I found this to be a weird criticism:
Unfortunately, Silver seems to have taken the wrong lesson from his election-forecasting success. In that case, he pitted his statistical approach against campaign-narrative pundits, who turned out to know approximately nothing. What he seems to have concluded is that there are no experts anywhere, that a smart data analyst can and should ignore all that.
But not all fields are like that — in fact, even political analysis isn’t like that, if you talk to political scientists instead of political reporters. So, for example, before glancing at some correlation and asserting causation, you really should talk to the researchers.
Similarly, climate science has been developed by many careful researchers who are every bit as good at data analysis as Silver, and know the physics too, so ignoring them and hiring a known irresponsible skeptic to cover the field is a very good way to discredit your enterprise. Economists work hard on the data; on the whole you’re going to do better by tracking their research than by trying to roll your own, and you should be very wary if your analysis runs counter to what a lot of professionals say.
I agree on the climate skeptic aspect, but this just reads like the kind of criticism that Krugman himself would hate. There was not one specific criticism or even the hint of an example of Silver ignoring experts, just a vague assertion that he may have learned the wrong lesson. I’ve read almost every article today at 538, after I read the Krugman post, and I have to admit, I don’t know what the hell he is talking about.
On the other hand, everything I have read and seen, from the bizarre and painful and uncomfortably earnest youtube introductory videos to the weird hires, makes me think that Klein/Yglesias Vox is simply destined to become a hybrid of Slate contrarianism and Politico puke funnel beltway insider bullshit. It almost feels like that is what they are shooting for, sadly.
I’ll place my odds on the guy who understands sports betting.
I don’t read anybody until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by all you good people. That said, I think Krugman was interpreting something Silver said in an interview rather than any particular article that’s come out of 538.
one of Kthug’s links mentions dr mann pointing out the former.
Your lack of faith in the Thugman is really, really, disturbing.
We have the two bastions of liberal affirmation, the Always Right liberaltarianish actuary Nate and the Always Right Progressive Krugman. This is destined to be a clash of 2014, and you better get on the right side of history buddy.
Nate has successfully predicted reality, Krugman has predicted reality before it happened.
one of the chapters in silver’s book was about climate change. he interviewed dr mann for it and proceeded to mischaracterize what he said to cough up some piece of crap contrarianist bit. dr mann was all ‘what the fuck?’
when it comes to climate change silver has a known habit of deliberately ignoring the experts.
In this earlier blog post, Krugman specifically critiques this 538 piece on corporate cash hoards.
Maybe we should wait to pass judgment until the site is more than a couple weeks old?
So I also rely on you good people to correct my errors, and apparently I was wrong about the basis for Krugman’s criticisms. Interesting stuff.
Villago Delenda Est
Alas, this seems to be what they’re both shooting for, because, well, clicks. We all know that clicks=cash.
So sad, yet so predictable.
@Villago Delenda Est:
I’m glad we have TPM, but they do that a lot with their headlines and many of their stories.
ETA: Great new slate of Newsmax articles for you.
You know I had forgotten about that–good memory. Also, points to what may be an unfortunate bias in Sliver’s analysis.
how much money did nate make on those bets?
If I rephrased Krugman’s piece as “Not everyone is as stupid and easy to outthink as Politico” you would probably agree.
The new 538 is just getting started. It seems like right now there is too small a data sample for anyone to draw any meaningful conclusions about its success. The same is true about Vox. Why not let these enterprises operate for a while and establish a voice and a record?
So much impatience.
“good point”? Whats the difference between predicting something and predicting something “before it happened”?
That’s the kind of think a Nate Silver fan would say. ;-)
@Villago Delenda Est:
Completely agree. P. Krugman has said his bit (roughly, about some fields have working, hard-won human-understandable predictive models) and I interpret that as an attempt to nudge 538 away from hackery, of the data-driven type.
So far the site seems fine, could use some more sophistication. (maybe technical sidebars, or links to further reading?)
@John Cole: I think it’s possible that Nate can be objective in something other than analytics, but it’s a good thing some pundits are throwing down some ley lines to keep him from wandering too far. He knows everybody is watching now and missteps like climate change are going to get howled at.
(er, what Bill just said)
@Mutaman: In case you’ve missed the last decade or so, there’s this problem with pundits groking reality as it is even at the exit poll.
@Mutaman: The point SRV was making was that Nate Silver analyzed data and predicted and election, and that Krugman looked around after what he had seen for 15 years and pretty accurately predicted the political realities of the past 10 years. It isn’t the same.
