Friday, October 04, 2019

On the dangers of finding comfort in the struggle

I attended most of the anti-extradition bill protests since the inception of the infamous article. Week-on-week, I have seen the police escalate the violence; from targeting journalists, to insulting protesters, and now just having complete disregard for the role they are meant to be play in society. While this is not acceptable, it is perfectly understandable; the police force is being given carte-blanche by Carrie Lam. Every time she is being asked, she will profess blind faith in the forces, regardless of the obvious aberrations they may commit.

Even more baffling, as was revealed in her leaked tape, she stated that "the only thing I have is the Hong Kong Police Force". One would think that a seasoned observer of the situation in Hong Kong since its retrocession to China would understand that every time the government has dug its heels and rammed legislation through the throats of Hong-Kongers, they have reacted in kind. Therefore, by unconditionally supporting the police’s actions, not only is she removing any accountability of the HKPF, but she is also furthering disapproval from the population which should be where her support comes from.

However, as the weeks pass, I see a risk looming for the pro-democracy movement’s continued public support. Just a few weeks ago, protesters would brush Carrie’s antics and half-truths off, and keep marching peacefully.
It changed recently as we saw unapologetic destruction of private property (smart lampposts as well as MTR equipment) by the most extreme fringe of the protest movement.
While we can have an academic debate as to whether the average protester supports an increased usage of violence or not, the fact is that there does not seem to be post-facto introspection as to whether matching the police’s escalating violence is the best strategy.

Not only is this playing to Beijing’s narrative of “terrorists senselessly destroying Hong Kong”, but it also risks alienating support from the average Hong-Konger who would fail to see how destroying an MTR turnstile is advancing the cause of democracy. 

In any social revendications movement, there are agitators and anarchists. Honestly, I am impressed as to how very few there were considering the massive protests that took place. As a result, I am not so concerned about them if they are shunned by and from the group.
But when weeks of protests turn into months, there is a danger for an increasing number, in letting themselves being defined by the struggle and losing sight of the desired outcome. I have seen signs of this on the front where fully black-clad protesters play martyrs, seeking peer-validation for it.
The brotherhood of the fight, for the lack of a better term, is appealing, heart-warming to an extent, and most of the time, necessary. It is not a problem in itself, but addiction to it is, as it blurs one’s vision.  Beyond becoming more tolerant to one’s own violent behaviors, the risk is to obfuscate the goal itself: there are 5 demands, once they are met, the fight is won. If your course of action takes you away from that goal, you must refocus, re-think your strategy, question your assumptions, adapt, …be water!

It may be that now is the time to tone-down the destruction, call-it out when it occurs, and focus on the few political levers that you (we) do have; there are elections just around the corner; the fight needs to, if only temporarily, move to that arena. Get every single elector out, and out-vote the Beijing sycophants who incidentally just recently found a conscience and are proposing ideas after ideas to solve the housing “crisis” which they have helped create.
Do not give them justifications to suppress or delay the elections. Instead, announce the complete suspension of any means of protests on that day.

Protesters, you have the overwhelming support of Hong Kongers, principally because there is complete acceptance of your goals, and, until now, of your means to attain them. That is your strongest asset, and something that the Hong Kong government lacks as a result of its inability or unwillingness to understand your fundamental demands. This asset is critical in your ability to win this fight.

If the fringe activists keep taking violent actions against an increasing number of perceived “enemies”, they will eventually run out of friends…

If the struggle becomes your goal, you will lose public support, and, in the end, lose everything.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Focus on the social media influencers

Who's popular?

"Figures  4  and  5  can  be  seen  as  a  macro-manifestation  of  the  ‘rich-get-richer’  phenomenon,which  has  been  extensively  researched  already  at  the  individual  video  level,  pointing  at  ‘previous views’  being  highly  relevant  to  predict  ‘future  views’  (Borghol  et  al.,  2012;  Cha  et  al.,  2009;  Crane and  Sornette,  2008;  Szabo  and  Huberman,  2010).  Taken  to  the  aggregate  level  of  channel  popularity,  this  raises  questions  as  to  whether  it  is  possible  at  all  for  younger  channels  to  attract  any relevant  viewership"1.
Essentially, this translates into "Social Influencers that have built a following over time are likely to capture more of the new views than a new entrant".

