Web publishing, online research, stats, webmining and search engines.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can you handle the truth?

Or "If I say something weird, will you leave me and never come back?"

A big issue with running stat sites is providing relevant, useful info that users understand while not cutting down what the users see until they can't question you. 

On NationMaster and StateMaster, there are thousands of stats, so you're always confronted with contradictions. Figures seemingly don't make sense when you put them altogether. Our competitors like the CIA World Factbook have so few stats that inconsistencies can't arise. It's the easy option.

Our correlations feature wasn't as much of a hit as I'd hoped, because people looked at the data and said "wa? Murder rate correlates to gun ownership that makes sense. But look it correlates even more strongly to orange juice consumption!"

In a world without sites like NationMaster, we just leave it to experts to select which stats are most relevant. Of course an expert is by definition someone more knowledgable of the domain, so they will be able to digest the info more readily. But when more statistically significant figures are lying around and are not used, everyone should have access to them so they can ask why.

Now with SEO Sleuth, I chose to show every search going to every site. Now, any webmaster can tell you that people come to your site looking for pretty different things to what the site offers. And looking at the terms as a whole may give you a distorted view of what the site's about (but perhaps a good view of what parts of the site are of interest to searchers). But yeah, we're left with the same problem; people give a quick "that doesn't look right" and leave the site. One thing I considered was linking to the actual searches to prove it, but I didn't want to be republishing such sensitive data. So once again, the quandry. 


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