Hell, the Spanish octopus had a pretty good record of predicting world cup games, but could he explain why who won? Was it enlightening? Models, even clever models can successfully mimic events but explain bugger all. They can be empty calories. Useful empty calories for certain purposes, but still essentially digital octopuses. (Because clearly hedgehogs and foxes alone don’t make up enough of a menagerie.)
Silver predicts the outcome of specific events, such as a presidential election. Krugman does something much more difficult: he accurately predicts the future (with respect to the economy).
I think these are the pertinent excerpts:
In other words, conventional wisdom, in politics, often screams out for a data driven point of view, while, the conventional wisdom in science is already a data-driven point of view, so, picking someone who is as dishonest with the data as Pielke is is pretty much a slap in the face to the idea of data driven punditry.
@Villago Delenda Est: Since they have not posted a story yet, it is hard to say what it is or will be. While I ostensibly have faith that if properly directed Klein could develop a good policy analysis niche more influential than his WonkBlog at WaPo (yes he does need direction), however Yglesias is the classic expert at nothing. So it is hard to see what value he would bring to a serious effort requiring expertise. Therefore it is highly unlikely Vox will produce that sort of content. All I can see is content resembling a merger of Pandagon and Yglesias old typepad blog, only ten years later and with someone giving them millions to do it. If that sounds nuts, then yes, yes it is nuts. No wonder Bezos refused to be that man.
However, it doesn’t even require that level of analysis to understand how Vox will turn out. The site is backed by SB Nation, the worst click whore sports site ever. I think it will basically be a fusion between Buzzfeed politics, SB Nation-style politics (e.g., 10 Funniest Politicians, 10 Reasons Dems Suck Slideshow, etc.) and Wonkblog. Probably heavy on opinion/analysis and very little reporting, if any.
I did not know about Paul the Octopus, thanks. From the wikipedia article,
I said earlier, using very different language, that the election forecasts were low hanging fruit for Nate, and that he may not find it so easy to replicate his success. At the time, I hadn’t read this: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-the-fox-knows/
So it’s clear he has a good idea about what he’s trying to do. But it’s not gonna be so easy. And do keep in mind poblano spent a couple of cycles honing his approach.
@scav: calamari is empty calories? is that why it is always served as an appetizer?
Uh, isn’t the latter the definition of a prediction?
In case you missed it what happened is that Nate Silver brought in a writer with a history of being unfairly critical of climate change and surprise surprise 538’s first article on climate change is literally titled “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”
Krugman is (in a roundabout fashion) just critiquing the man Silver picked to write about climate change – a critique everyone of the left should share.
Krugman’s specific criticism and example:
From the story to which Krugman links:
Granted, it’s not Silver personally, but it’s one of his writers posting at his site. If you read the whole ThinkProgress article, you will see that several data-driven climate scientists basically tear Pielke a new one for exactly what Krugman charges: ignoring the experts and their deep analysis of the data.
Silver’s “data-driven” approach may work in areas where the data are now largely ignored (or unskewed), e.g., political punditry, but I think Krugman makes a fair point in warning that it may not work so well in areas where the subject-matter experts already have a pretty good handle on the data.
What you said.
exactly. science is already data-driven, climate science especially so. being able to aggregate polls effectively in politics, a fact-free world if ever i saw one, may make you look like some sort of super-genius but it’s meaningless as to the reality of climate change.
is he going to bring on someone who takes a dump on evolution next?
Mike in NC
Silver has decided to join Chuck Todd and the other Village Idiots. Pay is much better.
it’s a bit like richard muller at berkeley. he was more than a bit of a climate denier, but being a physicist he believed himself to be a master of all domains (as many physicists unfortunately are). his group, decided to show how the models etc and measurements were all wrong because what the hell would all those climate scientists who’ve been working on the problem for 3 fucking decades know? they’re not physicists!
when he finally published his findings (all the denialistas like watts were champing at the bit), it turns out the climatologists were right! HOOCOODANODE! his results fit almost perfectly with what all the guys who’ve been going over the data for decades have been saying.
and at least in his case, the dude is a scientist, not a poll-watcher or a ‘political scientist’.
@Mike in NC: Question is how much of bw truthism will seep into his staple election outcome punditry thereby affecting his sole credibility.
Gin & Tonic
@KG: Calamari is squid, not octopus. Please, let’s keep our cephalopods straight.
I’m curious why you would bet against a nobel winning economist who is also used to staring at statistical data.
If you were aiming to sell your startup for a few hundred million after a couple of years, what do you think the target buyers will be wanting, accuracy or faux insider bullshit with a dose of hippie bashing?
I really, really appreciated Silver’s contribution to politics, but even as I did, that did occur to me… that he’s really not inventing sliced bread. He’s just doing something that, in a sane world, should be the starting point of conversations (that sort of data-driven analysis). It’s just that media political “analysis” is a field so saturated with bullshit that almost no one else could be bothered to do it.