"The  odds  of  Comedy,  Entertainment,  How  To  &  Style  and  Gaming  to  make  it  to  the  top  3%have  always  been  better  than  average.  In  2016,  however,  News  &  Politics  stands  out  with  a  10.9% chance.  The  chances  of  Sports,  Education,  Nonprofits  &  Activism  and  People  &  Blogs  are  consistently  worse  than  average.  Success  probabilities  appear  to  be  generally  insensitive  to  potentially biased  API  responses  (see  subsection  ‘Sampling  details  and  biases’);  by  and  large,  Table  8  can  be regarded  as  giving  a  fair  answer  to  the  question  of  whether  a  certain  category  improves  or  deteriorates  the  chances  to  become  successful.  Three  exceptions  to  this  are  Gaming,  which  goes  down to  nearly  3% in  the  reduced  data  set,  and  How  To  &  Style  and  News  &  Politics,  which  seem  to  have even  better  chances  to  become  successful."1

How much money do influencers make?

  • "According to a decade-long study by a professor at the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, 96.5 percent of YouTubers don’t make enough annual ad revenue to reach the U.S. federal poverty line."
    "According to the Financial Times, 'an influencer with 100,000 followers on Instagram can charge around £2,000 per picture (approximately $2,700), while celebrity influencers with between four million and 20 million followers can charge £5,000-£13,000 ($6,700-$17,500).'”
  • "Many famous social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to."
    "I’m 27 years old and have been building an online following for 10 years, beginning with a popular Livejournal I wrote in high school. A couple of years ago, after moving to Los Angeles, I made the transition from freelance writing to creating online video. The channel I have with my best friend Allison Raskin, Just Between Us, has more than half a million subscribers and a hungry fan base. We’re a two-person video creation machine. When we’re not producing and starring in a comedy sketch and advice show, we’re writing the episodes, dealing with business contracts and deals, and running our company Gallison, LLC, which we registered officially about a month ago.
    And yet, despite this success, we’re just barely scraping by. Allison and I make money from ads that play before our videos, freelance writing and acting gigs, and brand deals on YouTube and Instagram. But it’s not enough to live, and its influx is unpredictable. Our channel exists in that YouTube no-man’s-land: Brands think we’re too small to sponsor, but fans think we’re too big for donations. I’ve never had more than a couple thousand dollars in my bank account at once. My Instagram account has 340,000 followers, but I’ve never made $340,000 in my life collectively."
  • A handful of stars make quite a bit of money.
  • YouTuber Tech Lead made about USD $5,000 for 1,000,000 views
  • This YouTuber assesses that it is about $2,000 on average:

My own experience with

With my hiking blog which I started to help people but turned out to be quite popular with 70k/100k hits a month has just recently started to pay out something.

As of May 2019, I make about $0.75 USD a day from the EZoic network. I turned-off AdSense which paid out about 5 cents a month! (Google doesn't share ad revenues it seems). And through sponsorship and won popularity contests, maybe add the equivalent of another $0.50 a day.
So, just barely enough to beat what is considered the world's absolute poverty level! :-)

I'm happy I don't have to make a living from my Web presence nor do I plan on doing so...

Related content

If travel influencers were HONEST -

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Counting pro-Police supporters on June 30th

"Organisers say 165,000 join counter protest – police put number at 53,000"

Now, as I did for the June 9th anti-extradition March, let's see how the organisers and police claim fare.

First, let's have a look at pictures taken from the gathering (it was not a march). Pictures credits to: China Daily, SCMP, various unnamed web locations...

