evidence, perhaps of knowing the price of things but not the value. Sending people to college is only an extravagance if you have an extremely narrow view of what education should be about.

The vision which Brian Mulligan sets out of young people going into menial jobs – as he calls them – and obtaining an education via some distance form enabling them to stay at home – is evidence of someone focusing on price rather than value.

As learners are mostly working and do not need to live away from home, they can more easily afford the fees, often with assistance from employers and with less subsidy from the State.


There is no doubt that changes in technology may bring about changes in how education can be delivered, but this is no argument in favour of making full time education the privilege of the wealthy only, not if you want a healthy and reasonably equal society. One of the core values in enabling youngsters to leave home and go to college is that they learn to stand on their own two feet more quickly, and they meet a greater social mix; something which is a good thing, and highly important for an integrated society. It is no harm that people get to mix outside their own social circle; for society as a whole it is massively important. This is not a method of qualifying people as socially confident or not; what matters is ensuring that people are not constantly reinforced in narrow views in a homogenous conversation.

Should individuals and the State be spending or borrowing so much for what now could be seen as a pleasant rite of passage for privileged people? An extravagance?

Brian Mulligan is at liberty to consider his own education a pleasant rite of passage. He would make it a pleasant rite of passage for privileged people purely by removing from unprivileged people the right to and support for time to dedicate themselves to education. He wants to use modern technology to set society and education back 50-60 years again purely by allowing privilege to define your right to study full time. And he does this to support his organisation’s business case.

The trouble for me is this: I do think that it is not a rite of passage to go through some specialised education. I think it is highly suitable for some people, and less suitable for others. I honestly believe that we should have a decent and recognisably standardised apprentice system. I also believe that for young people who choose not to travel the academic route, we should have methods of enabling them to access what training they require. But I do also believe that money should not be the defining method by which we choose who gets a full time education in UCD and who does not. In a decent society, the marker should be ability and will.

That being said, I honestly believe that distance and on-demand education is something which is poorly provided and basically lopsided in this country. I mentioned above that I had done distance education via the Open University. I did this because at the time, there was no obvious way of studying for a mathematics degree part time from any university in this country. If you are looking for arts based degrees part time via distance, the provision is very poor. Most of what Brian Mulligan’s organisation offers is skills specific based rather falling under the broader term of education. Training rather than learning, if you like

I am not in favour of seeing distance and online education being sold as a replacement for letting our young people go to college. However, that is not to argue against it having a value for enabling all of society to have a continued access to education for the sake of education

Ireland has a serious need for a wider debate on education and training and the value we attribute to both. I have seen the opportunity cost to the country of economics dictating who gets to college and who does not. We also need to understand that sometimes, there is an argument in favour of education for education’s sake; for enabling people to access knowledge on an ongoing basis. Education does not end at the age of 21, 23 or 25 depending on how far you get through third levels into academia. Its value is not solely linked to your salary out of university because it also has a monumental impact on how you look at the world.


One of the joys of being back at university is the unexpected bits of inspiration that pop up. Today was one of those days when…well…

NaoThis is Nao.

Nao came in to visit today, with one of the PhD students who is doing some research on robot-human interaction. I’ve never seen anything quite like him/her (decision to be made really).

I mean, how can you not love something like this:

IMG_1589_cropNao can dance, can walk, can talk and can interact with you. He/she plays this sports game where he/she mimes the sport and you guess.

Nao gets to know you. “Look at my eyes until they turn green”. And they do.

It is fair to say that every single student who met Nao was utterly entranced by him. I would love a Nao of my every own. Nao has five thousand brothers and sisters dotted around the world. Surely there could be one for me?

Here is Nao dancing:

And Gangam style thanks to the University of Canterbury

This is the promo video from Nao’s parents, Aldebaran Robotics.

Here’s what I would do if I wanted to get more people into information technology, computer science and related cutting edge technology. I would acquire a couple of these robots, and I would hand them over to school outreach programs. And I would send them into primary schools and junior cycle secondary and I would say “Look at what you can do if you study work on maths and related.”

This is the stuff of dreams and inspiration. We’re behind the game, I think, if we’re putting iPads into school. If we put Nao into schools, we are putting the future into schools.