Villago Delenda Est
@Brandon: Some of the hires from both are the tells here. Sure, nothing’s been actually published yet, but it’s pretty clear from controversial hires where this thing is going.
@Gin & Tonic:[Please, let’s keep our cephalopods straight.]
Not so easy.
Me too. That intro YouTube video was laughably awful, although Matt’s suit was worth seeing. The video itself screamed style over content and the whole thing felt like Village 2.0: Now with More Hipster Glasses.
Gin & Tonic
@jayackroyd: I knew somebody would do that.
And that’s the difference between a good scientist and a hack. He published his results even though they wound up making his initial skepticism look foolish. He may have been wrong to think the climate scientists didn’t know what they were doing, but at least he didn’t compound his error by sticking to his guns when the facts were against him.
You’re confusing SB Nation with Bleacher Report. SB’s setup is pretty much the opposite of click-bait.
the thing i’m worried about is, one of the primary ways deniers deny is by misusing and abusing statistics. so a guy who is known far and wide for being pretty good with stats could, in theory, do a bit of damage when it comes to the public understanding the climate.
luckily we have people like tamino (who’s probably forgotten more about stats than silver has ever learned), but even then, he doesn’t have near the megaphone silver does.
You have to follow a chain of links, but Krugman points towards a correlation/causation criticism of an old 538 post (from the old site), where it’s hypothesized that the gov’t has become less popular as it’s taken on more and more social insurance duties (and less “traditional” gov’t duties like building roads).
Krugman uses that as an example of what can happen when you read too much into simple data correlations without bothering to talk to the people who have dedicated their careers to researching the subject. (In this example, linking to a political science who throws cold water on the notion that gov’t popularity is inversely related to how much “social insurance” it does.)
Basically, Krugman is saying that it’s bad for someone to conclude, “Since I know data, I’m an expert on any subject matter that I can get data for.” He’s saying that there is still something that can be learned from researchers in that field who have developed models for those subjects. His impression of the new 538 is that they fancy themselves experts on any and all things that they can get data for and are ignoring the years of strenuous research others have done on the topics.
Krugman has been on 538’s case all week. This post about corporate cash hoarding (which was the first econ piece on the site) got this response from Krugman-
538 decided to go against analysis Krugman has been doing for some time. If Silver thought Krugman was another Scarborough or Noonan, he deserved the bruising he got. It’s like Silver was the superstar in college but when he got to the NFL, he got burned. It doesn’t mean there is no hope. However, Silver better step up his game…
I think Nate got too much credit for his “predictions”. Kos did even better than him, as did one other I believe (could be TPM, not sure).
But as for Krugman’s analysis, he went into more detail in a few other posts, so maybe you have to read them together.
To the point about Vox, were you every really in doubt that Ezra “Paul Ryan is an honest, wonky wonk” Klein and Matt “I was for the Iraq war because I wanted to be a dick, oh, also, poor people in 3rd world countries totally don’t need better work conditions even if over 1000 of them die in a horrible building collapse” Yglesias would run anything other than a contrarian slate like site?
They do occasional good work, but Klein lost it at two big points. His love of Paul Ryan, and his hysterics over the health care roll out. I compare his reporting to the columns done on this very sight by Richard, and it isn’t even close. We have one person writing soberly about what things mean, and another trying to get in headlines for saying this is DOOOOOOMED!!!!
I have no doubt the site will have good qualities, but Vox websites in general is are just a slight step above buzzfeed in their clickbait articles.
To put things in perspective, the ‘technical’ side of 538 was the sort of data analysis a first year PhD student in econ at a decent school could put together (this doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable contribution to saner political coverage). Krugman also knows this, and is simply pointing out that master’s level data-analysis will take you pretty far in an area where the status quo is such that mastery of Excel spreadsheets makes you a “numbers guy.” But when you step in to the arena with people who have been thinking about data and crunching code on super-computers for decades, you better bring your A game or you’re gonna get your ass handed to you (much as 538 schooled the narrative crap when it came to election outcomes). And yes, I know this same point was made above, but figured it was worth noting that K-thug comes from a discipline where (some) people take data-analysis extremely seriously.
@Nylund: Pretty much a hallmark of my/Silver’s generation(s), and young engineer-y types in general? It’s one of the reasons Silicon Valley has souch a douchey “I made this without anybody’s help and clearly that means that you’re doing ________ wrong!” streak IMO. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had where somebody says “You just used Appeal to Authority! That’s a logical fallacy!” ….no, it’s only a fallacy if they’re not an authority, or the method of authority-determination is wrong.
