Monday, May 15, 2006

Data Misrepresentation - Population definition

Glaring example of how data is misrepresented.Check the headline out :
Did you find it as shocking as i did when i saw it? Imagine an average Indian, even if in the top 10 cities, paying 42 bills online annually! Read along, and somewhere in the second line suddenly this becomes 'upto 42 bills'. So what is it? Maximum of 42 , average of 42, what?
Of course, reporting a maximum doesn't make sense so we need to safely assume that the reporting is being done for some average. So you frantically read through the article all the time in the fear that life has completely changed in India and you were blissfully unaware of it.
And then you come across a 'tiny' detail in the article wayyyyyy down....
See the second para? 'the target audience comprised internet users...'. Right. Of course, it would have hurt to have the headline say "Average Indian internet user pays 42 bills online annually'. Note that i am not even putting the fact that the survey was done in the top 10 metros in the headline. I can imagine that making for a very unwieldly headline. But between saying 'top 10 cities' and 'internet users', i do think the latter is more important to declare upfront.
Else, this does make for a very misleading representation, especially given that it's the headline that would stick in most people's head. And hardly anyone's going to bother about searching for the population definition.

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