Very few schools have the funds to fund a robot like this. It is something that needs to be done at a national level, or possibly by the universities.

The Year of Code in the UK

Before I start into this piece properly, I want to make the following point absolutely crystal clear. None of what I say applies until we handle some primary skillsets adequately. They are as follows:

  1. Reading and comprehension
  2. Numeracy and logic
  3. Writing

In other words, these three skill sets are the foundation for the education system.

Now. Back with the Year of Code.

The powers that be in the UK have decided to put in place an initiative called The Year of Code. You’ll find a few details here, so happy reading. The key motivation, apparently, is to fill a coding skills gap.

This bit, I thought, was interesting:

Such endeavours mark the build up to September, when computer coding will become a compulsory part of the curriculum for every child over five.

I am sure someone thinks this is a very good idea. I am not one of them. I do honestly think you’d get a lot further with teaching people to code – kids aged five – if you made sure they could read and write first. And count. Coding without some numeracy skills just isn’t going to happen. And this is from someone who has been pushing Scratch for 10 years. Scratch – by the way – is a computer programming language developed by MIT to help children to learn to program.

So. There have been comments about the Year of Code. Its public face did not do very well on BBC Newsnight during the week. She cannot program. And the discussion is full of comments about how easy it is to code. It is very easy to code when you are typing what is in front of you.

I bang on, from time to time, about data in itself being pointless if you don’t sit down and work out what questions you want to ask it. Programming has a similar dimension. Anyone can write – environment set up aside:

print(“Hello World”)

and that’s a program.

But I don’t spend my day whiling around writing strings to a screen. I use it – for example – to automate calculations I do frequently. I use it to run statistical analysis. In my entire life I have never spent one Saturday developing an application that answered a question I did not have. Some of those questions have been assignments, some of them are things for myself (there is a nice little R script under production to pull the figures for property sales in Cork apart). Some things have been websites. Programming and writing code has always had a planned output.

So I don’t necessarily think focussing on code is the primary thing you should be doing here. Focussing on problems people can solve, that’s a far more important skill. And you need elite communication skills to be able to do that.

Not a lot of people remember now, as they wander around with their iPhones and Androids, that 60 years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of computering power outside the government. The first commercial computer to come into Ireland was, as far as I am aware, bought for Aer Lingus, and in fact, one of the first commercial problems to be solved using computers was the whole airline reservation thing in America. Legend has it that issues in the manual process in booking tickets led to the boss of IBM and the boss of American Airlines winding up bumped off a flight due to overbooking caused by failures to keep records in several airports aligned and so, over coffee, in a position to have a chat about how this could possibly be made more efficient leading to fewer people getting bumped off. We think we have it bad now.

Anyway, the point of that story was here is a problem – chaotic air ticket bookings getting lost, duplicated, overbooked – and there is a man with a vision, a bunch of highly paid computer geniuses and some money – who allowed the problem to get (reasonably) resolved. Every day, someone has a problem, and someone fixes it.

When we focus on the response, and not the recognition of the problem first, we are not really teaching people to code. We’re teaching them to regurgitate. So being honest, focussing on code rather than problem analysis is probably a bad way to go. Doing it at age 5 when you’ve not fully covered literacy and numeracy, that’s not ideal either.

Moving back to the year of code, I don’t like what is essentially a PR initiative. The assertion that, for example, we can teach teachers to code in a day, is wildly inaccurate. You can’t. And yet, there are going to be courses doing just that.

I learned to code when I was 13 years old. A bit, that is. I learned some basic from a massively inspirational maths teacher who swiped a week out of his schedule to teach 29 13 year old girls to write some basic and again, to work out how you might break down a problem. I stopped when I was 14 for some reason and I started again when I was 27. I do honestly believe that children should learn to write programs but that this is not really practical without the supporting skills of reading, writing, numeracy and breaking problems.

