Follow the Data

A data driven blog

Cool data > big data?

From a 2006 post on Seth Roberts’ blog:

One day on the track I met a professor who had recently gotten tenure. He had only published three articles (maybe he had 700 in the pipeline), so his getting tenure surprised me. I asked him: What’s the secret? What was so great about those three papers? His answer was two words: “Cool data.”


I’m a big believer in cool data. The design goal is: How far can we possibly push it so that it makes it a vivid point? Most academics push it just far enough to get it published. I try to push it beyond that to make it much more vivid. That’s what [Stanley] Milgram did with his experiments. First, he showed obedience to authority in the lab. Then he stripped away a whole lot of things to show how extreme it was. He took away lab coats, the college campus. That’s what made it so powerful.


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One thought on “Cool data > big data?

  1. Petter Holme on said:

    I’m back from a conference where this was very much the spirit. “We have access to the entire F-book, but are not really thinking of analyzing the whole thing. That wouldn’t tell us anything we wouldn’t know from smaller samples.”

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