A Review Of Your Windows

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 8 2013 @ 3:40pm

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Jay Pinho – who tracked the Dish’s use of read-ons following independence – turns his analytical eye to the VFYW feature:

The Dish’s View From Your Window posts have been going on for years (since May 22, 2006, in fact), long before the start of the weekly contest. (As of April this year, The Dish had published over 2,700 VFYW photos.) But quite frankly, I had neither the time nor the stamina to log every single View From Your Window throughout The Dish‘s history. (I’m certain there’s some non-manual way to do this via page-scraping or something, but I haven’t figured that out yet.) And anyway, the 1,228 posts I recorded between June 9, 2010 [when the VFYW contest launched] and May 25, 2013 — a period during which The Dish itself was hosted on three separate sites: The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and now independently via WordPress – seemed like a large enough sample size to provide a solid idea of VFYW trends.

As far as I know, this is the first-ever long-term study of the View From Your Window feature. The closest (and much cooler) cousin to this concept that I’ve seen is Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones’ View From Your Window game, in which — with a limited number of guesses available — the contestant must click on the correct sector of a map, as the view zooms in ever closer before finally zeroing in on the location of the photo. But as far as I know, no statistical study of VFYW has ever been conducted. (Cue the drum roll…”until now.”)

Going back through the archives was more fun than it sounds.

(That said, the old military axiom — “It’s 99% boredom punctuated by 1% of sheer terror” — roughly applies here too, although terror should be replaced by something more pedestrian. “Pleasant surprise,” maybe?) Although most daily posts simply contained a photo and a caption listing the city and country, occasionally I’d run across some tearjerking post about a reader’s brother succumbing to his injuries in a hospital from which a VFYW photo was taken, or an admonition from another watchful reader not to include photo EXIF data in the weekly contest. (My personal favorite? My girlfriend’s submission from Alaska while clerking there last year, of course.)

The coincidences, too, were startling — none more so than the case of the reader who responded to the weekly contest by noting that he was sitting, by happenstance, in the very same room where the contest photo had been taken by someone else. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the August 3, 2010 post in which one reader marveled at his fellow contestants: “Gosh, you would think Dish readers could find Bin Laden if you made it into a contest!” Turns out, one did.

Jay goes on to break down a variety of statistics, including the most overrepresented and underrepresented states in the VFYW feature.

(Image: “a map of all View From Your Window locations in the “modern era” — from June 9, 2010, when the VFYW contest was launched, through May 25, 2013.)