(Source: live and work there)
@Kevin: I know I’ve been beating this drum lately, but Sam Wang at Princeton was more accurate too, and his analysis is lovely and elegant, really upsettingly simple, *and* his code is public.
Another problem with Silver’s site, and why I’m annoyed with the “it’s only been a few weeks” crying is…it’s only been a few weeks! He has had months to prepare. Where is the story that will get people talking?
Did the launch of the website come as a surprise to Nate and his crew? It felt like they stayed up late and handed in their assignments just at the deadline, when in reality, this was their shot to have their most well researched articles published. Ever hear the saying “you have a lifetime to write your first album, but a year to write your second”? Well, this launch was their first album. And they blew it.
From now on, deadlines will be shorter. The crew will have to write multiple columns a week. They will never have that massive time frame to just polish one story again. And in that time, they produced absolutely nothing of value. and in fact, they blew some (climate change). So until I start seeing other people link to them with “here’s a great 538 post about…”, i think i’ll leave that site alone.
Thanks J.Ty, I believe that was the name I was looking for. I believe he and Kos both got all 50 states, and at closer % to the final results. So Nate’s profile in the Times helped, and so did his feud with the dumbasses at Politico and Scarborough.
If Obama and the dems are unable to mobilize their presidential cycle hoards for the congressional elections (which is normally the case) Silver is right. Krug is tripping over his wishful-thinking.
We are effectively two very different nations. One that shows up every four years and another that shows up every two.
To what are you referring? Krugman didn’t say anything about Silver’s political analysis or, as far as I have read, anything about the congressional elections.
this. climate science, as tim pointed out on the FP a few days back, is some hard shit. the climate scientists I know look at silver and say ‘bitch, the model I just finished working on is running on one of the biggest clusters in the world. you don’t have to try to lecture me on fucking basic stats.’
@chopper: that too. If his book is any indication, he seems to think he’s the only person using–wait for it!–Bayesian analysis!
So he must know more than you.
Culture of Truth
Wait, so Silver and Klein/Ezra and GG are all separate websites? I gotta catch up.
A good summation.
I don’t understand Krugman’s criticism either. He seems to think that Silver doesn’t know about self described experts other than journalistic gasbags. Silver has a BA in economics from Chicago — he’s been exposed to prominent academic economists. Krugman specifically argues that Silver has to recognize that political scientists know more than political journalists do. Silver’s father was chairman of the Michigan State political science department.
Very odd for Krugman to write such a silly post. More here
@Robert Waldmann: Krugman’s criticism is based on the idea that people who have spent their professional lives studying something might just know something about it.*
*Political pundits aren’t (as a rule) people who have spent their professional lives studying something.
Krugman is pointing out — rightly so — that the fact that political reporters don’t understand data does not also mean that climate scientists don’t know data and so are wrong when they tell us that global warming is really happening.
Silver hired a global warming denialist and seems pretty convinced that global warming doesn’t really exist. This does not speak well for his upcoming website.
@amk: Jewel’s mother is a horse. My mother is a fish.
Too bad the bit has been retired. Nate S. and Ezra K., pitching their sites, are ripe for someone to portray.
I agree Cole. Silver and Micah Cohen actually quoted tons of Poli Sci profs for their stories in the NYT circa 2012 election and lead up. They did a story every week on one state that interviewed at least three poli sci profs from those states.
@chopper: Yeah, if Silver wanted someone who can analyse climate data and write about it, but isn’t currently doing so for a living at a university, tamino would have been ideal (but whether he’d want to leave his current real work to do it, I don’t know). By hiring Pielke, Silver seems to have decided to be ‘contrarian’, and not go for data analysis after all.
I think you’re on to something, and how can we get the presidential election voters to step up their game?
If wr0ng way Cole thinks the analysis is odd then Krugman must be on to something.
Journalists who hate Silver because he’s a “numbers guy” also tend to fluff up his status as “statistics expert” because they don’t understand that either. His formal training is an AB in economics from U of Chicago, though of course he could have plenty of informal non-credentialed learning.
Point is, that when in competition with journalists for whom “average” is a mysterious concept, the “data guy” looks very very smart. When in competition with Ph.D elite researchers in their relevant fields, Silver likely doesn’t know very much.
Krugman isn’t really a statistics/data guy by the standards of econ, but he knows enough to know what he doesn’t know, and what others do.
in politics being able to convince people you can add three numbers together makes you a ‘wonk’ or a ‘numbers guy’. look at paul ryan. he’s supposed to be some math guy because his budget, which doesn’t add up at all, has a bunch of made-up numbers in it.
I’ve one thing, and only one thing to say: Matt Yglesias (Future Conservative).
That is all.