Morning Must-Read: James Fallows: Another Bloomberg Editor Explains Why He Has Resigned, Over Its China Coverage
Hoisted from the Archives from 2008: Why We Wish David Leonhardt Every Success with His New Venture: New York Times Death Spiral Watch: David Leonhardt Needs His Own Weblog

Morning Must-Read: Noah Smith: fivethirtyeight.com Needs to Step Up Its Game

Noah Smith: fivethirtyeight.com Needs to Step Up Its Game: "I'm a big Nate Silver fan, but let me join the chorus...

looking at his new 'data-driven' blog site... it's barely data-driven at all! For example, take this post about how climate change is not increasing the cost of natural disasters.... Let's focus on the idea that this post represents "data-driven" journalism at all. It doesn't. The "data" in the post consists of one annual time series with a sample size of 23. That's too small to do any sort of statistical analysis on, but then again, the post doesn't do any statistical analysis. It shows a trendline, and from that trendline it draws broad, sweeping conclusions.... Every newbie blogger and his dog draws a trendline and extrapolates it--and if the blogger is worth his salt, he'll at least have the common decency to qualify his extrapolation with "if this trend continues", which Pielke does not. Furthermore, Pielke's analysis is just sloppy. What happens if you strip out earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, etc. from the data? What if you extend the trend back 40 years? How does the recent trend compare with the trend from before climate change started significantly affecting global temperatures?... And the economic theory behind the conclusion is even sloppier... costs of mitigation... variance... people [are] risk-averse?....

That's just one post. Let's look at a few others.... Ben Casselman... barely more data... than... Pielke!... This is less sophisticated than the average econ blog post. Well, at least Casselman used the word "may"... Where is the data analysis connecting quits to dynamism, or to wages?... Or take this Casselman post on long-term unemployment. Compare the amount and detail of the data, the sophistication of the analysis, or careful thought about the data's implications to any of the following Matt O'Brien posts on the same topic: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4. Casselman and O'Brien reach the same conclusion, but in terms of "data-driven journalism", Casselman's post is nowhere near O'Brien's league. Or take this post by Andrew Flowers on whether the labor market is slack or tight. Compare this to the average econ blog post on the topic, in terms of data quantity, data quality, data analysis, and data interpretation. Again, no contest....

In sum, this so-called "data-driven" website is significantly less data-driven (and less sophisticated) than Business Insider or Bloomberg View or The Atlantic... hedgehoggy posts supporting simplistic theories with sparse data and zero statistical analysis... no relationship whatsoever to the sophisticated analysis of rich data sets for which Nate Silver himself has become famous...

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