In defense of junk stats (and junk food)

A reasonable amount of indulgence makes reasonable sense

I think Noah Lorang is exactly right on the data-nutritional value of real-time dashboards. It’s all empty calories. Like a bag of M&Ms or a serving of McD french fries. Salt, fat, and sugar. If that’s the main diet of information you’re using to grow your business, you’re not going to end up in a healthy place.

But there’s another way to use real-time dashboards. That is to realize that, yes, they are indeed empty calories, and, no, they shouldn’t supplant a properly prepared, slow-data analysis of what’s really going on, BUT. BUT.


Sometimes, intentionally being unhealthy feels so good it’s worth it. Especially if you’re just in need of a little spike because the going is tough or you’re trying something new that’s hard. That doesn’t for a moment mean you’re giving up on the virtues of #SlowData, merely that you accept your the existence as flawed and succumb to the occasional vice.

My wife occasionally gives me grief about drinking soda. And I know it’s not good for me, but holy fuck a three-degree-Celsius-chilled, cane-sugar Coke served in a glass bottle is just damn delicious. The way I justify this indulgence is with hyperbole: Everyone needs a vice. It’s either this or hookers and blow!

I kinda think the same of real-time dashboards. They’re a vice, but vices are fun. They don’t give me deep insights, but cheap highs to keep going. They’re quick and early, and sometimes wrong. But if we’re trying something new to attempt to move the needle, I’ll accept the risk of the early indicators being wrong before they’re statistically significant in trade for the snappy feedback.

It’s possible to like Mozart’s Symphony №4 and Justin Bieber at the same time. It’s possible to accept both your virtues and vices. Just as long as you know which is which and keep the ratio between them right.

I’d like to think that we drive most consequential decisions at Basecamp through reasoned logic, statistically signicant empirical findings, but I’ve also come to accept that some times we Just Wing It. Some times we just go on gut or on belief. You be the judge of whether we got that balance right, if you give Basecamp 3 a try.