Number wars

What does the war in Iraq have in common with the war news organizations are fighting for their survival?

Nothing at all, unequivocally.

BBC However, I was struck by Owen Bennett-Jones’ closing of his August 27 BBC story about the disparities in the reports of the numbers of civilians killed in Iraq since the war started in 2003:

“It remains true that people tend to cite a number that reflects not their view of the quality of the research but rather their view of the war.”

In other words, getting someone to use your numbers – your definition of success – is just as hard as getting them to change their thinking.

In the world of web analytics, people “tend to present the metric that’s most likely to work in their favor.  They’re tracking the wrong way or they don’t want to look at a particular set of data. They are wrongly using analytics as what [Robert Rose of Big Blue Moose] calls a Weapon of Mass Delusion….Worst of all, they are not learning to apply insight to action.”

— from “A Web Analytics Trap,” by Jim Ericson, Information Management, August 13, 2010