at 9:43 am on Friday 5th April
I'm a massive Fitbit fan - it satisfies my compulsive data gathering and obsessive fitness habits quite well. I'm actually on my fifth Fitbit. Originally I bought three, one for myself and one for each of my parents - although they never really got into the habit of using theirs. I lost my first Fitbit when walking through Bank underground station, my second one when helping a friend move flat and my third when skiing. Thankfully Fitbit replaced the third with a Fitbit Ultra which I lost somewhere on the journey between Vienna and London a few months ago. They again replaced this with their new Fitbit One - which is MUCH less prone to accidentally getting knocked off when your trousers brush past stationary objects.
With this in mind, generally my opinion of Fitbit's customer service is very very positive. I do quite like the company and while their API could be much better documented (I spent four hours over Christmas trying to figure out how to include their jar file hosted on Github from maven > >) - generally their documentation is pretty decent.
That said, when I looked up the instructions on how to calibrate my Fitbit, I came across an alarming inconsistency. My explanation of this was clear enough in the email I sent their customer support:
I'm a little bit confused about calibrating my stride length. The description given on this help page ( http://help.fitbit.com/customer/portal/articles/176045-how-do-i-measure-and-adjust-my-stride-length- ) is actually of what is traditionally called the step length.
Stride length would actually be double this - since stride measures the distance between consecutive steps by the same foot.
When setting the stride length in my Fitbit settings, am I supposed to use the stride length as discussed on that help page or should I use the correct and traditional definition of it - where I multiply the step length by 2.
For example, I took 210 steps to walk 160 metres. This means that, using Fitbit's definition of stride length, I have a stride length of 76 centimetres. However, the stride length for the average man is approximately 157 centimetres, and the step length for the average man is approximately 78 centimetres. My calculated stride length is actually closer to the average step length - which suggests Fitbit's explanation of stride length is incorrect - or that you actually mean step length.
I'd appreciate some clarification on this (and it would be helpful, if it is wrong, to update the help page).
I was certain they mean step length - this shouldn't be a difficult thing to change - it involves changing a handful of field labels and their help documentation. Justifiably I was dismayed to receive their response - which was essentially a copy of their help page (that I originally linked them to) sent back to me.
To clarify, the Fitbit definition of a stride is the distance you cover in a single step.
To reiterate the instructions on that page:
1. Go to a track or somewhere that you know the exact distance of.
2. Count your steps as you walk across that distance, making sure you travel at least 20 steps.
3. Divide the total distance (in feet) taken by the number of steps to get your stride length.
Your running stride can be calculated the same way, only by running a known distance rather than walking.
To adjust your stride length on your Dashboard, please do the following:
1. Log into your Fitbit.com Dashboard and click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Dashboard and select "Settings".
2. You will see a field for Stride Length and Running Stride Length. From here, you can manually enter your personal stride length. If you leave these blank, your profile will estimate these values based on your height and gender.
3. Click the "Update Profile" button to save your changes. Note that a sync will be required to update your tracker with your new stride measurements.
Let us know if this answers your question, or if we can provide further insight.
Matthew and the Fitbit Team
Now, I'm all up for supporting these startups as much as possible (and from my experience at Last.fm, it's absolutely amazing how supportive some users can be) but I don't have the time or effort required to continue to push this relatively minor change through. Hopefully this post will help anyone curious about Fitbit's use of 'stride length' in the future.
at 3:07 pm on Tuesday 26th March
This is one of my favourite anecdotes - I've told it to so many people now, that I feel I may as well type it up to share with friends of the Geek on a Bicycle.
In 2007, a group of three friends and I ventured out to Alaska on a two week Trek America trip which took us in a figure of eight circuit some way into the Alaskan interior and back down south again to the peninsula. As 19 and 20 year olds, we wouldn't have been able to travel the vast Alaskan highways in our own car. We went at the beginning of September which is traditionally the last good part of Alaskan summer. In fact, a week after we left it started snowing heavily.
