Take physic, pomp

Three ways to spot a bad statistic (a TED talk)

I’m no big fan of TED Talks but when this plopped on my desk last night I watched and was very impressed. Presented by “data Journalist” Mona Chalabi (I’ve seen her on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s cable show Star Talk) it’s worthy material for IKN even though not about mining, as this type of questioning of numbers and the people who try to spin them at you is part and parcel of what goes on at this humble corner of cyberspace.

As well as being a fun 11 minute presentation, it’s an excellent and accessible introduction into the world of stats crunching which, along the way, points out why government stats are usually better quality databases (at this point, conspiracy theorists among you will start laughing and that’s good, assholes aren’t very welcome at IKN anyway). What I particularly like are the three questions she offers to frame your thoughts on stats and what they’re trying to tell you:
Can you see uncertainty?
Can I see myself in the data?
How was the data collected?
Watch the whole thing to see why those are smart trigger questions for further use. The link to the TED talk page is here. You can also read the full transcript over there, or access versions with different language subtitles.

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