06 Mar

Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing

Of course, evidence isn’t the only marketing tactic that is effective. In fact, it’s often not the best tactic. What would change his mind, what would change the mind of many people resistant to evidence is a series of eager testimonials from other tribe members who have changed their minds. When people who are respected in a social or professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they’ve changed their minds, a ripple effect starts. First, peer pressure tries to repress these flip-flopping outliers. But if they persist in their new mindset, over time others may come along. Soon, the majority flips. It’s not easy or fast, but it happens.

That’s why it’s hard to find people who believe the earth is flat. That’s why political parties change their stripes now and then. It wasn’t that the majority reviewed the facts and made a shift. It’s because people they respected sold them on a new faith, a new opinion.

via Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing. I know this to be true, that evidence doesn’t tend to change people’s opinion on a subject, but darn it, evidence really should change people’s understanding of a subject.

27 Jul

Skepticblog – The Reasonableness of Weird Things

In my experience, the top reasons people believe weird things are not only understandable, but identical to the reasons most skeptics believe things: they are persuaded by personal experiences (or by the experiences of a loved one); or, they are persuaded by the sources they have consulted.

via Skepticblog – The Reasonableness of Weird Things. A both interesting and important point for getting quite possibly at why it can be so hard for people to dis-believe an other wise irrational belief.

23 Mar

The Certified DBA – The Daily WTF

It took an exorbitant amount of time to configure, and it still didn’t work. The application ran awfully slow, and disk I/O was through the roof. Worse, as a result of the smaller drives and 25% usage requirement, the available disk space was quickly filling up.

via The Certified DBA – The Daily WTF. An extremely amusing article that details several things about being an “expert”; it doesn’t make you right on details marginally connected to your field of study, doesn’t imply that you will practice good judgment, doesn’t mean you should throw common sense out the window, and finally that you shouldn’t re-think your basic assumptions of “how it works” when questioned, especially when presented with evidence to the contrary of your logic.

09 Apr

Calling Something Factual, Doesn’t Make It Magically Factual

Specifically, this is another time in which I call out Republicans for their lack of attention to basic logic and understanding of facts. I received an email tonight from the RNC regarding Obama, Congress and the organization ACORN. In this email the GOP makes the claim that “It seems the Obama Administration has plans to rig the Census results.” The way this will occur:

Why is this important? The U.S. population has shifted in the last ten years. States like Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania (all states Obama won in 2008) have smaller populations, and states like Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina (all states that John McCain carried) have gained population.

The trend illustrates that urban strongholds, which favor Democrats, continue to lose population to more decentralized areas in states more likely to lean Republican.

If the Democrats and their friends at ACORN have their way, the Census will only “estimate” state populations and therefore be subject to political calculations. And surely their estimate will be far higher than the actual number of people, and voters, present.

So if to be believed by the RNC, Obama and the Democrats through ACORN will manipulate the state population estimates to swing in favor of Democrats as opposed to what the estimate should actually look like.

Let’s start with a few things, first off the email never lists any facts, never links to any hard evidence demonstrating any manner of truth in the email. The only links are to unsubscribe, to the main GOP site and to donate to “help the Republican Party’s effort to spread the word about the Obama Democrats’ misuse of power and plans to end free and fair elections”. Also note this is the sort of classical conspiracy style formatting, this evil organization is doing something behind your back and we aren’t able to get our message out, but you can help us expose the truth.

The funny thing about the whole thing is that the Census Buera’s own estimates don’t prove the central point of the email, which is “States like Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania (all states Obama won in 2008) have smaller populations, and states like Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina (all states that John McCain carried) have gained population.”

Specifically looking at the 2008 Census Bureau estimates found here: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/GCTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-_box_head_nbr=GCT-T1-R&-ds_name=PEP_2008_EST&-format=US-40S

Let’s take a look at each state listed by the GOP in the email, comparing the 2000 Census results with the 2006 and 2008 estimates, shall we.

State 2000 Census Results 2006 Estimate 2008 Estimate
Illinois 12,419,293 12,759,673 12,901,563
Michigan 9,938,492 10,083,878 10,003,422
New York 18,976,816 19,367,028 19,490,297
Pennsylvania 12,281,052 12,388,055 12,448,279
Arizona 5,130,607 6,178,251 6,500,180
Georgia 8,186,812 9,318,715 9,685,744
South Carolina 4,011,809 4,324,799 4,479,800

Notice every single state listed in the email is gaining population from 2000 to 2008, and the only state losing population from 2006 to 2008 is Michigan, which given the state of the economy there, I’m not entirely surprised.

Now I’m not entirely sure what the GOP is trying to argue at this point, because at this point the argument just really collapses amongst itself. They could be talking about percentage change, but the talk about the population not a percentage fall or even that the rate of the states gaining population is going up.

Or I guess the Republicans could claim that the estimate itself is wrong, and they have no proof for it, because the Census Bureau has been manipulating numbers for years in favor of Democrats?

The next question for me becomes, how does a community organization influence the population census, that I’m not sure, since the GOP doesn’t link to any article talking about it or go into specifics, also how do you manipulate the census. Personally, I thought the census was performed by Census employees, maybe the GOP is thinking that the Census with outsource the collection of data to ACORN?

That makes some sense though it still seems silly to blame an organization whose actions are very much blown out of porpition: “Both claims are breathtakingly inaccurate. There’s a huge difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud. And while ACORN, which hires part-time, $8-an-hour canvassers to go door-to-door and register people to vote, has had widespread problems with phony registrations invented by employees who don’t want to work, the problem has never been that it sent people to the polls using bogus identities or to vote in any other fraudulent manner.”

This winds up being my fundamental problem with political organizations, the media, and politicians, left, right and center. Wild accusations, conspiracy like talk with no real definitive proof or even an understanding of basic logic.

I will say though when MoveOn.org and some other organizations send out emails to pressure for something, they link to real authentic news articles to make a case for themselves. It helps so much it isn’t even funny. It’s almost sad to say that it is refreshing to get their emails which actually make a case for their point even if I disagree with them.

Also GOP, why do you always repeat yourself in the PS part of the email, it’s annoying and stupid. Learn from the Democrats and say something different. Seriously, I get really bored knowing that you are going to ask me for money in exactly the same way you did earlier.