I took a statistics course for the first time in college. The professor had a stunningly monotone voice (though a great australian accent), the book was dense, the lectures long...but I loved it. It clicked right away, the numbers made sense, the data was fascinating.
I took another few classes in grad school - I loved the late nights at the computer lab trying to figure out what the data was saying. When I could tell a story with the data. A good story, one that made sense. My first job after grad school - lots of data, lots of statistics. What I discovered however? It made everyone mad.
Yep, mad. People hate being part of a data set.
Everyone is unique. Everyone defies statistics. You can't categorize people, or work places, or families, or groups, or anything, because that takes our individuality off the table. Everyone who is part of your data set, will swear up and down that they are unique can't be explained by statistics, don't fit for a long line of reasons.
Yet, the data is there - there are always outliers, everyone, everything has it's quirks, but the data tell fascinating tales. Just don't take it too personally. See the trends, enjoy the puzzle pieces, listen to the stories. You'll find fascinating tales.
This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.