It would seem that the density was quite good around the stage, maybe at 2.5 to 3 person/sqm. Probably more like 0.5 to 1 farther out on Tamar.

Let's first clear one thing up; 165,000 participants is a fabulation that is unrelated to any possible reality; even packing 4 people per sqm, covering the whole area of Tamar (which they weren't), and accounting for 20% of people coming and going, the absolute maximum number would be 130,000.

Here's how I calculated it:,114.1658756;22.2833807,114.1659883;22.2832754,114.1665301;22.2832633,114.1666910;22.2829384,114.1666535;22.2825172,114.1665006;22.2824751,114.1662190;22.2821576,114.1661734;22.2819890,114.1662780;22.2816021,114.1660151;22.2812522,114.1658166;22.2808675,114.1656503;22.2803902,114.1654787;22.2805938,114.1651729;22.2810392,114.1652178;22.2813356,114.1652091;22.2817016,114.1653372;22.2820726,114.1654599;22.2824400,114.1656450;22.2825734,114.1651032;22.2832613,114.1651783;22.2831631,114.1657147;22.2831676,114.1657898;4;22.2822294,114.1652561,18

108,255 + 20% = about 130,000 absolute max

Now, let's try to assess the likely scenario:

Let's evaluate the section around the stage at a generous 3 person/sqm:,114.1657844;22.2834108,114.1659829;22.2832768,114.1667769;22.2831080,114.1668681;22.2828946,114.1668627;22.2829591,114.1665086;22.2820656,114.1660849;22.2821301,114.1656879;3;22.2822294,114.1652561,18

and the rest of the space at a generous 1.7/sqm,114.1655645;22.2820110,114.1662619;22.2808544,114.1656021;22.2807452,114.1655109;22.2805318,114.1654411;22.2806459,114.1650227;22.2817132,114.1653285;1.7;22.2822294,114.1652561,18

Which gives us 51,364 at the peak. Very close to the police's estimate of 53,000. Now, as we mentioned before, the HKPF measures peak attendance, not total attendance. Adding a more likely 10% to our count means that the likely total attendance was around 56 to 58 thousand people.

Let's give them 60 thousand for good measure...

Chrome is in your office Web browsing future, one way or another...

I just got this notice today that 'Microsoft Edge will be Chromium-based beginning in 2019'.

That is great news for office workers that have been stuck using Internet Explorer because their IT teams are stuck 10 years back in time...

IE's final end-of-life is far in the future however as it will be supported on Windows 2010 until 2025.

Nevertheless, it is likely that corporations are going to start migrating to Chromium-based browser support en-masse much earlier than that.

Provided that MS Edge is going to be Chromium-based starting in 2019 and Opera already is, that over 75% of the of the browsers' market share will be based on Chromium.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

No land shortage in Hong Kong

I wanted to list a collection of evidences showing that there is no land-shortage in Hong Kong, only misused land. And there is certainly no need to develop what is one of the greatest Hong Kong assets; its country parks.

  • 900 hectares freed by Ding rights ruling. Portion of them should be developed immediately"The court ruled that two of the three ways rural residents exercised their traditional but controversial rights under the small-house policy were unlawful.
    Introduced in 1972, the policy entitles adult male descendants of indigenous people in the New Territories the right to build a three-storey house of 700 sq ft per floor.
    One of their three options is to apply for a “free building licence” to construct a house on their own land without having to pay the required tax. The court ruled this avenue constitutional on Monday. Villagers who do not own any land can ask the government to sell them public space at a discount under what is known as a private treaty grant. Those who own land which is not suitable for housing can apply to exchange it with the government, possibly also without paying a premium. These last two avenues will cease to exist in six months. (in Nov 2019)

    From 1972 to June last year, the government granted 28,305 free building licences, 10,763 private treaty grants and 3,610 land exchanges."