With a small surplus of cash from my summer internship, and in a photography craze, I had been lusting after the newly announced Samsung GX-10 D-SLR - this was a rebranded Pentax K10D but as Samsung's first SLR, discounted. Prices in London were pushing £450 but I held that camera in the back of mind. When we got to Anchorage, we stumbled across a famous camera shop - Stewart's Photo Shop. Amazingly, they had this camera in stock and with the GBP-USD rate being favourable, I walked out with the camera, an 8GB SD card and a case for under £400.
Alaska treated us to some beautiful weather that first week and armed with my shiny new camera, I took three hundred photos in the first three days. Additionally, having geeked out before the trip, I had a second smaller camera, a mobile phone and GPS tracker which I kept on the go concurrently - taking a GPS track as went with the intention of geo tagging photos afterwards.
On the third day, we rolled up to Maclaren River Lodge - a place that, to this day, is still my favourite place in the entire world. To get to the lodge, we travelled for a few hours off the paved highway down a gravelly mountain pass and over a deep ravine on a rickety wooden bridge. The lodge itself was beautifully built, run by an owner whose name eludes me. We visitors slept in a wooden bunk house and ate dinner in a warm and homely common room. Near to the lodge were kennels housing the owner's huskies - while unpacking our belongings we caught site of these Iditarod competitors in training as they pulled a quad bike along the road. On the night we arrived, the sun set in a hauntingly beautiful orange sky where the peach infused clouds rolled infinitely onwards in every direction.
The next morning we took an aluminium gunboat out to a enormous plain where we would trek out to a glacier, attempt to touch it and then return by kayak. Fuelling the gunboat was an amusingly terrifying experience as our loveable lodge owner smoked a cigar with one hand and poured liquid diesel into the gunboat's tank.
The trek itself was deceptively tiring, taking what seemed like forever to reach the glacier in the middle distance. Disappointingly, we weren't able to touch the glacier itself but I did grab a nice handful of its meltwater. The plain we trekked over was so far from actual civilisation that it was possibly the single most awe inspiring place I have ever been to. The feeling of being almost completely and utterly alone was sublime.
In the spirit of our Alaskan adventure, my group of four friends and a couple of others elected to canoe back to the camp, a three hour paddle downriver versus a thirty minute boat ride back. By the time we returned to the river bank where we had first stepped off the gun boat, the rest of the group had left and the only sign of their presence were a number of upturned canoes and a pile of paddles. It was nearing early evening with the sun low in the sky and we had calculated that we would reach camp just as it became dark.
The river itself was fairly shallow, but being so close to a melting glacier, was flowing fairly quickly. About five to ten metres wide, it was guided along by gravelly banks beyond which were summery meadows of metre high grass and the occasional bush.
My good friend Aamod and I decided to pair up. We flipped our canoe, placed in on the surface of the water and slowly got in. There were two dry compartments - fore and aft. Aamod, being super wary of his gear getting wet had used up our camp's supply of plastic sandwich bags to individually wrap each of his possessions. He further extended this protection by locking his bag within the fore compartment. Despite having several hundred pounds worth of technology in my day bag, I failed to seal the aft compartment closed after placing my bag in there.
As we pushed off, I was adamant that I knew the correct form for steering a canoe, having spent the previous year rowing at my university college. I thought that if we wanted to turn right, we should paddle on the left. Aamod, having been canoeing (I hasten to add - unsuccessfully) before, was convinced that paddling on the right side would accomplish this. In some ways, we were both right - except that instead of both paddling on the same side, one person should have held his oar up, to slow the boat down.
We began our journey by meandering from bank to bank, arguing with each other over the correct steering technique and making little headway. Still, the river moved quickly and we were moving downstream at a respectable rate.
Six minutes into the journey, our meandering took an unfortunate turn (quite literally) and we made contact with a ridge of gravel amidst the river. Were it the bank, we would likely have just bounced off and head back towards the other side of the river. Unfortunately, the shape of the mid-river ridge and the angle with which we struck it (and Newton's 3rd Law) meant that our canoe flipped over almost immediately. Aamod and I fell straight into the icy water, followed by my bag containing my two cameras, phone and GPS tracker.
