Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Numbers Without Comparators

I just took a quick online quiz, and I got 7 out of 10. Go me! I'm awesome!

Am I?

If the average score is 5 out of 10, then yeah, I'm pretty awesome.
If the average score is 9 out of 10, well, I'm maybe not so awesome. (At least in this one way!)

I have a number - in this case a score: 7
I even have a scale: out of 10

But without knowing about how other people did, I don't know very much about how I did. Let's generalize:

Numbers, even on a scale, are generally pretty meaningless without comparators.

If you find yourself looking at a number - whether it's a score, a latency figure, a max users figure, or whatever - ask yourself how this number compares with similar numbers. Only then will you really know what you're looking at.