Ronan Lyons | Personal Website
Ronan Lyons | Personal Website

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New Day, New Website

I’ve been talking about it for a while now, and the day has finally arrived – my new website  is live. I hope you like it – the new layout is designed to make navigation easier so there are just 3 main categories  now: Irish Economy, World Economy and Property Market. There are now also 2 options for keeping up to date – you can use the RSS feed or sign up for email alerts. A new section is Recommended Reading, while my miscellaneous ramblings, for example on genealogy or technology, are here.

As always, all comments and feedback are very welcome and if there is anything in particular you think I should spend some time investigating, I would really appreciate your suggestions. (Contact details are here.)

Thanks to Susan Gallagher for web design – if you’re in the market for a website I would definitely recommend her – and Naoise McNally for helping me understand the ins and outs of blogging and online marketing.

From Stalking to Talking: A Beginner's Top Ten Twitter Tips

I’ve been using Twitter for the guts of a hundred days now. In that time, I’ve added about 1 new connection per day and posted about 10 status updates a week. So I’m probably going to have to graduate from beginner to low intermediate status pretty soon, as far as Twitter is concerned. Before I do, though, I’ll write down some thoughts…

Recently, I accidentally convinced some people at work to join Twitter – no, honestly, I wasn’t trying to evangelise, it just came up in conversation and I mentioned that I found it really useful. The problem with that, though, is trying to tell someone all the interesting unexpected benefits you’ve got from it while keeping expectations in check. After all, twitter’s good but it’s not very likely change your life completely from day 1.

So, what can Twitter do? Here are my ten tips for new tweeters/twitterers/whatever you want to call yourself, from my own limited experience so far.

What and how to tweet

1. Do not use Twitter like a regular web page – it’d drive you mad having to keep a separate window open for it and pressing F5 to refresh all the time. Use something like twhirl, tweetdeck or – for Firefox fans such as myself – twitterfox. My anecdotal evidence suggests that a fair chunk of people not familiar with the web outside of Internet Explorer fall down at this hurdle. They set up an account, they follow a few people straight away, a couple of days later they realise they haven’t checked back in and they’re gone.

2. What should you tweet? My policy on tweeting is to mix it up. Sure, tweet your latest blog post if you want, but tweet interesting links you’ve found – on Twitter or more likely during your day-to-day work – or startling stats. Tweet what’s on your mind. For instance, one of my first tweets was “Is a Cadbury’s Twirl just a Flake covered a layer of chocolate? Or is it more?” – I stand by that. Also tweet questions if something’s bugging you or you want to find something out quickly.

3. Some twittiquette – retweet sparingly. Twitter’s form of the dreaded FWD:>>>> is RT (retweet). RT can be as annoying as FWD, so use sparingly. If you particularly like a link or point someone’s tweeted, you more than likely have your own point of view on it, so why not write that?

4. Don’t get into long conversations via Twitter. It’s like shouting to someone the other side of the room. A big warning sign is when 80% of your tweets look something like this – @tom Hilarious, @dick Cool! No way!, @harry really?, and so on. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be doing that as a beginner – this is the sign of a “power Twitter user”, and unless they look really interesting, you probably won’t have cause to follow them.

To be in position to do most of the above, you’ll need an audience and to build an audience of followers, you’ll need to follow people yourself, which leads me to part deux

Who to follow

5. Find your friends, naturally enough. You’d be surprised at what they actually get to up to, particularly the links they find during their work-day.

6. Get yourself some news. With something like Twitterfox, all the hassle of having to set up Google News alerts, only to delete most, or having to repeatedly visit your favourite news sites is gone. With something like twitterfox, it’ll never be more than 5 mins before the latest headlines (CNN, theeconomist, RTE, The Irish Times, whatever you’re having yourself) pop up in the bottom right of your screen. Major plus for Twitter.