My immediate reaction to this was to swear as loudly as possible. Having heard our cries and the considerable splash of two overweight (at the time) young men falling into the water, our friends turned around. Amused, they laughed and took photos.
It was no laughing matter however and with the river speed pushing 17 miles per hour (a fact revealed by the six minutes of GPS data I had captured and was later able to analyse) it was a struggle to even stand up in the shallow river. After much fumbling of our feet, Aamod and I managed to hold our positions, with me holding the paddle in my right arm and the boat with my left upstream and Aamod standing downstream of the bow of the boat.
The next step was to try and flip the boat to its correct orientation. This in itself was remarkably easy but as the corrected boat gained a V profile in the fast moving water, it began to accelerate downstream. Unfortunately, Aamod was standing downstream of the boat and as it picked up speed, it continued at pace into his crotch. I was still holding the rear of the boat but Aamod, now in considerable pain, pitched over and let go of the front of the boat.
With Aamod's crotch now no longer stopping the boat from moving downstream, it continued with the water and pulled me along with it. With my boots struggling to gain any traction on the riverbed, I flipped the canoe in an attempt to get it to slow down. This helped and I was able to stop the canoe from moving as quickly as it was but this left me in an undesirable position, trapped under the boat in an air pocket that was quickly filling up with water. The boat continued to move with the water and whilst I tried to dig my heels into the gravelly floor of the river, the force of the river was too much.
Realising at this stage that I could very possibly drown if trapped under the boat for much longer, I jumped up with all my might and pushed the boat up and over to the side. The water quickly took hold of it again and carried it off away from us. By this point Aamod had begun to make a move for the damned ridge in the middle of the river and I did the same.
Crawling up onto the ridge, we were both soaked and quickly started shivering. Luckily we were the penultimate canoe in our group and the last canoe pulled over as soon as they saw us. I don't remember much of the next three hours except that it was extremely cold and it quickly grew dark. One of the two canoeists who pulled over was a retired high school English teacher called Buzz who told us about how he had once travelled to London, on a trip to Europe in his early 20s (in the 60s). I can't imagine how different it must be now. He also showed us his photos on his SLR and mentioned that he had almost run out of space on his SD card and would soon buy another to put photos on - since he didn't own a computer. Wow.
I couldn't help but laugh at my misfortune with my D-SLR while we waited for help. As it became dark, Aamod and I started getting colder and colder. We sheltered under the upturned canoe. Our clothes refused to dry with any sort of speed and the ridge itself, being about 10 feet long and 3 feet wide, didn't offer enough space to move and generate heat.
About three hours later, we heard a distant droning noise. Help, we hoped. The shiny aluminium gunboat grew closer and perched on the bow of the boat was the lodge owner's husky - nose out and searching for us. The lodge owner piloted his gunboat, cigar in mouth and with a concerned look on his face. Next to him was our tour guide. Hanging out of the rear of the boat was our canoe and paddle. They pulled up, wrapped us up in some warm blankets and fed us some watery instant hot chocolate.
The journey back was a blur - under the dark night sky, the banks of the river became indistinguishable and I wasn't in any sort of mood to pay attention to anything but getting warmer. Soon the lights of the lodge appeared in the distance and before we knew it, we were home, having missed dinner and having been excused from having to do the washing up! I was relieved to hear that my bag had been recovered - trying to get a police report to verify that I had lost my camera for the insurance company in the middle of the Alaskan outback would have been a very difficult task indeed.
The rest of the trip was beautiful but I have no photos of my own of the places we visited. I'll go back one day and continue the canoe trip - although this time I'll both waterproof my gear and perhaps agree with Aamod on how best to steer downstream :-).
The GPS track of that fateful journey:
View Larger Map
The picture my friends snapped as they were busy laughing at us:
at 7:25 pm on Thursday 14th March
I'm writing this on the eve of the date that Stanford has traditionally notified applicants about their admissions decisions for the Master of Science in computer science course. I'm expecting to get rejected again this year - this is the second time I've applied for the program. However, what I thought might be interesting is to shed some light on what kind of candidate you have to be to get into this program. The obvious caveat being that I haven't navigated the process successfully - so this might not be accurate. Additionally, this is an external view of the process - so it's likely to be misinformed.