    "Hong Kong’s Development Bureau on Tuesday night said it would suspend two projects allowing indigenous villagers to build 113 small houses on public land, after a court ruled a day earlier that trading or granting government space for the purpose was unconstitutional.
    Brian Wong Shiu-hung, a member of concern group the Liber Research Community, said the court ruling was the first step towards changing the small-house policy, which he called 'a historical and complex problem'.
    According to the group’s earlier research, at least 30 of the 900 hectares are plots of 5,000 sq ft or more. They were also close to roads and new towns, making them suitable for public use, he said.
    Wong said the findings were based on a conservative estimate and the plots were not as scattered as the government said."

    "But Chan Kim-ching of concern group Liber Research Community said Cheung was sounding off too soon before a detailed investigation on the development potential of idle land.

    Chan said a study done by the group earlier found at least 34 hectares of land zoned for small houses as being suitable for development.

    'Many of them are over a hectare in size and can be used for developing subsidized housing or middle- and high-density public housing,' he claimed.

    Citing Ha Mei San Tsuen in Yuen Long, Chan said an idle plot reserved by the government for the expansion of the village is two hectares in size.

    Another idle area zoned for village expansion in Pai Tau Hang in Sha Tin is one hectare, he said, and that is close to Sha Tin MTR Station.

    Liber had estimated the 34 hectares can accommodate 11,000 to 14,000 public housing units."
  • Rural leader corporatist behavior
    "The head of Hong Kong’s rural clans organisation has defended the housing privileges of overseas male descendants of indigenous villagers, despite them not having a Hong Kong identity card or permanent residency.
    Heung Yee Kuk chairman Kenneth Lau said on Tuesday that the identity of 'indigenous villagers' did not depend on whether they were Hong Kong residents. Lau was responding to an investigative series by news outlet HK01, which stated that a housing estate in Tuen Mun was built under the names of 17 Malaysian men.
    HK01 also interviewed three Malaysian men descended from Hong Kong’s indigenous villagers who admitted to selling their housing rights for profit. One man said all the male members in his extended family sold such rights, with each netting HK$100,000 per transaction."
  • 10,000 village houses built following illegal transfer of land rights, study suggests"A land research group say they have discovered at least 9,878 village houses in the New Territories built after a suspected illegal transfer of land rights. The number represents almost a quarter of the total number of small houses in Hong Kong.The Liber Research Community have published a database of suspicious properties. They examined each property to see whether they were in a village development zone, contained more than three blocks, were three storeys high, shared a similar architectural style, featured an outside wall, and included an estate name and estate management. The researchers considered that houses with such features should originally belong to villagers, but had instead been sold to developers for profit.
    Under the Small House Policy, male indigenous villagers who are descendants of a male line from a recognised village may apply to build a small house of up to three storeys high, on either their own land at zero premium or on public land through a private treaty grant, once during their lifetime. However, the right is non-transferable. It is a criminal offence to sell the rights to developers.(...)
    Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said the problem has been pointed out by a government audit report in 1987, and the government including Chief Executive Carrie Lam – who was in charge of land development – failed to deal with the issue."

    Map of suspicious development (Liber Research Community)
  • Hong Kong population is set to plateau in 2041, then start decreasing to about current levels in 2070

    Census 2016-2066

    Flats to be provided as per Business-as-usual (BAU) would be 460,000 by 2027 without any intervention
    "In her policy address the chief executive said she would increase the proportion of public housing flats among the target to produce a total of 460,000 flats by 2027"

    As its very peak, there will be a need to house 716k more people over current situation as per projected Hong Kong population growth forecasts.

