I’m going to specialize in short, curmudgeony blog posts this week.
Today’s topic: you always need something to compare a new thing with. It’s this versus what?
If it’s a model, compare it to noise. That is, go ahead and test a model by scrambling the “y”s and see how well your model predicts randomness. It’s a really good and inexpensive way of seeing whether your model is better than noise, so go ahead and do it. There’s even a name for this but I forget what it is (update from reader: permutation testing).
If it’s a plan for a system or the world, compare it to the status quo. I’m so sick of people discarding good plans because they’re not perfect. If they’re better than what’s currently going on, then let’s go with that. Which brings me to my last example.
If it’s someone’s proposal (person A), compare it to other proposals (person B). I don’t think it’s fair for people (person C) to nix an idea unless they come up with a better one. If person C is consistently doing that, it’s a good bet that they have something to protect in the status quo situation, which brings us to the previous example.