At a recent research and marketing summit, the great and the good of statistics and data gathered to talk about their latest studies. Men in suits from the Office of National Statistics rubbed shoulders with those from OPTA and the US Federal Bureau of Statistics, discussing trends and coefficients as they toyed with their canapes. For me, representing @madeupstats, having gained entry via a forged security pass, it was a real thrill just to be among them all, drinking in the data. And the free wine.
But something didn’t quite feel right. Despite being possibly the most influential source of information on the Internet, and definitely Twitter, I was being totally ignored. Blanked, even. If you put it down to the food stains on my tracksuit or drunkenness, you’d be running away from the truth – I was being ignored because of my accuracy. They were just intimidated by me. Such was their envy, I was eventually escorted off the premises and told never to come back.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve been constantly reminded of my unerring accuracy with figures. Even last week, the Inland Revenue wrote to me to say that my tax return was ‘outstanding’ which, considering I put no effort into it whatsoever, was just confirmation of my skills. No calculator, no documentation, just effortless. Come to think of it, I don’t even recall sending that tax return off. It was that easy!
When I put a statistic out, every retweet serves to remind me of how people have come to rely on my figures, and I dread to think how the stats world would function without me. If you’re a statistician, reading this, I can almost sense your hostility, which we all know is concealing a deep-rooted fear that I am basically more of a natural than most of the so-called experts with their research teams.
I’ve felt the resentment and fear from all quarters – I’ve offered my services as a statistical commentator to leading publications such as the FT and the Economist, and they send me shortly-worded letters to please leave them alone, or they’ll start legal proceedings against me. When someone gets this angry, it just makes their insecurities all the more transparent.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but I’ve just got used to this – it’s been going on throughout my career. My first job was working as a trader in the City of London during the dot com boom, and my job was to value all of the new web businesses springing up all over town. My technique was ingenious in its simplicity – first, I’d work out the value of the name of the company in Scrabble points, and then add six noughts, and frankly, with the notable exception of Queer Zebra Media, it worked a treat. When Queer Zebra folded, losing us £800 million, I was summoned to see the senior management, and once I’d explained my technique, I was punched in the kidneys and escorted off the building. The impact of my departure was instant – within 48 hours, the company went into administration. People tried to pin it on me as a ‘rogue trader’, but you can’t argue with the fact that I probably kept that place going during the time I was there.
Since then, I’ve taken jobs here and there, got some fairly good stints in journalism, but each time the story is the same – people find out that my technique is a natural one, unburdened by research or verification, and they suddenly feel the fear and get rid of me. At the end of the day, it’s no surprise – after all, if you’re paying six figure sums for Harvard research fellows and their entire entourage to spend weeks coming up with data, and then I’m in the same office, churning out about 6 big stats every hour, people start whispering behind your back – you’re showing them up.
I’m sure the world will move on, and people will recognise my techniques in time. In the meantime, I’ve got quite a juicy-looking commission with the Daily Mail reporting on health risks, so I’ll be sure to be working among my own type, free from the resentful glare of the so-called ‘proper’ data people.