    The chart below clearly shows that, in the long-run, the Hong Kong population will decrease and its needs for more land will too. 
    Source: Hong Kong Government -

    "The demand for one-way permits is likely to fall substantially as more Hong Kong women have been marrying mainland men in recent years, says Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong.
    Given this reversing marriage trend, the city may see a reduction in its population sooner than the government's expectation of 2043, Law wrote on his blog.
    A more accurate estimation, he added, can be made after the 2021 census.
    Law said most cross-border marriages in the 1980s had Hong Kong men marrying mainland women, who mostly preferred settling in the SAR."
  • There are thousands of hectares of abandoned of agricultural land available in the New Territories
    - North: 1150 hectares
    - Yuen Long: 790h
    - Tai Po: 630h
    - Sha Thin: 130h
    - Tsuen Wan: 90h
    - Tsuen Muen: 90h
  • Tons of warehouse and open storage land
    1.4% (1500 hectares)

Comments about the East-Lantau Metropolis:
  • The East-Lantau 'paradise islands' will only be ready for the first people to live in, in 2034. It therefore completely is the wrong approach to solve a short-term flat shortage)
    Read Tim Hamlet's excellent article on the timeline.
  • The Hong Kong government/Beijing wants mass mainlanders immigration to grow Hong Kong's population way beyond the forecasted numbers
  • Carrie Lam and the Land Task Force did not plan long-term
  • The Hong Kong government is in cahoot with the big developers which will build middle-density, very expensive private flats when it is shown that there's no need for all that land

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hong Kong's main problem; bad governance.

Hong Kong does not have universal suffrage for the election of its Chief Executive. The C.E. is accountable to Beijing. The pre-1997 colonial government in Hong Kong was no more accountable to the people either. However, it was more competent, which made it more acceptable to the population.

That is why a country like Singapore, which does not have the natural advantages that Hong Kong has (country parks, mountains which force transit in valleys - making efficient and profitable mass-transportation possible, etc) in running around circles around Hong Kong.

Here are a few points of evidence to that fact with the current government of Carrie Lam:
  • Stifling innovation and market economics rather than promoting them
    - AirBnB is illegal in Hong Kong. No attempts at opening up
    - Uber is illegal in Hong Kong. No attempts at breaking the taxi cartel. Yet, while cheap, taxi service is terrible in Hong Kong
  • Focus on wrong things:
    - Extradition bill, flag bill, anthem bill. All things that were solutions to non-problems
    - Plans to reclaim 1,000 hectares to build an island for housing at a cost of $80B USD which will only be ready for occupants in 30 years, when population will actually be decreasing rather than focusing on the current housing needs of the population by doing land resumption in the New Territories. Much better things could be done with the money
    - Aligned with whatever whatever useless Belt-and-roads projects that Beijing deems are necessary to build its grand-empire. Costly and little used Macau-Zuhai bridge and Express Rail are prime examples 1,2,3
  • Lack of leadership in adversity
    - Land sharing scheme was postponed after extradition bill debacle as Lam is afraid of tensions, while this scheme is uncontroversial
  • Stubbornness and complete misunderstanding of leading versus managing:
    FOr the extradition bill, Carrie Lam cited a FATF 2008 judgment that Hong Kong's "absence of an extradition deal" was "most significant deficit". It seem that Carrie Lam was unable to weight the benefit of reaching such an agreement versus the population's distrust for the Chinese system of justice. Again here, it felt like the work of a career civil-servant who does not know how to lead but simply react to reports and orders
  • Bad nominations (chief justice)
  • Bad communication (speech pulling the extradition bill)
  • No decent environmental policies:
    - Clueless handling of electric vehicles and growth of car ownership in Hong Kong while Singapore has capped i's new car registrations (yet, Hong Kong public transportation is vastly more efficient). Solutions are easy and can be immediate.
    - No policy or policy framework for single-use plastics while beaches are littered with them.
    - Absolutely no political will nor understanding of these problems from Carrie Lam's administration
The extradition bill episode crystallized the reality of the incompetent government supported by a lackey legco. It became quite clear that Carrie Lam is a completely inept politician; the career civil-servant has reached her level of incompetence.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Plastic crisis...

"In 2016, China imported two-thirds of the world’s plastic waste. So when China stopped buying the world’s discarded plastics, it threw markets into turmoil. But it also created opportunity.
For more than 25 years, rich countries shipped their plastic trash to poorer Asian countries, many of them developing nations lacking the capacity to manage such waste.

China alone took in the lion’s share—45 percent of the world’s plastic waste imports. Then at the start of this year, it refused to take more, citing local environmental concerns. China’s move threw the recycling industry into turmoil as nations scrambled to find new buyers."

That was 2018. It is interesting that, in Hong Kong, we have seen a significant increase in plastic rubbish on beaches which seems to correlate with when China stopped accepting and processing that plastic. More investigation would be required...

"Recycling of plastic has always painted a complicated and uninspired picture. It is a challenge to recycle, thanks to the variety of additives and blends used to manufacture what the study’s authors describe as a “multitude of products.” Only nine percent of the plastic produced globally is recycled. The remainder ends up in landfills, incinerators, or floating free and polluting the environment. Since 1992, as wealthier nations shipped recycled plastic to China and other developing Asian nations, this new export-import industry of plastic trash grew by 800 percent.
In 2015, Jambeck published the first comprehensive global count of plastic trash, which concluded between four and 12 million metric tons of plastic slips off the coastlines and into the oceans every year. This new study, which she co-authored with Amy Brooks, a University of Georgia doctoral student, suggests that China’s action may force the world to come up with “bold global ideas and actions” to more realistically dispose of a material that has accumulated more waste than any other material.
Additionally, China remains without fully developed waste management systems, the study concludes. An estimated 1.3-to-3.5 million metric tons enters the oceans from China’s coastline. Between 2010 and 2016, imported plastic waste to China added an additional 10 to 13 percent to the country’s domestic waste, increasing China’s difficulties in managing its garbage.
Redesign of plastic products that takes into account what happens to those products at the end of their life will also go a long way toward improving recycling. Failure to create effective domestic recycling programs only enhances motivation to use less plastic overall.

The Basel Convention, the international treaty that controls movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, could come into play. “If plastic waste were characterized as waste requiring special consideration, then export could potentially be regulated,” Jambeck and Brooks say. They also suggest importers could tax plastic waste, to create enough funding to construct solid waste management infrastructure to handle it."

"After years of hearing that we should recycle more, it’s pretty shocking to realize that we don’t have an infrastructure that can deal with all of it.

Recycling started in the ’70s and ’80s but it took a while to really spread and certainly to become kind of mandatory. [Over the past 20 years] there was no matching or building of recycling capacity along with the increase in recycling programs. I was living in New York in the mid ’90s and I remember when the recycling came in, that maps directly onto the years when we started exporting to China.

There’s an interesting debate warming up about if we should focus on improving our recycling or if that is going to enable our continued consumption of plastics. In other words, let’s not focus on recycling, let’s just focus on not using plastics. I personally think that we need to do both, and I’m concerned about this argument that we shouldn’t even be improving recycling, that we just need to focus on not using plastic, because that seems like a lot harder of a goal to reach."

" 'There's no magical land of recycling with rainbows and unicorns. It's much grittier than that,' says Martin Bourque, executive director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California, a non-profit group that has been engaged in curbside recycling programs since 1973.
At the center's plant, laborers wearing protective aprons and work gloves sort through a grimy procession of metal and glass refuse that clatters along a conveyor belt.

Bourque says the recycling of paper, tin, and aluminum 'saves a ton of energy and natural resources.'
But approximately 40% of the non-bottle mixed plastic that his organization gathers is not recycled -- either because it's made from plastics that are too costly or hard to process, have been contaminated with food or other materials, or there simply isn't a market for that type of plastic.
Therefore, this plastic goes directly to landfill. Bourque says that's because he cannot find a destination that can recycle the plastic without causing additional harm to the environment.
'We would much rather see them in a landfill then being exported to a foreign country where we don't know what the final destination will be,' Bourque explains.
To ensure its plastic was being properly recycled, the Berkeley facility carried out an experiment. Using a GPS locator to track plastic waste, they learned that their shipments ended up in China and Malaysia.