7. Follow the leader. Find someone who’s further out than you on the bleeding edge of IT. Oh sure, you could be conventional and follow Google or IBM – I do. But try and find someone who just looks like they have their finger on the pulse. I follow for example Dexin (“Interested in Entrepreneurship, Crowdsourcing, Cloud Computing and Macro Economics”) because she seems to know what she’s on about. You can also try to find a topical non-person twitterer, like Socialmedianet (“News and views from the world of social media and social software on the Internet”).

8. Stalk a celebrity. When done well, it’s a great way of finding out a little more about the person behind the celebrity. Stephen Fry is a little passe at this point, being the world’s most popular twitterer, as far as I know – he’s also quite talkative, which is a factor to bear in mind if Twitter clutter (twutter?) is an issue. John Cleese is as mad as you might expect, so you won’t always get it. On the other hand, Britney Spears is too quiet and Jamie Oliver is still very much about the cooking.

Jonathan Ross is a happy medium, in my opinion, and comes across as very human. (Not that I thought he was an alien before, but you know what I mean…) MC Hammer is on twitter too and contrary to popular belief, his follow button can be touched. I haven’t gone there yet, though.

9. Inspire yourself – follow someone interesting, just for the sake of it. It could be, for example, @thebuddha, doling out words of wisdom twice daily, or it could be The Earth Institute at Columbia or whatever. But it’s never any harm broadening your mind.

10. Lastly, talk to companies. If you follow companies, whose services you use, and tweet at them (literally @ them), they will definitely hear you – no more interminable phone calls with automatons giving you menu options! For example, I follow MyHeritage and have been able to pass on feedback and suggestions, to which they duly responded. Ditto with Hubdub. Because it’s all done in an open forum, it’s a fantastic way of getting companies to notice a suggestion and even to shame a service provider into action, if you feel so inclined.

So there you have it, some tips from someone who doesn’t know too much, for what that’s worth!

So long recession (for a day at least): Streamgraphing Ireland's Twitter-news!

Another month, another visualization method!

This time it’s Twitter StreamGraph, which tries to show a river of topics related to a keyword over time. It’s early days for this particular method, I think – having a range of options, such as number of tweets, or a particular time period, etc., would be very handy, but still a very promising tool. My first use is below…

Ireland Twitter StreamGraph
Ireland Twitter StreamGraph

The Twitter StreamGraph above shows the last 200 posts from this afternoon. Not surprisingly, given it’s our first decent snowfall in Dublin in about six or seven years (and even that one was a gone-in-a-day jobbie), very little about recession and instead lots and lots of snow!

Guess the Index: The Daft Report turns fun!

Following on from my recent post about Web2.0, hubdub and guessing Irish unemployment, I think it’s only right that I turn this future prediction market technology on myself. Well, on the Daft Report at any rate.

At this link, you’ll find a market on how much lower rents in Ireland will be in January 2009, compared to a year earlier. All you have to do is place some of your hubdub dollars (don’t worry, the whole thing is free, it’s just to measure how sure of the outcome you are) on the year-on-year rate of change, as per Daft’s very own National Rent Index.

Those who get it right will get naught but some more Hubdub dollars, but hopefully that will suffice. Well, that and the knowledge of being right, and perhaps some real dollars, in the form of a cheaper rent, if you’re a tenant bargaining with your landlord – assuming of course rents fall. (As I write this, the Hubdub market currently gives a 5% chance to rents falling less than 6% or rising, so some of that 5% includes the theoretical, at this stage, outcome that rents will go up.)

There is of course a serious side to all this (careful, blogosphere, here comes the science bit). If the market matures enough, it will be interesting to see how correct it is, compared to the actual outcome. Consistently accurate markets, across a whole range of these hubdub thingies, would say something to economists and policymakers, for example in Ireland, in light of the social partnership talks about public sector pay cuts (e.g. have public sector workers already cut their expenditure in anticipation of a cut?)

