Bring Your Own Bias

I enjoy making beer. Generally, I’ll try to make a batch for special occasions or just because it’s mid-January. It is easy and cheap to make—and therefore, ubiquitous. However, there are nearly limitless possibilities for beer recipes, so people’s tastes for it are extremely subjective. Unless you’ve brewed a batch that is described as “chewy,” it’s not objectively bad.

What’s the connection between beer and big data? Let’s say we can generate labeled data cheaply, and we want to separate our data points by “good” and “bad.” It’s a simple process of finding the features that distinguish the groups to the greatest degree possible. This is a no-brainer with beer; there are many people willing to show up and give detailed opinions on it. Then, you can make the beer with the broadest appeal. This happens with many highly subjective things. In Ian Ayres’s fantastic book, Super Crunchers, he even hints that there may be an algorithm for top grossing movies. The book was published in 2007, and the first Marvel movie, Iron Man, came out in 2008. Apparently, the presence of on-screen snow can increase the draw for some odd reason.

We can translate this into a business solution by never underestimating A/B testing and customer feedback. It may be impossible to please everyone, but there is a mathematical route to pleasing as many as possible. If you are coming out with a product, consider any current products you have that are easy to produce. Historical examples can also help you identify essential features for the new product and crunch the right numbers, thus ensuring a successful launch. Everyone has his or her own unique biases and tastes—but think of how many people have a taste for some type of beer!

Big data is daunting and confusing, yet it is becoming more of a necessity to remain competitive in the marketplace. We here at Convergent Technologies specialize in sensible data solutions. Let us help your company or organization make an objective process out of what may seem like a hopelessly subjective one!