Statistics are very useful things. Numbers and information, facts and figures, all very concisely providing information that we want and need. They're also about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for clean and direct presentation. I earned a university degree in mathematics, after all. I write computer code for a living nowadays. Numbers were and are who I am and what I do. But I also know that without exception, they make poor conversation. Statistics just quantify things without putting them into any sort of context or perspective. They're facts, but they're not actually information.

Telling me the population of a country, for instance, has no meaning unless it's compared to a city, state or country where I've actually been. Writing out the prime factorization of a certain integer is boring useless unless you say why that makes it special. Listing the specifications for a vehicle or a piece of computer hardware is worthless until those specs are compared to what I own or whatever else is available for me to buy. Proving a mathematical theorem has no benefit to John Q. Noder unless it's translated into plain English. Prices, distances, volumes, speeds, composition, none of them are any good unless they're put into the context of a larger work--either the textbook they were lifted from, or the short essay that explains their larger meaning.

This is why statistical data make for poor node fodder. Just line after line of locations, numbers, measurements, quantities, yadda yadda yadda is everywhere here, which wouldn't be so bad if the noders could somehow convince us that they compiled all these figures themselves. Odds are, though, it was just lifted from another book or Web page somewhere. Now statistics aren't typically considered protected by copyright, meaning that it's not really a legal issue for E2. But it's still cutting and pasting, and it's blatantly unoriginal.

I try to discourage noding for numbers through statistical writeups for these two reasons. Yes, they add to the the sum of human knowledge and experience stored in the E2 database, but a Good Noder should look to do more than this. He should explicate the information, adding insights or highlighting significant data. He should form connections, draw conclusions, or ask questions. He doesn't have to write a master's thesis on the subject, but he should at least integrate it with something, anything, that will make me care.

I can get cold facts anywhere. I come to E2 to expand my mind.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.