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Bryan Beverly

A Skeptic's Guide to Analytic Results

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Broadway
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
Broadway   2/12/2014 8:07:24 PM
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I would add a couple additional "leadership" animals --- the snake, the passive-aggressive types who will destroy you when you turn your back on them, and the vultures, who wait out all the foxes and lions and pick their carcasses after the fight. 

bkbeverly
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
bkbeverly   2/12/2014 5:04:09 PM
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@Broadway, I greatly admire your optimism; I used to think just like that when I younger. It's wonderful to be a middle-aged person, but the downside is that time has a way of making one a skeptic. I agree that over time, work places will be less combat-oriented. I think that the gradual increase in women in the white-collar labor force is slowly forcing work place culture to be less Spartan-like (or at least the lawyers are doing that). But your hopes for a better day remind me of Vilfredo Pareto's theory of the circulation of elites. He said that leadership styles cycle through periods of lions (traditional male brute force and intimidation) and foxes (people who can covertly manipulate, massage and convince people to do their bidding). I can see a day when cultures are kinder and gentler. But I would warn you that whether you work with lions or foxes, the outcome for the slow and weak will be the same. Foxes are just as predatory as lions, they just are kinder and gentler in their approach. But ultimately, the goal is to 'do you in'; a soft approach but just as deadly. So keep your whether combative or diplomatic, keep your skepticism radar up - trust but verify!

Broadway
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
Broadway   2/11/2014 10:55:47 PM
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@bkbeverly, you are right. Some "old dogs" still like to fight like young pups. And there are still plenty of dogs that will wait till your not looking and will nip at your heels. One day all company cultures will be kinder and gentler but until then ...

bkbeverly
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Re: And then there is bias
bkbeverly   2/11/2014 10:14:15 AM
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Meta, Could not agree with you more. Bias is a chronic problem in sampling. As in the case you mentioned, it was a random sample of people with at least a BA/BS degree. Bias is also a problem in survey design and reporting. People with advanced degrees tend to write to the level of their peers. Some of these survey results represent a 'privileged class' and not the thoughts of Joe or Jane Lunchbucket. Nothing wrong with that as long as you state that the external validity applies to white collar professionals. When your colleagues, neighbors and Facebook friends are in the same socioeconomic status groups, then one's perception of applicable analytical truths is skewed. Not intentional, not malicious, but innate and habitual. When the only people in your circle of associations are like you, then the assumptions or assertions you make should be 'viewed with a jaundiced eye'. Good observation (as always).

bkbeverly
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
bkbeverly   2/10/2014 4:36:59 PM
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@Broadway - Not a specific event. Just a gradual realization that it was a hollow victory to attack a person and not constructively work toward refining ideas. Particularly since many environments are charged with testosterone, challenging a coworker or a superior that you wanted to knock off was expected. When you were a young pup, you wanted to prove that you were ready to be a big dog. But when you are a young pup, you do not know that every big dog one day becomes an old dog. No not a specific incident in this case - just a gradual maturing. Every one grows old, but some never grow up; there are some gray haired babies whose insecurities find it better to reaffirm themselves by attacking others rather than preserving the dignity of others and helping them to shape their ideas. It is nothing wrong with being a skeptic, but it can turn out wrong if it is done the wrong way for the wrong reason. So all that to say is that these are the lessons learned from an old dog. I can't learn any new tricks, but I know when someone is trying to play them.

BethSchultz
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Re: healthy skepticism
BethSchultz   2/10/2014 9:18:00 AM
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From your blog post to a real-world example of healthy skepticism. Perfect!

Meta S. Brown
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And then there is bias
Meta S. Brown   2/10/2014 9:12:14 AM
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Bryan,

I love this post - these are terrific points, and all should be taken into account!

May I also add that we should examine methods for signs of plain old ordinary bias? For example, I've seen a number of posts recently about a data science salary survey. Most of the posts push the value of certain skills, based on the survey results.

A quick review of the survey report reveals that all the respondents were attendees of one particular conference. That conference focuses on certain specific skills, and certain types of applications. It's by no means a representative sample of the analytics community, or even the "data science" community as a whole. It's a biased sample, and it's obvious that nobody even tried to eliminate bias when planning the survey.

Alas, that's a common problem.

Broadway
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
Broadway   2/9/2014 11:39:09 PM
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@bkbeverly, was there a specific event that flicked on the light bulb?

bkbeverly
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
bkbeverly   2/8/2014 7:48:17 PM
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Broadway, I used to be one of those persons! In an academic environment, that is the way of life. It feeds the ego when you think you have won a round of one-upsmanship. But over the years, I learned that it is better to make colleagues than enemies. In fact, "there are no permanent friends and there are no permanent enemies, but there are permanent interests". The person you intellectually attack today may be a needed friend tomorrow. And since all of us have strengths and weaknesses, you really gain nothing by seeking to show up someone because what goes around comes around. So over the years, I found it more constructive to question the range of options rather than attack a person. Oh I am quite tempted sometimes when someone else makes a first strike at me; the natural response is to hit back. And even then I have to quickly assess if the statement is personal or professional. Cannot say that I always respond like a grown up. But I do try not to initiate conflict. So yes, I try these days to take a softer approach, but oh no, that is not how I started out.

Broadway
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Re: Respectfully pushing back
Broadway   2/8/2014 6:22:15 PM
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@bkbeverly, granted I was in grad school nearly 15 years ago and it was for a liberal arts degree, but back then students and teachers didn't question -- they always accused and attacked. Why is this relevant? Etc. etc. perhaps it was the culture of that school.

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