Management of The Nudge Wink Report is pleased to announce…we
bribed flattered arm-twisted scored our first guest blogger. Contributing here for the first time, please welcome FloridaBorne, a major ranter from Two on a Rant.
Get out your calculators and go!
Ever notice that people seem to throw around percentages and statistics like middle school spoon-launched meatballs in a food fight?
For decades I’ve wondered, “Where do people find these golden nuggets of information?” So…after doing an in-depth 2-minute search yesterday, I found this article on Business Insider. (http://www.businessinsider.com/736-of-all-statistics-are-made-up-2010-2). Yes, it says that over 73.6% of percentages are made up. What about the other 26.4%? Where do they come from?
Intrigued, I dusted off my text reader and listened to the rest of the article while I played solitaire. The author, Mark Suster, gleaned percentages for a living, and coded computers, and on top of that he has an MBA. He wondered why businesses would listen to him when he was in his 20’s. Who wouldn’t listen to a numbers cruncher like him with a brain the size of Hong Kong who makes people like me look like wheel-spinning gerbils? He can even order Sushi in Japanese!
His first clue that there was a problem with all those infallible numbers began when he started looking at the wellspring of this knowledge. After all, the data had to originate from somewhere.
This is it in a nutshell (and I quote from his conversation with the anonymous expert he talked to):
“So you interviewed the people to get a plausible story line and then just did a simple estimation of the numbers going forward?”
“Yes. Pretty much.”
In other words, those numbers came from fallible people who pulled them out of a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
After that, it was just a matter of researching where the ripples made by this worthless rock passed off as knowledge traveled in the corporate pond.
His bottom lines?
“Statistics aren’t evil. They’re just a bit like the weather – hard to really predict.
And as they say about economists and weathermen – they’re the only two jobs you can keep while being wrong nearly 100% of the time.”
I can hear the collective protest chattering across cyberspace, “It can’t be true! What about Nielsen, Harris, and Gallup?”
Yes, some of the percentages you see come from market research surveys. Let’s explore what this means.
Think of yourself as the underpaid, overworked analyst the survey takers are relying on for answers. If you’ve never filled out an on-line or paper survey, the following unscientific analysis based on personal experience will be an eye opener for you.
I’m sure there are statistics about the number of people out in cyberspace who fill out surveys, but I turned to an expert to answer that question: Me. I’ve filled out enough to wallpaper my house 5 times over. What happens when you’ve clicked on your 100th microscopic dot and have 100 more to go for the 50 points they’re giving you to do it?
“Would you say that you are tired….”
· all of the time
· most of the time
· some of the time
· half the time
· choose this answer if you’re 5 seconds away from comatose
Congratulations on finishing the 200 question survey, you now have only 950 points to go before you can earn your free can opener. If you can’t wait that long, I saw one just like it at a dollar store.
Survey’s don’t have a “choose this answer if you’re paying attention” line at the 34th, 58th and 95th questions because people are, in actuality, caring about the answer.
But, you might ask, what about people who scan their grocery items. Those are based on fact…right? Let’s take a look at the truth about scan-this-for-prizes surveys.
You have a family of 4. It’s Saturday and you’ve just come home after bailing your 10 year old out of juvie for trying to walk out of the SuperStore door with that Disney movie you refused to buy. The ice cream is melted all over the onions, your roast is close to the limit for the number of salmonella that can grow on one carcass and you just want to stop the pain! You throw the roast in the oven, throw out the onion-cream, look at the scanner, throw the perishables in the fridge, scan 5 things, send it in and swear it’s the truth.
I’d say that 93.27% of the time percentages aren’t worth the ink that prints them or the dots that created them on your screen.
You know this has to be true since I’m right about 83.59383% of the time.
And with this post, The Nudge Wink Report has upped its percentage of guest bloggers by 100 per cent! Thanks FloridaBorne for giving us a peek into the mind of a percentages junkie. We’d like to present you with an official “NWR Contributor” badge. Stick it wherever you’d like.
— Nudge, Co-editor