There, Bourque says, local environmental investigators found signs of plastic dumped in ravines and waterways. For the plastic that did reach a recycling factory, there were reports of poor working conditions and contaminated water being discharged into local creeks from such facilities."

"The increase in large plastic pollution has been happening since 1957, with a significant increase since the 1990s, according to this study.
The researchers didn't set out to do a study about plastic pollution. They were initially studying plankton.
'This happened through chatting with the guys that do the metal work to fix the equipment and the volunteers working to tow the recorders,' said study co-author Clare Ostle, a research scientist at the Marine Biological Association in the UK. 'They were talking about how this plastic kept getting tangled up in the equipment.'
There are very few historical records of ocean plastic pollution, she said, so the researchers used the incidents to investigate exactly how much plastic pollution there was and how often these entanglements happened.
Ostle and her team looked at 60 years worth of ocean data covering over 6.5 million nautical miles in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas. They found that plastic entanglement on the equipment used to measure plankton increased by about 10 times from 2000 on.
A previous study found that between 4.8 million and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010 from people living within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of the coastline.
Global plastic production has quadrupled over the past four decades, a separate new study found.
That study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that if the trend continues, the making of plastics will comprise 15% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; by comparison, all of the world's forms of transportation now account for 15% of emissions."

Action plan
1. 1st world countries should ban all single-use plastic (bags, bottles, straws, etc), which would force adaptation. This is actually done by many countries and cities. However, until the top5 users of single-use plastic lead the way, change won't be material

2. Internalization of plastic management by having local laws (in can start at the municipal level, then extend to country level) preventing exporting plastic trash, thereby forcing development of local solutions.

3. Involve the "brains" in the private sector and crowdsources - that is the kind of challenge for Google and Musk, or crowdsources; have the technology to sort plastic automatically in large quantity with AI, at the municipal level.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hong Kong's mega-marches. June 9th 2019 crowd-sizing (with notes on July 1st)

As with most people that have heard the police and the anti-extradition-law march organisers, I wondered how they go about estimating the number of people taking part in protest events, and why they came up with such widely different figures.
It turns out that the reason being the latter is a lot less nefarious than most would imagine; the police’s goal in their estimate is to evaluate the required containment forces at an event, while the organisers’ is to measure participation.
I did reach out to the Hong Kong police but got referred to their research arm and asked to fill an irrelevant form; they obviously had no desire to share the methods they use to come-up with their estimates. However, an April 29th, 2019 SCMP article by Sum Lok-Kei confirms the police’s crowd-sizing goals: ”Instead of estimating the total turnout of marchers, police publish a figure for what they believe to be the peak of the processions.
A police spokesman said on Monday that officers counted the number of marchers from ‘multiple high points’.
‘The number of participants in public meetings and processions estimated by police is only a rough figure solely for the purpose of effective manpower deployment,’ he said.
Police did not disclose if any equipment or methods were used in making the estimation.”
In itself, this informs us that the police estimates cannot be used to assess turnout in any event as it is obvious that people will come and go during static gatherings. In the case of the June 9th and 16th  2019 events, these were marches; the ‘peak’ numbers should therefore be multiplied by a certain factor which would correspond to the flow of people over the time period. That is; how many times did the stream of people covering the full length of the march was fully replaced by marchers behind them.
The Hong Kong University Public Opinion Program does have quite a rigorous method where they measure the flow of people going through a single point along the marching route over 2 hours period, then multiply to account for the march’s duration, then survey marchers to assess how many would have joined before or after the checkpoint.
This is also the method privileged by Dr. Keith Still, professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University. There’s a quite detailed explanation of various methods provided in a Reuters article here:
Actually, Dr. Still gracefully agreed to let me refer to his crowd density illustrations.
But, I wondered, isn’t there a way for the common individual to get an independant idea of the crowd size?
Turns out there is; there are a number of online tools that help with crowd-counting. I used which is very easy-to-use. The only thing it needs is for you to plot the area where the event took place, then assign a crowd density ratio.
The area was easy enough to plot provided that it was clearly recognized by both the organisers and the police. You can find the fully plotted map here:
Then, it is a matter of evaluating the crowd-density. Below are a few pictures from June 9th along the route (Src: Apple Daily):

