Sunday, August 26, 2012

Google and "the Sword of Data" - Analytics Taken too Far?

Hey, I love analytics. Two of my clients produce analytics software. Their products provide tremendous value to their customers in terms of insight and decision support.

Plus, their technology is slick as a trick and cool as ice.

So don't get me wrong.

But when I read an article in the current issue of ASTD's Learning and Development, I had to wonder about taking analytics too far. The article, by Ellen Wagner, is about learning analytics, but it references a 2009 blog post by Douglas Bowman former graphic design leader at Google as to why he left that company.

Bowman says in part:

Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case.

Bowman concludes by saying he would not miss operating "under the sword of data."


Like I said, I love analytics. And far be it from me to suggest Google may be wrong about anything. They seem to be a fairly successful little company.

But Sheesh, if your team can't decide on whether a line should be three or four pixels wide, has the reliance on data maybe gone a little too far? Even with the smartest analytcis tools, who has time to test every detail? (Other than Google apparently.)

At some level of granularity, don't you have to just trust people to make decisions?

I don't know, I'm asking.

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