Poor data and misleading metrics are bad for everyone. (BTW Nate Silver is a data hero.)
This article from Cheryl Davenport and Co.Exist has 3 really great tips for people who want to protect themselves from bad data … and in many cases intentional manipulations. Think of it as a good primer for seeking information in any context. Here’s a brief summary.
1: ASK: “SO WHAT?”
Don’t just drink the kool-aid right. Better yet, as Davenport argues demand data, especially from your leaders that explains the problems you want to solve.
2: DEMAND CONSISTENCY
How can you really draw conclusions when data can be manipulated in so many ways. The argument here is to press our leaders to agree upon a common set of measures and data and then we must judge them often.
3. SEEK CONTEXT
When data is presented we must engage with it. We have to seek validation. If you take the face value, all you get is the face. Beauty’s only skin deep. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Choose your metaphor but get the point. Never trust a single source…verify.
Cheryl Davenport. 2012: The Anti-Data Election. Accessed November 8, 2012. via 2012: The Anti-Data Election | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.