What value I can add though, is that I've read through a considerable number of profiles from applicants who have successfully been admitted to Stanford. I've also been in touch with several of these and learnt more about their background. I've applied twice and I've read just about everything that there could possibly be online about the process, and several actual books too. For a lot of the last year, it's all that's been on my mind (unhealthy, and unfortunate for my friends and family). I've also been in touch with a family friend who is a professor of a computer science graduate program at a state university. This advice will apply to many other graduate schools too - I picked Stanford since it's the only one of the big four that has an established and popular general computer science Master's program. (Carnegie Mellon started theirs only a couple of years ago, and Berkeley only offers a Master's of Engineering program. MIT only admits applicants with a PhD as their degree objective.)
This post isn't mean to put you off applying to Stanford - but it's mean to bring you down to the ground and help you understand the harsh and competitive reality of applying to the number 1 US Master's program in computer science so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to spend your $125 there (and many hours of your time applying).
The first thing to note is that there are about 700 applications for approximately 120 offers (extrapolating based on data available here
). Nearly everyone who gets an offer takes it. Rather than taking this as 6 people for every place, think about it as there being 580 other applicants who you must be better than in order to get admitted. This figure includes HCP applicants who, more often than not, will have taken NDO classes (see the next section) and hence will have a slight advantage over external applicants.
While this pool of applicants is reasonably self selecting (i.e. most will be incredibly competitive) - there do seem to be a large number of unqualified people who apply simply on the back of the Stanford name. This undoubtedly makes the admissions committee's job much harder and increases the chance of your application being a false negative - i.e. rejected despite being perfectly well qualified.
This is how I imagine the committee's evaluation process to be, based on what I've read around the interweb (and on this paper
Firstly, applications are pre-screened for those that don't meet a minimum GRE and GPA threshold (see the next two sections).
Secondly, some (but not all) of the committee will look at each application and assign it a score. These scores are normalised between members so that the distribution of scores are roughly equivalent. These scores are then summed to give an overall score for the applicant. Based on specific thresholds, applications are either accepted or rejected. This threshold is different for different applications - it is higher to external applicants than for internal applicants who have previously studied at Stanford. For the Stanford MS CS program, HCP applicants (their part time option for people who work in the Bay Area) are considered together with full time applicants. Since their primary goal is to evaluate how well you'll do at Stanford level coursework, having taken NDO (non-degree option) classes and having scored well in them suggests you will cope and hence there is a lower threshold for these applicants. See this ancient email
for more information.
An easy way to get ahead in the Stanford applications game is to take a handful of NDO classes online
and do well in them. These are not cheap however, especially compared to the plethora of free MOOC
s available online.
Stanford themselves state on their FAQ page
that a strong application would include GRE scores in the 90th percentile. The first time I applied, my scores were in the 89th and 84th percentile - high but not high enough. Unless every other aspect of your application is stellar, I wouldn't bother applying with scores that aren't in the 90th percentile (a fact that I realised after my first rejection). This isn't an impossible score to achieve - it just requires a month or more of reasonable studying. Doing well on the GRE is all about practice - and if you're unable to do well on the GRE after a significant amount of practice, then perhaps graduate school isn't for you. Before applying for the second time, I studied a little harder and was able to bump my scores up to the 93rd and 96th percentile without much difficulty.
Grade Point Average
The successful applicants I've seen generally have a stellar GPA (there are exceptions of course, but I'll talk about that in a moment). Successful US applicants seem to mainly have GPAs greater than 3.6 / 4.0. International applicants tend to be in the top segment of their class. Be wary if you're an international student at a university like Oxford or Cambridge - your 1st class 70% mark in your papers will translate badly (even though the admissions committee are aware of the different grading scales) - a 70% in an American university translates, I'm told, to a C grade. This does not reflect well at all. Another caveat (which I failed at foreseeing) was that Stanford's FAQ page suggests putting in the minimum required GPA if your undergraduate university doesn't provide one. I left this blank which defaults to 0.0. If any sort of harsh automated filter is used - my application will probably go straight to the rejection pile.