Most importantly, though, have fun! We need all the fun from markets we can get these days.

Wisdom of the crowds? Web2.0, hubdub & guessing Ireland’s unemployment

I had the rather pleasant task today of going through a range of Web 2.0 / social networking tools and establishing the potential in their application to primary research. Some key things that the new generation of web tools can give include:

  • Using something like digg or scribd to find key themes and recent developments in a topic, and – because you know who’s posted and who’s posted most – experts on a particular topic
  • Using something like basecamp or dimdim to project manage flexibly, particularly when teams are non-traditional, i.e. they are globally dispersed, working from home, volunteer-based, etc.
  • Using something like LinkedIn or indeed WordPress to access groups of experts on a particular topic and start a discussion
  • Using something like Manyeyes (which I’ve done in a few posts) or wordle (which I may have done in one too many posts last year!) to come up with new visualizations and ways of thinking about data

Many or most of these I was already somewhat familiar with. Indeed, twitter is increasingly one of my main sources for accessing news, thanks to RTE’s twitter services, and accessing expertise, as a surprising number of economists are on it. (I may also use it to keep tabs on Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, but that’s probably for another post!)

Anyway, what I was not aware of, or rather perhaps only vaguely aware of, was the plethora of wisdom-of-the-crowd prediction markets tools out there. By way of example, I’ve set up one at hubdub, that hopefully proves my point:

When will Ireland’s Live Register top 350,000? I hope the crowds will tell me…

The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork

All of four months ago – seems about a quarter that long ago – I posted about my Cork Smiddy and Beausang roots. Judging from some of the search terms that direct to my blog, it seems there’s a good bit of demand out there for the Beausang part in particular.

So, I’ve decided to put up my thoughts on the roots of the Beausang surname (and of course its many many variants, including Boozan(e), Bouzan(e), Boosean(e), Beausan(e)… well, you get the point.) I guess the aim of this two-part post is twofold: firstly, can we shed any light on where most Beausang/Boozan families in Ireland & North America originate? And secondly, as a by-product, what is the connection or chronology of the name Beausang and its variants across France, Ireland and North America?

Assuming that Beausang, which is clearly not an indigenous Irish surname, ultimately comes from France, there are, as I see it, three options in relation to the roots of the Irish clan – and what I believe is its offshoot North American clan – of Beausang/Boozan/Bouzane:

  • Firstly, they could be descended from French Huguenot emigrants of the 1600s or 1700s.
  • Secondly, they could be descended from those fleeing France around the time of the French Revolution.
  • Thirdly, they could be neither – i.e. they could indeed be of French origin, but may have emigrated at a different point in time and for reasons other than religious persecution or the Revolution. As the Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland states, “people have emigrated from France… for various reasons, not just religious, and at various times. French families moved… both before and after the Huguenots.”

The evidence for the second point – i.e. that the Beausang diaspora is as a result of fleeing the French Revolution – comes primarily from a series of posts by Tom McDonald, based in Newfoundland, on the Bouzane Family Genealogy Forum.  In particular, Tom writes:

Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes
Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes

During the French revolution Thomas (we believe his name was) De LaBouzan from Brittany France, a prominent Baron and land owner, feared for the lives of his family. He had three of his sons shipped of for fear of their lives. Each has money sown into their clothing to help secure their future, and each put on separate ships. One ship landed in Ireland, one in the south seas, and the third in Newfoundland.

This story is at first glance very appealing, for three reasons. Firstly, it gives the entire extended Beausang/Boozan family a nice and interesting story of origin. Secondly, it in some way helps explain how there are branches in North America and in Ireland. Lastly, it offers the hint of even more… ‘in the south seas’.  There is, unfortunately, very little evidence in favour of this version of events, apart from the oral history that Tom has inherited across two hundred years. The only other supporting evidence would seem to come from Stephen Beausang, who says:

It seems unlikely that the [Beausang] name is Huguenot. I have heard reports that two brothers were shipwrecked off the Coast of East Cork, probably around the time of the French revolution. There has been some suggestion that the original name was German, but the family first moved to France.

