Metric System Dept.


Anil Dash on Twitter:

One of the biggest dangers in tech is if you focus just on metrics, that might be all you get.

It isn't just tech where that risk rears its ever-so-sleek head, of course, although that's where I hear about the most ostensibly practical majority of it. "Data-driven" this and "test-driven" that; after a while, it ceases to sound like good practice or common sense, and becomes just another item on the Mindless Buzzword Roster. Not because of what it is, but how it's approached — like a magic pill, and not like a tool in the box. (Ask some folks just now crawling out of the trenches of software development if they can hear the words "scrum" and "agile" and not feel a shudder spring from their marrow.)

But go outside of tech, and you'll find people going data- and metrics-happy — and have been for a long time, even if not in those precise terms. The hitmakers responsible for calibrating the loudness of the records we listen to down to the last decimal point, or the studio heads who natter incessantly over whether or not the latest blockbuster has enough cross-quadrant demographic appeal — none of this stuff is new. The professional side of the creative world has been infested with quantimania for decades, and only here and there do people either employ it intelligently or free themselves of it entirely. Consider an outfit like Dark Horse — I don't believe for a second they don't do market research of some kind, but they are consistently behind some of the most inventive, diverse, and downright excellent comics in the market these days.

Part of me feels bad for making The Quants sound like inhuman bodysnatchers from beyond, because I'm not trying to demonize people who are good at math. They're far, far better than I will be at it in any number of lifetimes, that's for sure — and the number of positive, constructive applications for such work is still pleasingly large. Too bad it's more profitable to put that talent to use conjuring money out of thin air, or figuring out ways to pay less attention to the content and more attention to the delivery.


Tags: creativity mathematics




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