A note on automated filters - from what I've read (and it's not clear whether Stanford has implemented these in their admissions workflow and in what form), filters will only discard your application if you fail on both the minimum required GPA and any minimum required GRE. Harsh but an easy way for the admissions committee to focus on the known top applicants. Yes, it's unfair - as we all know, many academically challenged applicants struggled at university and they've gone on to make millions or do world changing deeds - but computer science graduate schools can afford to be this selective.
There are just so many applicants that they don't need to take bets - they just want people who they know will cope with their courses, and so they use past performance as an indicator of future performance. Some universities are harsher than this than others - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is notorious for wanting incoming students to have a near 4.0 GPA, even for their professional MCS program. Of course this puts applicants from highly competitive universities at a disadvantage - while I struggled to maintain high exam marks at Cambridge, I could have studied at other universities where examinations aren't graded on a curve and done extremely well.
Additionally, note that university ranking has much less of an effect than you might hope. It matters less where you went than how well you did there. They won't take a mediocre applicant from a top 10 university over a great applicant from a top 50 university - all other things being equal.
Additionally, you may think - it's OK, I didn't do so well during my time at university but
I have great
extra-curriculars! That's perfect - if you're applying for an MBA program. I cycled for Cambridge University and across a frickin' continent - that's great, but Stanford probably doesn't really care. Sure, you may have made it to Everest Base Camp or the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro - but that has little bearing on how well you're going to do in their graduate level courses (although it will stead you well in all those future walking meetings
that technology companies are beginning to love).
What Stanford and other top computer science graduate schools want to see, however, is that you are a great computer scientist. For instance - you've started technology companies in your spare time (which might explain low grades) or you're a programming competition fanatic. If you're going for a PhD program, they want to see that you're a good researcher - so you need to have published at least some good quality research. There's a certain irony in the fact that you need to have research experience in order to gain admission to a course where you effectively learn how to research but that's the changing shape of the world these days.
Research experience is extremely beneficial although not mandatory. Academics live mainly to publish papers, at least it seems that way in the US. If you've written a paper, you're effectively speaking their language. It's incredibly hard to publish a paper when you're not at university (unless you're lucky to be in a situation where you can do so through) - and still very hard to do so while an undergraduate student. It helps a lot though.
Letters of Recommendation
Another large pit ripe for falling into, especially applicable to international students - is that letters of recommendation are preferably written by a professor who knows you well. Admissions committees view the source of the letters in this order: professor they know > professor they don't know > general academic (lecturer, etc.) > graduate student > line manager > colleague. This is because a professor's academic reputation is at stake when they write a letter of recommendation - so logic dictates they are more likely to be honest. They also have a better understanding of what skills are required at graduate school.
This is incredibly difficult - at most British universities, lecturers have a hands off approach to teaching outside of lectures themselves. I know just a single professor well enough from Cambridge - who was an unreliable letter writer at best and a disastrous letter writer at worst (in the last application round he spent a total of 17 minutes on one of my letters). My strategy has been to solicit strong letters from less prestigious non-academic letter writers who know me well - such as my current and previous manager, both of whom had good things to say about me. I figure a very strong letter from someone less well known is better than a nondescript letter from a professor who barely knew you.
American letter writers are much more effusive in how they write about candidates - be aware of this when you brief your letter writers. For example, everything 'good' should be 'great' and so on. Furthermore, brief them on the sort of content that they might want to include - on the basis that the admissions committee want to know how well you will do at graduate school.
The categories I asked my writers to mention were:
- Research ability / ability to succeed at graduate level
- Comparison against peers of a similar experience level
- Hard examples of projects I've done (well)
- Leadership skills, passion, work habits, character, social skills, writing skills, presentation skills and other accomplishments
Additionally, if you have a low GPA - or some overt blip in your performance, it's very helpful to get a letter writer who knew at the time to acknowledge it.
Statement of Purpose
The problem with my statement of purpose essay and those written by most other applicants is that it's less of a statement of purpose and more of a resume in prose form.