So the objective of this is to plead – in Ireland – please do not implement a PR exercise like this. Do something a bit more indepth. Talk to the people who run with Coderdojo in Ireland – we are getting hundresd if not thousands of kids up and down the country into schools and halls on Saturdays – ie outside school hours – and identify what drives this; what makes them enthusiastic to do it. When you put money into getting 30 Raspberry Pis into a school, learn how to use them creatively. Treat the computer lab a bit like a woodwork lab, where things get tried and tested. Raspberry Pis are not expensive, and if one gets fried the odd time, so be it. They can very often be fixed by formatting the SD card holding their operating system. Load the lab up with stuff from Adafruit. IT and programming covers a multitude between messing around with hardware (program up those Christmas lights and motion controlled webcams). They are not typically expensive – not in the way that Apple iPads are – but from a technical and programming point of view are enormously learner friendly. And teach kids the wider skills of recognising the computer equivalent of “I want to make a table, how do I achieve this”. Focus on the steps they make to do this rather than the end result.

This is a skill more valuable than anything. The one that doesn’t make you give up at the first hurdle.

Make this a general education policy. Not a PR push. And make it inspirational.

I see a lot of commentary about how some people aren’t talented for programming skills, and, indeed for language skills. We don’t tend to tolerate this from reading any more (although we still do for basic numeracy and in this country, foreign languages).

The simple truth is society changes and reading and writing become universal.

This can be true for analytic thinking and problem breakdown. And programming.

In the meantime, I’d favour teaching 15 year olds how to use Python to do maths calculations rather than a calculator but that’s just because that’s the way I do it. And Scratch. Don’t forget Scratch

AIRO – Two Tier property market

It’s not dated so I am not absolutely certain when AIRO posted this to their site. It’s a graph of the changes in two sections of the Irish property market since 2005, Dublin, and National ex-Dublin.

It’s very interesting for a couple of reasons. It demonstrates that both the increase and decrease in market prices in Dublin was sharper than it was in National ex-Dublin. This doesn’t totally surprise me – anecdotally there has always been some evidence to suggest the prices are were behaving at more extreme levels in Dublin. It’s interesting to see how the graphlines cross (do click through – it’s worth it).

The data is from the CSO and as far as I am aware, CSO data is limited to the mortgage market. This is interesting because there is some evidence to suggest that a lot of the market in Dublin, in particular, in recent months, has been cash driving. Without having the CSO data in detail, and a cleaned up extract from the Property Price register, it would be hard to say for certain what the split was.

The other chief regret I have about this data is that it only goes back as far as 2005. I’m mindful of sounding like an auld one but there is some evidence to suggest that the period from about 1997 might be educational as well. I guess a lot depends on what data you have available to you.

Anyway, this was done in Tableau and there is some scope for playing around in it. I am glad AIRO did it – it’s a useful exercise, and perhaps, there might be some scope for doing a county by county comparison. We have a lot more data now on the property market than we did even 3 years ago (yes, I have some programming under way for it myself) so information should be easier to come by, particularly if and as we get postcodes, the data will be cleaner up front.

Wedding Magazines and other thoughts.

Here’s some random information which might be worth looking at in some more detail.

On Saturday, I counted – sad person that I am – the number of wedding magazines on sale in Easons in Heuston Station. I did this basically because Irish Rail hadn’t told me what platform my train was going from, I didn’t feel like getting some food, and I was hanging around. There was a large display of them just inside the door. So easy to count and so attractive to do so when there seemed to be rather a lot of them.

So I can tell you the answer that I came up with was 13. I suppose if I had been really good I might have taken a photograph of the display. I can tell you that there were two subspecialisation, mainly one on wedding flowers and one on wedding cakes. The rest were things like Bride, or Bridal Magazine. There was a surfeit of white. It was a bit overwhelming.

When I posted this to twitter, a couple of things happens. Someone knew there was a bridal show on at the RDS – news to me – and then this.

Damien Mulley told me there were approximately 21,000 weddings in the country each year.

Paul Savage told me that according to Facebook, 78,000 people were engaged.

Damien Mulley came back and noted that according to Facebook, 42,000 of those were female, aged 20 or older.

You can have a look at the conversation here.

The average circulation of the general Irish fashion mags like Image and Irish Tatler is around 25,000. I’m having serious problems getting any wider circulation figures and this distresses me – the JNRS is coming back at me with newspaper and newspaper related circulation figures. But no magazines.

