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Metrics Mania and the Countless Counting Problem 138

mobkarma writes "Einstein once said, 'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.' A New York Times article suggests that unless we know how things are counted, we don't know if it's wise to count on the numbers. The problem isn't with statistical tests themselves, but with what we do before and after we run them. If a person starts drinking day in and day out after a cancer diagnosis and dies from acute cirrhosis, did he kill himself? The answers to such questions significantly affect the count."
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Metrics Mania and the Countless Counting Problem

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:49PM (#32284104)

    In fact, my job is actually to get other, more important workers back to work asap.

    A refreshing point of view. A surprising amount of IT weenies seem think that what they do is the most important thing in the entire company, and that the rest of the organization needs to bow down to their whims.

    I remember having to explain to an IT worker that if they weren't going to change the schedule of the forced anti-virus full scan from 10:30am, I was going to delete the software since it was keeping me from doing my job. He didn't seem to understand that, no matter what he thought, having almost every machine be unusable for three hours in the middle of the work day cost a lot of productive time. His rationale was that doing it in the middle of the morning was the only way to be sure the machines were likely to be on since the machines might hibernate over night.

    When 15 people started sitting in the lunch room for an hour or so, HR eventually managed to explain it to him that it wasn't really OK to cause all of the machines to lock up and become unusable in the middle of the day.

  • Re:How about this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FoolishOwl ( 1698506 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:52PM (#32284148) Journal

    However, if my number "X" includes suicides, well, then how much of a statement about the relative danger of owning a gun am I making? How about if I can find no link between owning a gun and committing suicide?

    Clearly the statement is correct, "shot, in their home, with their own gun" but, even so, its misleading if you then use the numbers wrong.

    I don't think I disagree with your overall point, but I do have a quibble with this. I think there's reason to believe that owning a gun makes it more likely that you will commit suicide. Suicidal thoughts are not unusual, and suicide attempts usually fail. Becoming suicidal is often in part a response to a sudden crisis. People usually don't plan to lose their jobs, or get dumped by their romantic partners, or so on, but sooner or later, something as upsetting as those things happens to anyone. If you're horribly upset, and decide to drive out to the bridge to jump off it, you've got more time to change your mind, then if you decide to shoot yourself with the pistol in the safe in the living room.

  • Re:How about this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:22PM (#32284686) Homepage
    I don't know. Decade when I started driving, if I was behind someone drifting in and out of their lane, driving 15 MPH below the speed limit for no reason, was a 2:30AM and they were drunk. Rarely if ever happened during the day (and that was 500 of freeway commute time every month). Now I see this constantly; like every other day at least. Some knob almost causing an accident while texting or dialing with one hand.
  • Re:Technically (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @05:30PM (#32285754)

    Especially since the FP was relying on being "technically" correct (which, in all fairness, is the BEST kind of correctness)...

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith