Last year, I was tasked, by-proxy, with the joyous assignment of conjuring a user interface; thanks in part to my stint at a regional technology start-up. The product was new, the website was new; and the “users” yet to be manifest. It had all the makings of an intellectual playground. I was chomping at the bit; eager to bestow my insights on human behavior; humbly, of course.
In the room were product owners, UX specialists, and software engineers. Every base was covered.
Now, to the task at hand. . . .
It was generally agreed-upon that the site wasn’t enticing users to sign up and participate.
Why? . . .
When, informally, it became my turn to voice my input, I anti-climatically remarked with what amounted to ” . . .It’s shitty “. (roundabouts). I elaborated with the reasoning behind my purposely disarming and intentionally humorous statement. The application, I continued, didn’t assume anything. It was tailored to everyone in general and no one in particular. There was no statement to curtail its usage. It was curated but not tuned. It was loud but impotent.
The retort to my line of reasoning was, essentially, a question:
What data did I posses to support the claim?
Intrinsic in this question was the notion that, were engineers to change the elements of the experience, metrics regarding “user” usage should exist and support the proposed path. My ruminations began to sputter. I chose deference over what was sure to be a heated exchange. Though it was people (themselves, potential users) that filled the room, I started to see beyond the facade. I was dealing with a combined 50 years of data science education and user experience evangelizing. I might as well have stood up and performed a jig. It would have been just as effective.
The faith claim
The science-as-a-religion movement, were it to come clean and re-write its mission statement, exists on the premise that faith claims are harmful, presumptive, and detrimental to the hypothesis of civilization, specifically commerce. Assuming a point of reference (some might call it a standard) is a selfish act; subjective and esoteric-to-a-fault. My observation was “un-shareable” despite the knowing glances I received from around the room (however unintentional). My harmless diatribe was un-actionable, philosophical, and missing the element of being task-oriented.
Yet I performed my jig .. . . . Ever heard the sound of silence?
Forgetting what you already know
The science-religion, if it can be credited with anything, has mastered the art of the overreach. Claims of faith, god rest their soul, inherit an intrinsic disadvantage by being traceable, audit-able, and subjective in origin; personified by their speaker. I sometimes wonder if the “rise in Atheism” (questionable itself) proportionately correlates with “Father” angst. Faith-claims are easy to discredit. (I was standing right there).
The ultimate and unspoken irony of the whole matter, however, owed to one simple, yet seemingly forgotten principle. By assuming nothing; haven’t you assumed everything?
The glorious humor in the science movement is the irony of its apparent allergy to axiom. Data Science, according to its chief evangelists freed us from the restraints of the self evident statement (and the ensuing business disasters) (and personal blunders). No longer will we patronize meanderings of instinct and the speculative wisp of intuition. You see, our patronage is in the machine. A feat of deflection you might wonder? No. It is the supreme edict of piety; passed down to us by the White-Coats in the Laboratory in the sky.
Removing oneself as a frame of reference, it is told, counteracts the chicanery and guesswork of the precept. The laws of nature and of nature’s god are arbitrary, capricious, and uncomfortably autocratic. Give us that new-time religion! What would data do?
Tell-tale signs of fundamentalism (however it manifests) are in the inscrutability of its claims; with the exception, of course, being for the zealots that corroborate its syntax.
I realized, in that conversation, that deflection comes in many forms. The new religion evades scrutiny by, itself, purporting to be its supreme manifestation. Scriptures were God-breathed; data is cross-referenced.
Fuck it . .