From Dr. Still’s web site, we can find a few visual references as to crowd density which I used here with his permission:

Density of 1 person/sqm

Density of 1.5 person/sqm




To my untrained eyes, I would say the crowd density was between 3 and 4 people per square metre. And let’s pick a lower bound, which I would call the ‘reality-denying-evaluation’ of 1.5 per sqm, as it is clearly obvious but for the staunchest of Pooh supporter, that the density was far higher.
Plugged into the tool, that still gives us roughly 160,000 people.

But wait, people did not just occupy the roads, they also were moving towards Tamar. Let’s say, for the sake of pleasing the police evaluators, that there was only 1.5 full movement of people, meaning that the actual number of people is 1.5 times the road surface covered, that’s about 240,000 people. So, there you have it; the reality-defying lower-bound is the actual police figure. It should be quite clear that this number is underestimating the flow and/or the density but we also do know that the police does not claim to count total participation but rather, peak participation.
However, any number lower than 240,000 claiming to measure total turnout is just pure political fabrication and can be rejected outright. Incidentally, this is exactly what Francis Lui Ting-Ming, researcher for Beijing-backing Out Hong Kong Foundation did, pegging the count at less than 200,000!
Let’s now try a more realistic number; let’s see with 3.3 which is consistent with Francis Lui Ting-Ming’s figure (so, likely to be higher) and the actual pictures of the march. The tool gives us an estimate of roughly 350,000 people.

And if we go with a more realistic 2 times movement, we are at 700,000 marchers.
Remember however that this method makes assumptions around constant density and crowd movements, which HKUPOP’s or Dr Still’s currently point out as being adding to the error margin. However, provided that all methods have difficulty accounting for alternate marching routes and people joining in and out at different points, I would think that the true account of turnout is probably somewhere between the HKUPOP’s figure and the ones evaluated here.
All-in-all, 1 million is not a huge stretch; it is very possible that the density was actually slightly higher at 3.5, and that there were 2.5 to 3 times movement if all alternate routes were counted.
One thing that is undeniable; for this many Hong Kongers to take the street at 30c and 80% humidity, it is quite clear what they wanted to be heard, and that the vast majority, even the almost totality of the population was against the bill and wanted to see it dropped.



Notes on July 1st crowd size

"According to ASI Analytics & Media (ASI), an estimated maximum number of 840,000 protestors is expected to turn up for the anti-extradition march this afternoon at 2.30pm. ASI predicted that the number will be significantly less than the last two Sunday rallies due to lethargy and Hong Kongers going on vacation during the long weekend.

ASI used Trending Moving Average(TMA) system to conduct analysis online via keywords such as ‘Victoria Park’, ‘Protest’, ‘Civil Human Rights Front’ and ‘1st July’. The results showed that the number of protestors will range between 585,000 (lower threshold) and 840,000 (maximum cap). The % probability of the lower threshold and maximum turn-out is at 71% and 69.3% respectively."

"ASI Analytics and Media used big-data system to analyze the turnout of yesterday's march and estimated about 550,000 people joined the rally.

The company said the turnout was lower than the two anti-fugitive law marches last month but it exceeded the 2003 record for a July 1 rally of 500,000. Police said the turnout was 190,000."

If the HKPF was truly assessing the total turnout, their number is fabricated and politically motivated in light of the assessment by a 3rd party (ASI A&M). Especially when compared to their 2003 estimates. Now, if they measured peak attendance, 190k is possible as it would mean there was roughly 3 crowd movements during the march.