Posts Tagged ‘ Business ’

Football and statistics, on HBR!

January 30, 2015
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I was asked to adapt my earlier post for the HBR audience, and the new version is now up on HBR. Here is the link. I'm happy that they picked up this post because most business problems concern reverse causation. A small subset of problems can be solved using A/B testing, but only those in which causes are known in advance and subject to manipulation. Even then, Facebook got into…

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How Optimizely will kill your winning percentage, and why that is a great thing for you (Part 1)

January 23, 2015
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In my HBR article about A/B testing (link), I described one of the key managerial problems related to A/B testing--the surplus of “positive” results that don’t quite seem to add up. In particular, I mentioned this issue: When managers are reading hour-by-hour results, they will sometimes find large gaps between Groups A and B, and demand prompt reaction. Almost all such fluctuations result from temporary imbalance between the two groups,…

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Three reasons to doubt the GDP-gas price conjecture

January 20, 2015
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Dragged by infectious incuriosity, the financial press ran with the story that falling gasoline prices (50% drop in 6 months) is "the best economic stimulus one can get". See former Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Altman on CNBC, Business Insider's "cheap gas boost", Wall Street Journal citing the "low oil prices as an effective tax cut for consumers", New York Times quoting a Citigroup analyst claiming a global > $1 trillion…

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Why you need a second pair of eyes

January 13, 2015
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Why you need a second pair of eyes

Reader Aaron K. submitted an infographic advertising the upcoming New England Auto Show to be held in Boston (link). As Aaron pointed out, there is plenty of elementary errors contained in one page. I don't think the designer did these...

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Trifacta revisited: tackling a Big Data problem

January 12, 2015
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During my vacation, I had a chance to visit Trifacta, the data-wrangling startup I blogged about last year (link). Wei Zheng, Tye Rattenbury, and Will Davis hosted me, and showed some of the new stuff they are working on. Trifacta is tackling a major Big Data problem, and I remain excited about the direction they are heading. From the beginning, I am attracted by Trifacta’s user interface. The user in…

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Figuring out what data supports the argument, and what is just window-dressing

January 8, 2015
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Figuring out what data supports the argument, and what is just window-dressing

That is the question in my head when I read an article like USA Today's "Jobless Claims Fall, Suggests Strong Hiring". (link) The headline makes the connection between newly-released jobless claims data and the conclusion of "strong hiring". But it turns out the new data is merely window-dressing, and the conclusion is based on longer-term trends. Here is the new data, as reported by the USA Today reporter: applications for…

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A great start to the year

January 1, 2015
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A great start to the year

I'd like to start 2015 on a happy note. I enjoyed reading the piece by Steven Rattner in the New York Times called "The Year in Charts". (link) I particularly like the crisp headers, and unfussy language, placing the charts...

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Another example of misleading time-based correlation

December 15, 2014
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Another example of misleading time-based correlation

On my sister blog last week, I wrote about how to screw up a column chart. The chart designer apparently wanted to explore whether Rotten Tomato Scores are correlated with box office success, and whether the running time of a movie is correlated with box office success. In either case, the set of movies is a small one, those directed by Chris Nolan. Here is a better view of the…

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Three axes or none

December 11, 2014
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Three axes or none

Catching up on some older submissions. Reader Nicholas S. saw this mind-boggling chart about Chris Nolan movies when Interstellar came out: This chart was part of an article by Vulture (link). It may be the first time I see not...

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How to face the mid-life crisis in A/B Testing

December 10, 2014
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There have been few updates as I was working on things for other people. One of these things showed up today. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of my new article on HBR: For over 10 years and at three companies, I set up and ran A/B testing programs, in which we test a new offer with half a sample against a control group which doesn’t get a new…

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