Friday, July 20, 2012

Statistics Is Like Medicine, Not Software

Stats questions--even when they're pure cut-and-dried homework--require dialog. Medicine might be a better analogy than software: what competent doctor will prescribe a remedy immediately after hearing the patient's complaint? One of our problems is that the [Stack Exchange] mechanism is not ideally suited to the preliminary dialog that needs to go on.
That's from the ever erudite William Huber, in this chat about why the statistics Q&A site has problems that the software Q&A site does not. Some users argue that a high proportion of questions on the stats site should not be answered unless they are disambiguated further.

You might assume that "more answers are better," but answering an ill-posed question adds more noise to the internet. When searching to clarify an ambiguous term, somebody might find that question, read the answer, and end up even more confused. Recall that this is a field already stricken by diametric ideology and short-term incentives.

Here is my previous post on the wisdom of Huber