The use of statistics or their meaning is often amusing – and misleading.
Headlines are the King to clicking.
- How often does the content back up the stats?
- How often does the headline not match the results?
- How often are the implications twisted?
Let me give you an example.
A recent story making the rounds came from an information technology symposium.
Gartner, Inc., an information technology and research company, discussed the future of mobile collaboration at their Symposium/Expo at Cannes, France.
Reviewing their press release, here are some of the analysts’ observations —
- By 2014 – 20 percent of workers will use social networks as their hub for business communications
- Email will be used for social activities, such as contact brokering
- Social networks will develop richer email capabilities
- Email will include links within its servers to social networks
- Cloud services will grow to 10 percent by year-end 2012
Cloud services are the internet-based sharing of resources, information and software.
Here are some of the headlines from the internet regarding those predictions.
- Social networking to replace email for a fifth of business users: Gartner
- Social networking to overtake email in future says Gartner
- Gartner predictions: By 2014, social media will replace e-mail
Even Gartner’s own heading on its press release had this statement —
Gartner Says Social-Networking Services to Replace E-Mail as the Primary Vehicle for Interpersonal Communications for 20 Percent of Business Users by 2014
Take a look at the press release again.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but here is what I got from it —
- The story is about the predicted collaboration between email and social network platforms
- To me, “replacement” does not mean the same as “collaboration”
- My poor attempts at math figures 20 percent is not a “replacement” or even a majority
- I don’t interpret “interpersonal communications” to mean the same as “business communications”
You could argue that what the press release means by replacement is —
- Replacing an email only platform with the integrated email/social network platform
- Ask yourself, does the headline – Social networking to replace email for a fifth of business users - leave you with that impression?
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Studies producing statistics offer helpful information – in the right context.
When I was in the insurance industry, I used to kid with our underwriters. Yes, underwriters do have a sense of humor.
I used to tell them —
“You can twist statistics to mean anything you want them to be. So, why don’t you twist them into a favorable premium rate for me?”
I’ll close with one of my favorite – and often shared – Mark Twain quote —
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
Do you question statistics?
Maybe you should.
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