Data Facts

Tip of the Iceberg, looking for Data only solutions

a riff on Looking for patterns

Seth Godin wrote this amazing piece about Looking for patterns on which @larslofgren from Kissmetrics and I, both agreed was a beautiful reminder of the problem with looking for Data only solutions. I’ve always maintained that Data without proper context is just a binary record. For any set of facts, an unlimited amount of stories can be told. It is the story that provides the context for the data, and narrative is even more important than actual data itself. Here’s a great example. Let’s go with Water:

FACT: Water is the main ingredient in Pesticides and Herbicides.
FACT: Water is the main cause of drowning.
FACT: 100% of People who Drink Water die.
FACT: 100% of all Serial Killers drink water.
FACT: Excessive consumption may cause excessive sweating, urination, and even death.

Of course I’m being over the top and facetious, but I’m sure you get the point. All these above are true. Next time you’re looking at data, keep in mind the bias that you are trying to dig and context of your inner narrative. No one is immune to this, not even the cleanest data set and best A/B test in the world. At some point we all have to draw a line in the sand, to determine what is the story we want to believe in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.