What I'm going to say next is painfully obvious, yet is something that nearly all of us mess up. Make your statement of purpose an actual statement of purpose! You need to say what you actually plan to do - why you applied, what you plan to do while enrolled (what courses? what research aims?) and what you plan to do after graduating.
You should aim to specialise each essay as much as possible (and SRSLY, if you copy and paste, make sure you check for errors). This means mentioning courses that you would like to study, professors that you would like to study or research with and why that particular
program is perfect for you.
Start this early - the process of writing the essay may help you realise that you actually probably don't want to study there so much. This is helpful because it means you'll either save yourself the application fee or it will sting slightly less when/if you get rejected. Additionally, it's one of the few aspects of the application that is totally in your control so only a fool wouldn't make full use of this advantage.
One final tip - think of your essay as being similar to a cover letter. Instead of saying why you want a particular job and using examples from your resume to back it up, you're saying why you should be admitted to particular program and backing it up with examples from your life.
Try not to fixate too much on the US News graduate school rankings
. It's not a bad place to start - but you need to actually look at the programs and departments in depth before applying. I see so many applicants who blindly pick the top 10 and apply to these - this is a recipe for failure. Look at the credits required for graduation and try to compose an actual program of courses for yourself (as best you can). I tried this with several universities and realised that actually they didn't offer anything I wanted to study.
Professional versus Academic Programs
A note on professional programs versus academic programs. Professional programs are definitely easier to get admission into than academic programs. Academic Master's are used by students with average to good profiles to get valuable (research) experience and brush up their GPA before applying for a PhD program. Generally admissions committees for top departments seem to only accept applicants with a PhD (or a career in academia) as their career objective to academic Master's programs - unless you have a particularly strong background or there is an otherwise compelling reason to admit you. I fell into this trap this year - and was quickly rejected by many of the academic programs I had applied to.
If you're going for a Master's program and you can't afford to - then reconsider strongly whether it's worth applying to many of the top programs. As I said, they are so oversubscribed that they don't need to offer financial aid to attract students and nearly always won't. Those that do, for example the University of Wisconsin at Madison - are considerably more oversubscribed. Last year they received 1220 applicants for both PhD and Master's programs - and fill fewer places than Stanford (about 70 Master's students graduate per year
Contacting Graduate Schools
In order to stress the point about over-subscription - it will be extremely difficult to get a reply from the admissions office for many of the top universities during application season. They will not pick up the phone or reply to emails. You will have more luck outside of September to April, but they're still likely to be very brusque. If you're applying for a professional program, you'll have a better chance of talking to someone - since these programs are more profitable for the university and therefore they provide better support for applicants. If you get rejected from a top university, don't expect any feedback - and don't expect them to provide much in the way of useful advice if you do manage to talk to someone. Your best bet is one of the many graduate forums (see the resources section at the end of this post).
When it comes to decisions, universities send out their decisions at a similar date yearly. You should be aware that often universities will send out all of their acceptances first and often wait for up to six weeks before sending out rejections. This gives them the flexibility to offer any quickly rejected offers to other applicants - although this is rare, since most applicants will sit on offers until they all come in. If you see a rash of acceptances on one of the decisions trackers online and you haven't heard anything within a day or two - assume you've been rejected, it's better for your sanity. Some universities (such as UT Austin
) are particularly evil - and don't send out rejections at all.
Area of Concentration
Finally, it's worth saying that you should consider what area you want to study carefully. I want to study artificial intelligence and I've always wanted to study this. There were a couple of courses taught at Cambridge but I didn't get to immerse myself in the way that I hoped and time constraints made it very difficult to devote enough attention to them. That said, my employment experience and extra-curriculars are unrelated to the field. This loops back to what I said earlier - in order to gain admission for a course to learn about AI (or any other specialization) - they want to see experience in AI. This matters less so for general computer science courses but if you're applying to say CMU's Robotics Institute
(as I did) - you haven't got a chance without relevant experience.
