Monthly Archives: March 2008

God is in the details

Some say “The devil is in the details,” meaning solutions break down when you examine them closely enough. Some say “God is in the details,” meaning opportunities for discovery and creativity come from digging into the details. Both are true,

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Posted in Creativity, Statistics

Perlis on complexity

From Alan Perlis: Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.  See this site for a list of other epigrams from Perlis.

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Posted in Creativity

Dose-finding: why start at the lowest dose?

You’ve got a new drug and it’s time to test it on patients. How much of the drug do you give? That’s the question dose-finding trials attempt to answer. The typical dose-finding procedure starts by selecting a small number of

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Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

Feasibility studies

Jeff Atwood gives a summary of Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering by Robert Glass on his blog. I was struck by point #14: The answer to a feasibility study is almost always “yes”. I hadn’t thought about that before,

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Posted in Business, Software development

Innovation IV

John Tukey said efficiency = statistical efficiency x usage. I don’t know the context of this quote, but here’s what I think Tukey meant. The usefulness of a statistical method depends not just on the method’s abstract virtues, but also on

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Posted in Statistics

Linear interpolator

I added a form to my web site yesterday that does linear interpolation. If you enter (x1, y1) and (x2, y2), it will predict x3 given y3or vice versa by fitting a straight line to the first two points. It’s

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Posted in Math

Innovation III

In his book Diffusion of Innovations Everett Rogers lists five factors in determining rate of adoption of an innovation. First is the relative advantage of the innovation. This is not limited to objective improvements but also includes factors such as social prestige.

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Posted in Business, Computing, Creativity

Innovation II

In 1601, an English sea captain did a controlled experiment to test whether lemon juice could prevent scurvy.  He had four ships, three control and one experimental.  The experimental group got three teaspoons of lemon juice a day while the

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Posted in Clinical trials, Creativity, Science

Innovation I

Innovation is not the same as invention. According to Peter Denning, An innovation is a transformation of practice in a community. It is not the same as the invention of a new idea or object. The real work of innovation is

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Posted in Business, Creativity

The simplest thing that might work

Ward Cunningham‘s design advice is to try the simplest thing that might work. If that doesn’t work, try the next simplest thing that might work. Note the word “might.” We all like simplicity in theory, and we may think we’re following Cunningham’s

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Posted in Creativity

Interview with Ward Cunniningham

A professor told me one time that you’re lucky if you have one good idea in your career. He said he was famous because he’d had two or three good ideas. Ward Cunningham has had at least two good ideas. He created

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Posted in Software development

Multiple comparisons

Multiple comparisons present a conundrum in classical statistics. The options seem to be: do nothing and tolerate a high false positive rate be extremely conservative and tolerate a high false negative rate do something ad hoc between the extremes A

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Posted in Statistics

What's better about small companies?

Popular business writers often say flat organizations are better than hierarchical organizations, and small businesses are better than big businesses. By “better” they usually mean more creative, nimble, fun, and ultimately profitable. But they don’t often try to explain why small

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Posted in Business

Simple unit tests

After you’ve read a few books or articles on unit testing, the advice becomes repetitive. But today I heard someone who had a few new things to say. Gerard Meszaros made these points in an interview on the OOPSLA 2007

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Posted in Software development

Plausible reasoning

If Socrates is probably a man, he’s probably mortal. How do you extend classical logic to reason with uncertain propositions, such as the statement above? Suppose we agree to represent degrees of plausibility with real numbers, larger numbers indicating greater

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Posted in Math, Statistics