If Stephen’s and Tom’s stories come from entirely different branches of the clan, that at least is something. However, it is also very possible that two entirely separate families could easily develop stories to explain an unusual surname based on a seminal event in France, the French Revolution – this is particularly the case if the surname first appeared in a country (as is the case with Canada) in the early 1800s.

Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs
Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs

I’m a little skeptical, however, about the French Revolution story. For that, I’ll offer two lines of reasoning. Firstly, the earliest mentions of the Beausang surname in Ireland suggest that it was in County Cork before the Revolution. Graves in Dangandonovan in East Cork (Ireland), also transcribed here, point to a Boosean-Kenery marriage in the mid-1770s and the birth of Joanna Boosean in 1775/6. The fact that there are four Beausangs born before 1800 in that one graveyard alone works against the idea of one or two shipwrecked stragglers arriving in East Cork in the 1790s.

Secondly, and this may be more controversial (cue scenes of rioting and looting at the Bouzane family conference!), it looks very unlikely that any Beausangs/Bouzan(e)s went straight from France to North America, as per the revolution story. For the pro-North America direct from Newfoundland argument, take, for example, the following from Linda Bouzane, writing in 2001 on a forum no longer online (to show I’m not making it all up, Linda has posted a very similar version here):

The Beausanes of Newfoundland came originally from France and apparently before that from the Basque provinces of Spain and the name was apparantly spelled Beausani. The first Beausan/e/ys in Newfoundland were Maragret and presumably her brother (not proven yet) Thomas. It is believed others of this family may have gone to Ireland, but this also is not proven. Margaret Beausane married William Walsh ca 1815, supposedly in Newfoundland and raised their family there. I am still working on the descendants.

Thomas Beausane (b. ca 1795-1798) married Ellen Walsh ( b. ca 1800) ( possible sister or cousin of the the above William Walsh) on Jan. 16, 1824 in Newfoundland (possibly Carbonear). They first lived in Carbonear then moved to Western Bay, Nfld. We do not know the parents of Thomas or his place of birth and the same goes for Ellen. Their children were: Margaret, Richard, Michael, James, William, Thomas, John, Ellen and Mary.

Aside from the fact that I would argue that the children’s names are entirely Irish, another alarm bell rings when you look at who Margaret and Thomas married. First-generation immigrants almost exclusively marry someone their own nationality. Bearing that very important fact in mind, let’s continue with some other scattered pieces of evidence from across the internet.

Small sample bias, perhaps? After all, a French and Irish family may have just hit it off in Newfoundland! Well, based on a broader set of evidence, again in Newfoundland, the mother’s surname from Boozan births from the 1860s suggest that these are descendants of Irish immigrants, not French:
F/Surname   F/Given  M/Surname  M/Given  Child  Year
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      Mary      1862
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      William      1862
Boozaney      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Richard      1863
Boozaney      William      Ryan      Catherine      Honora      1863
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      Margaret      1864
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      John      1864
Fitzgerald      James      Boozan      Mary      Bridget      1864
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Ellen      1869
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Elizabeth      1869
Boozane      Thomas      English      Martha      Jane      1869

Similarly with a Boozan who married a Dooley, another Irish surname. In the USA, a John Boozane in San Francisco born in the 1820s was also Irish. The evidence mounts…

In my next post, I’ll talk about the Huguenot possibility and stick my next out on the line as to where I think the Beausang and Bouzan clans more than likely originated.

400 years on: Forget Southfork & Dallas, for family infighting check out the O'Doynes of the 1600s

Recently, inspired by Irish Culture Night, I bought a copy of the O’Doyne manuscript, published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in the early 1980s. The manuscript itself is in Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s oldest public library, and is dominated by documents relating to the lengthy legal battle between Charles O’Doyne (Cathaoir Ó Duinn) and his older brother Thady (Tadhg), the sons of Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn, lord of Uí Riagáin (Iregan – now Tinnahinch in County Laois). Charles was a graduate of Oxford (BA, 1586 and MA, 1591) – “a good scholar and a zealous Protestant” – and was Master in Chancery from 1602. Thady appears to have been more settled in Ireland and whereas Charles had no heirs, Thady had at least ten children, mostly from his second marriage.

I was not aware, when I bought the book, that I had stumbled across a battle that was marking its 400th anniversary. Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn was lord of Iregan from 1558 to 1607. When he passed away, the fighting began. This day four hundred years ago, on the 26th of November 1608, Ireland’s Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (whose portrait appears in this post), issued his verdict. Sir Arthur, incidentally, came over to Ireland after the death of his brother John during the Battle of Carrickfergus in 1597 – John was apparently decaptitated and his head used as a football by a potential ancestor of mine, Sorley Boy McDonnell (mooted progenitor of today’s M(a)cSorleys through his first marriage).

So, would Arthur choose between the zealous bachelor Charles or the father many-times-over Thady? Read on… what follows is the verbatim letter he wrote:

arthur-chichester
Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1604-1615

Letter Directing Attorney-General to draw up Fiant for Letters Patent. 26 November 1608.

By the Lord Deputie.

To the attorney general.

We greete yow well. Where the King’s most excellent Majestie by his highnes letters under the signet dated the 29th of July 1608 hath signified unto us his Majesties pleasure on the behalf of Capten Thady Doyne esquire Cheiffe of his name, that his highnes is graciouslie pleased in Consideration of the said Tady is good service heretofore done to his highnes to graunt unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes the Contry of Iregaine and all the lands, tenements, tythes and hereditaments therein and thereto belonginge and all fellons goods and deodands therein happeninge, to be held of his highnes, his heyres and successors in Free and Comon Soccadge as of his Majesties castle of Dublin. And further to graunt full power and authoritie unto the said Thady, his heyres and assignes at his and their will and pleasure to hould and keepe within the said Contry of Iregaine in such fitt places at such convenient time Courte Leete and Courte Barrons, marketts and Fayres, as to us shalbe thought fitt. Theise are therefore to will and requier yow forthwith to make a Fyant or Fyants in due forme of Lawe of the particuler appearinge under Mr. Surveyor’s hand in the scedule hereunto anexed, and all other lands of right the said Thady hath or ought to have in the said contrey of Iregaine, Tythes, felons goods, deodans, Fayres, marketts, and other the premisses unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes to be houlden of his highnes as aforesaid. Incertinge therein such further ordinary Clauses as in such letters Patents are usuall. And leavinge blanks for the times and places for the said Courts, Fayres, marketts. And such Fiant or fiants so made to send unto us fayer written ingrossed in parchment under your hand that wee maie give further order for passinge the same unto the said Thadye under the greate seale of this Realme. And for your doeinge thereof this shalbe your warrant.

Given at his Majesties Castle Dublin this 26th of November 1608.

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

So Chichester went with Thady, giving him ownership of the land, the right to host markets and fairs, the right to host courts, the whole kit and kaboodle for Iregan… not that Charles took it lying down. Before the year was out, he had replied with a thirty point response to the Lord Deputy’s decision. The letters flew back and forth for the next four years, before the disgruntled Charles realized his options were running out. Ironically, Charles’ death in 1617 sparks the process off again among his own heirs!

So, 400 years on to the day, one thing we can say is that family feuds, wills, land and wealth – some of the staples of soap operas – have a long pedigree!

The Ballad of Barack Obama & Sarah Palin (or Manilow's Nightmare)

Following the success (my targets were small) of Brother, Can You Bail-out My Bank?, and given that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my blog-time blogging about the election, I thought it only right to sign off on the election with a tribute to the election that was.