Additionally, some areas are vastly more popular than others
. I'd assume that admissions committees want to balance their classes as much as possible, so if you apply for AI/Machine Learning/Robotics or some similarly oversubscribed area - BE WARY! Competition within that area will be tougher (on an absolute numbers basis). Bear in mind that you can always choose courses from a different specialisation to the one you apply for.
To conclude - I apologise if I sound overly cynical - I just want to be realistic about your chances (and mine!). With the economy pushing graduates onto higher education across all subjects and the considerable salary differential (or, the perception of one) between technology jobs in the United States and elsewhere, there are more applicants than ever before. It's even harder if you're an international applicant as most of us are. There's some great advice on the internet but much of it was written a few years ago, and as any good technologist knows, things change so very quickly.
Good luck with your application, I wish you all the best. If you have any questions or feedback, please message me on The Grad Cafe
. I can't promise to reply but I will try.
A Note on Copyright
This post is published under the Creative Commmons BY-NC-SA
license. Please feel free to share it along with with a link back to this page.
On Letters of Recommendation
- Edulix - Edulix is an Indian graduate programs forum. It has a trove of data through their 'uniSearch' on who's been admitted where. The uniSearch is incredibly clunky but is a valuable resource to see how competitive you might need to be.
- The Grad Cafe - My favourite grad applicants forum. They have a great results tracker and users are very helpful.
A Collection of Rejection Letters
On Google+ here
at 12:10 am on Sunday 8th April
(During the trip, I decided to take a quick survey of all the riders, just after we had left Arusha in Tanzania. This has been sitting on my hard drive since then! It's time to finally use it - this will be a first in a series of posts about the results. 52 riders participated in this survey, out of 69 total riders, a subscription rate of about 75%. I've not discounted sectional riders but there were relatively few of these.)
When starting the Tour D'Afrique, it quickly became clear that I was one of the youngest riders on the trip. The two main logistical barriers to the trip seem to be getting time off from work and financing it. Most young people have plenty of time, either before or after studying and don't have other constraints which tie them to home - such as a family or mortgage. Having enough money to do the trip is pretty difficult though and I worked hard for four summers and had to borrow some money from my parents in order to fund the trip! (Incidentally, the third barrier to joining the TDA is your fitness! Arguably though, this is something that can be fixed with a little dedication and perseverance.)
A few weeks ago, I was catching up with a friend over a drink and he had a dozen questions about the trip and more specifically EFI. This Wikipedia entry details EFI fairly well but I was curious to find out what the breakdown of EFIers was, by age. Brian at Tour D'Afrique very helpfully extracted this data for me and I've combined it with the data from our trip below.
The very first question we asked people was what their age was. I've plotted a histogram of the 52 riders ages on the graph below, bucketed in 5 yearly intervals. The average age of riders on our trip was 35.2 years, of which 28% had a birthday on the trip. (Theoretically this should be 32.9% but it's close enough.)
You'll notice the following-
- The bulk of riders are aged between 25 and 45.
- There are a reasonable number of younger riders but far fewer older riders - this is probably indicative of the fitness level required to do the trip.
Using the data that Brian gave, I've plotted a histogram of the 100 EFIers ages on the graph below, again bucketed in 5 yearly intervals.
This is a little different to the 2010 age distribution-
- There is a similar peak between 25 and 45, although here it appears to extend to 50. 40-44 is a little bit of an anomaly. I think this is due to fitness.
- There are no EFIers younger than 22.
Out of interest, I've plotted the age distribution of EFIers against riders on our tour on the graph below. You should not that this is not statistically sound because the EFI data is taken from ten tours versus just one for the age distribution!
What is interesting is that-
- There are proportionally more older EFIers than riders on the 2010 tour.
- Whereas the peak bucket for riders is to be aged between 25-29, the highest proportion of EFIers are aged 35-39.
In addition to the aggregate data above, I also have a gender breakdown of both riders from the 2010 trip and of EFIers.
Women appear to be generally underrepresented in both our tour and as a proportion of EFIers as a whole. However, the proportion of EFIers who are women is much less than the proportion of riders on our tour. There's a roughly similar age distribution for EFIers - whether man or woman.