Data Driven Decisions, and What You Lose

The term “data driven decision” is something that is said more and more around offices lately, and it makes perfect sense at a certain level. Make decisions that best affect your agreed upon KPIs. The one thing that data driven decisions doesn’t account for, is taste.

Design, aesthetics, brand standards, or experience aren’t analytics that are collected and analyzed. Data only cares how users interact with something. Black or white. Did a user do the thing, or not?

This excerpt from “The Encyclopedia of Misinformation” discussing laugh tracks in sitcoms helps illustrate the point:

Show creators hated the laugh track, spurring a constant feud with network executives who believed audiences enjoyed the audio cues. To adjudicate the conflict, CBS held a controlled experiment in 1965 with its brand-new show Hogan’s Heroes. The network tested two versions of the World War II comedy — one with canned laughter, one without. The test audiences overwhelmingly preferred the laugh-tracked show. Since then, nearly all CBS comedies have contained audience laughter.

You can argue the merits of the example, but I personally hate laugh tracks on sitcoms (and including shows filmed in front of a live studio audience). It’s a matter of taste, right?

Starting in the early aughts, shows began to jettison the laugh track, as most celebrated comedies of the era — The Office, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Orange Is the New Black, 30 Rock, Community, Louie, Modern Family — abandoned the cheesy blandishment. Some programs maintain laugh tracks today (especially those on CBS), and they do tend to get good ratings. In fact, one can almost divide sitcoms into two categories — “critically acclaimed” versus “high ratings” — on whether they use a laugh track. As a generalization, shows that cozen a laugh from the viewer perform better in the ratings but seldom win Emmys.

I can only think of a handful of recent sitcoms (and I use the term recent very loosely) that had a live audience and/or used a laugh track that were both critical darlings and would pull in the ratings – Seinfeld and Friends.

Look at cell phones. There are dozens of cheaply made Android phones out in the world. They feel cheap in your hand, have third party software installed on it to further monetize you. Compare that to the iPhone. There is only one manufacturer. One software distributor. And they are sold at a premium. Apple could potentially make even more money if they wanted to – using cheaper parts, selling space on their operating system (OS) to anyone to install crap software, but they don’t – their standards are higher.

I don’t mean the above to be an Android versus iPhone thing – I think Google’s Pixel phone and optimized OS is great, and I’m jealous of a lot of it’s features. This is more a comment on the companies who license the Android platform, fork the code, and build a crappy experience on top of it, and install it on cheap plastic hardware because that drives their profits.

All this isn’t to say that data shouldn’t be part of your decision making process.

Taste, morals, standards can easily be thrown out the window when you make data driven decisions. Make sure the numbers are part of the decision making process, but not the sole decision maker.

Hi, I'm Mike. I'm From the Internet.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.