1996-12-15 - Re: In Defense of Anecdotal Evidence

Header Data

From: Dale Thorn <dthorn@gte.net>
To: Rob Carlson <robc@xmission.com>
Message Hash: 779c2d9e7f9ea99f29b95990f159705b6723bf28550b55361a04849a42f007c7
Message ID: <32B3923E.6268@gte.net>
Reply To: <199612131649.JAA24217@mail.xmission.com>
UTC Datetime: 1996-12-15 06:05:00 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 14 Dec 1996 22:05:00 -0800 (PST)

Raw message

From: Dale Thorn <dthorn@gte.net>
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 1996 22:05:00 -0800 (PST)
To: Rob Carlson <robc@xmission.com>
Subject: Re: In Defense of Anecdotal Evidence
In-Reply-To: <199612131649.JAA24217@mail.xmission.com>
Message-ID: <32B3923E.6268@gte.net>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Rob Carlson wrote:
> On Thu, 12 Dec 1996 14:12:23 -0800, Huge Cajones Remailer wrote:
> >Statistics are a useful tool, but they have their problems.  Their
> >accuracy is often in doubt.  Most scientific data comes with an error
> >analysis so you can tell what the figure means.  For some reason
> >statisticians never do this so we cannot tell whether their numbers
> >are accurate to within 0.1%, 1.0%, 10%, or even worse.[snip]
> Of course, anecdotal evidence also suffers from all of these problems. And
> in greater magnitude. This is true since it is a special case of statistical
> evidence. With a non-random sample set of one and no controls for observer bias.
> Humans are poor observers. The data processing unit is easily fooled. Many
> people make a living off of this fallability such as magicians and politicians.
> This doesn't make studies or statistical evidence true. Just more reliable than
> anecdotal evidence.

Yes and no.  Depends on the objective. If I had to purchase and install
a new server for my employer, and not being an expert in security myself,
I would (barring having a very trusted friend for advice) certainly be
inclined to trust the published reports more than anecdotes, even when
the anecdotes come from erstwhile reputable posters on these lists.

OTOH, if I were about to hire an employee to do that very job (and other
similar jobs as time goes on), I would be much more inclined to trust my
instincts, my perceptions during the interview(s), and specific data
handcarried in by the prospective hiree than any published statistics
or recommendations in hiring methodology that are generally used in
large-corporation hiring.

Perhaps even this last paragraph wouldn't apply if I were a large-corpor-
ation personnel recruiter, since in that case I'd not only be further
removed from the IS dept., but I'd be representing people with agendas
that aren't necessarily similar to what I deal with in the small company
I work in now.