This is cross-posted from the Disruption Department Blog.
I love information and relationships. I love numbers and how they help me make better decisions. But a sneer comes to my lips each time I say the word “data”.
It’s either because:
- I’m not very smart.
- I’m a communist.
- I reject cliche’s out of hand.
- The word represents an artificial division I’ve strove to overcome.
A quote from an article written by Raph Koster about metrics and Free to Play game design (F2P) really strikes home with regards to reason number 4:
We have to be honest with ourselves. There is an awful lot of stuff that we have cherished for a long time in the games business which turns out not to work. Sometimes it takes us years to shed the scales from our eyes about the fact that hoary conventions of yore are just that — conventions, mutable and open to change.
Koster has what seems to me a healthy relationship with “data” (info, metrics, whatever). He is able to see the forrest and the trees about numbers, while keeping humanity and perspective in tact. This has always been the problem for me when discussing data with my colleagues in my building and online.
He goes on to describe what lies outside the “field of measurement”: “Anything that unfolds over a very long period of time”, “[a]nything that lies in the realm of emotion”, “[a]nything that is a short-term loss for a long-term gain”, and “[a]nything that exists outside of the game proper”.
He concludes this list with this statement:
Most critically, measurements are excellent at telling you where to iterate. They are not so good at quantum leaps.
But this has been the problem as of late. I feel like I’ve been striving for quantum leaps, but missed small iterations. I feel like I’ve tried too hard to be transformative, but failed to see the smaller steps, the little successes necessary for growth. I feel like I’ve leapt away from “science” because I felt like it stripped away my humanity, rather than finding a way to use science to support my own humanity and that of my students.
Koster concludes his post with a bit of advice:
If you ask me, the best way to make F2P games better would to find ways to provide provable metrics on why the things we value add to the bottom line. Community, artistry, narrative, brand, retention, customer sentiment, whatever your particular religion is — find a way to measure cause and effect and demonstrate the business value.
While we don’t run a busines (I will always cringe when discussing education with most business folks when they draw this analogy), those of us that consider our work transformative to education in some way seek to add value to the “bottom line” (let’s say, grade level expectations and factory-modeled education). If we are going to take this “long view” emotionally, we must understand the short-view intellectually.
More human metrics can support this approach, and I solicit stories of your experience with “data” to help round out my own cuddling up to it.