I can pick up some of the advertising rate cards for the Ireland based magazines and I can tell you that for one of them, the bulk of their readership is in the 25-34 age bracket.

But actual circulation figures, the magazines in Ireland appear to be very coy about.

In one respect, it might be an interesting exercise to:

  1. figure out what the picture of bridal magazines in Ireland has been for the last 15 years or so. Have we always sold 13 different magazines? What is the market entry and exit rate for them
  2. Figure out how many of them are selling every month. The cover price rate is somewhere in the region of around 5E.
  3. Figure out some way of comparing their advertising rate cards which are not uniform across the different charges.
  4. Figure out how they compare to the other women’s interest segment magazines.

Why am I interested in this? Well deep down I am wondering whether Ireland can sustain that many bridal magazines when it’s already having trouble sustaining its broadsheet newspapers. I’m also interested in seeing whether weddingsonline.ie has had an impact on the market in any indirect or direct way.

And of course, part of me is wondering about market segmentation in the glossy magazine market. Ireland has a population of around 4.5 million. It’s not, by any stretch of the imagination a huge market. This is not just limited to the whole bridal magazine thing – we also produce a couple of other specialist interest magazines, the sales of which are also augmented by imports from the UK and in some cases, the US.

Finally – the comments from Paul and Damien when I discussed this on twitter the other day were interesting because it shows that some ballpark information regarding the possible target cohort of this particular market segment could be obtained from other, social, sources.

So basically, if any one has any idea how I might get granular circulation data to play with for all magazines on sale in the Irish market at the moment, I might be interested in setting some time to have a flute around it.

Dublin Bus data – can I have some please?

If you use the RTPI signs, or have either the Dublin or Ireland transport info applications on your phone, here are the questions that gets answered:

  • When is the next bus due?
  • What is the next bus?
  • When is the next train going to leave from here?
  • Where is that train going?

I use Dublin Bus’s RTPI applicaton all the time. I use it more than the all Ireland one because I have my favourite bus stops set up and somehow I haven’t the time to set them up in a second app. I will probably use the all-Ireland one for Irish Rail.

These are useful questions to answer. They take the guess work out of the time table, traffic and delays. Only on one day have the really let me down and to be fair, Dublin Bus had extenuating circumstances as O’Connell Bridge was closed.

But there is another question I’d prefer an answer to and it is this.

  • How packed is my onwards bus connection.

Every morning, I get two buses, one from where I live on Dublin’s northside to the city centre, and one from the city centre to UCD’s Belfield campus. In total, the journey normally takes me about an hour, end to end. It’s not bad, but on occasion, things go wrong and I wind up delayed, and occasionally a bit soaked.

Normally I change buses on D’Olier Street. Most of the cross city buses wind up there when they are running southbound, and both buses I can get into the city centre drop at stops there, and a lot of the buses to UCD pick up there. Sometimes, however, those buses are full, full enough for drivers to decide they are not taking on any more passengers. So I get left behind.

So, some mornings, instead of getting off in D’Olier Street, I stay on my first bus until I get to Kildare Street, and do the change there. This is because I gamble that the UCD bound buses will lose a significant number of passengers on Nassau Street, outside Trinity College.

Because of the way Dublin City Centre is laid out, and how the bus routes cross each other, there are often, multiple common stops between bus routes. So the question that I’d like an answer to some mornings, at 8am is this – can I get out at D’Olier Street (there’s a Spar there, and a little more shelter if it’s raining) or should I wait until Kildare Street before doing my bus route change.

Dublin Bus collects a lot of data that I know about, and probably a whole lot more that I know nothing about. Typically, they will know how many people are getting on buses because they have two ticket readers and a driver. And because of the stage system, for a lot of those passengers, they can make an educated guess where people will be alighting.

It would be nice if the RTPI could indicate the likely busyness of a given bus. If, when you looked at the 41 due to go into town it was highlighted whether it was likely to be full or only half full at a given point on its route. So that when I look at RTPI for the 46A to go to Belfield, I can check how full the bus is as well.

Incidentally, this is worth a read – via ITS International..