So, to the unmistakeable tune of – and with sincere apologies to – both Star Wars Cantina and Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, here is ‘The Ballad of Barack Obama & Sarah Palin’ (2008):

His name was Barack, he was half Kenyan
With a daughter on each side and a smile five small states wide
He ran for office, he sought election
And while he said “Oh, yes we can”, people worried bout this man
Across all fifty states, would he get the mandate?
But then he went to Berlin where they thought that he was great…

He was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Jobs and emissions and TV transmissions
He was Barack…

Her name was Palin, she was Alaskan
McCain had set her loose, she loved to kill a moose
She spent a fistful, on her wardrobe
She talked to CBS, it put her handlers in distress
And then the crisis grew, and the bailout too
Didn’t have a chance, she’ll be back in two oh one two…

It was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Oprah and Kerry, and even Chuck Berry
voted Barack…

His name is Barack, he was elected
But that was two weeks ago, he has to get on with the show
And pick a new dog, one from a shelter
Also a Secretary of State, a human would be great
John Kerry has the hair, or maybe picking Clinton’s fair?
It could have been Lieberman, but let’s not go there…

He was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Jobs and emissions and TV transmissions
He was Barack…

(and continue through fade out)

From hope to promise to a new America tonight – Obama's speeches since 2004

There seems to be a bit of traffic to and through this blog, looking for word clouds of and/or commentary on President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago. Given that until now there was nothing on that topic, I have a feeling they left relatively empty-handed. Let me fix that now, with a quick zip through Obama’s three key speeches, at the DNC in 2004, at the same event in 2008 and his most recent speech, in Chicago following his election as President.

Obama in 2004: A man of hope

The speech that marked Obama’s “explosion” on to the national scene in 2004 revolved primarily around the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, and the country at stake, America, as might be expected. The key concept aside from that which shines out is hope – one very much associated with the President-elect again since his election. A full word cloud is on wordle.net and previewed below.

Obama in August 2008: A man of promise

Four years later, as I’ve posted about previously, he’d moved from his hope to his promise – very apposite, seeing as his was now the focal points for others’ hopes, on which he was promising to deliver, rather than expressing his own views and hopes.

As I said at the time, this tied in a motif from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech – again, something widely referenced in recent days – on America’s promissory note, of liberty for all, which it had up to then failed to cash.

Obama in November 2008: A new America tonight, people

Earlier this week, when elected President from next January, he gave another speech which was destined to be analyzed to death by those with nothing better to be doing, such as myself! (His inauguration speech will presumably be the next one to be put under such scrutiny…) The link to and preview of a word cloud of his most recent speech is below.

Hope, promise – and indeed that third keyword perhaps most associated by his campaign, change – do not feature in any meaningful way. It’s perhaps surprising that promise makes no appearance, given that his Chicago speech is really the national equivalent of his DNC speech, to just his party. He obviously decided that the time was not right for more promises, it was instead a time to reflect on what his election meant, not for him but about his country.

His clear message from the speech seems to be: “Tonight, people, we have a new America!”. Whatever about the internal reaction to the election – after all, only 52% of voters voted for him – global reaction would seem to agree with his main sentiment!

The genealogy-grammar paradox & Obama's endorsement of T&E Plumbing (or maybe it's the other way around)

The Huffington Post has an excellent collection of pictures from around the world, in response to the outcome of the US election – for more check out Election Day Around The World (PHOTOS).

I had to laugh at one in particular, the one from an hour down the road, Moneygall, County Offaly. The first thing that catches you off-guard is Mr. Obama’s somewhat atypical tan, for an Offaly scion. The second is the photo’s incongruity, following two photos from Kenya. The third thing is the haste to produce the ad, which seems to have produced a somewhat unexpected paradox. While complicated genealogical heritages stretching back over two centuries are no issue for this shrewd plumber, the age-old question of apostrophe or not seems to have suffered!