The power of a single statistic (to distract)

“I know that major API changes are always a pain for developers and they would rather not have to deal with them, but please keep in mind stats like “42% of malicious extensions use the Web Request API” when you’re considering what we’re trying to improve here.”

—Justin Schuh, on Twitter. (Also stated in Google’s official post here)

Google is using a large number—42% of malicious extensions—in isolation to justify a decision. This number shows that a large proportion of ‘bad developers’ use this API. But this single data point gives no clue about how big is the total pool of developers using this API.

Are bad developers a large proportion of users of this API, or are they a tiny minority? In the latter case, Google’s action to deprecate/restrict the API may be fairly justified. In the former case, they could have chosen a better, alternative approach in dealing with the bad actors, rather than punishing the mostly good users.

An analogy for case 1:

Bank decides to close all doors leading to the street because 42% of all robbers walk-in through those doors.

Analogy for case 2:

Bank decides to close all waste disposal tunnels because 42% of all robbers sneak-in through those doors.

All we know is that 42% of robbers come in through a point. We don’t know if it’s the main customer entrance, or the waste disposal.

If this statistic was a big argument for this decision’s approval inside Google/Chrome-Dev, then they really need to revisit their decision-making fundamentals.

I seriously doubt this though. Googlers are very smart. They are dealing with mostly smart people on the outside. This number is not for them or us. This number is being published solely to turn the narrative, for the common reader, from ‘Google blocking APIs that stop ads and tracking‘ to ‘Google blocking APIs that stop malicious extensions‘.

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Decision making – the empty quadrant

 

Decision Making – the parliament, general elections and the Brexit referendum

The diagram in the previous post had an empty quadrant. It bugged me that I could not think of a decision making process that lay in that quadrant.

Which decision making process considers lots of options, and votes on them (or discusses them) regularly?

It came to me next morning. And once it came, it stayed. It’s so obvious that there are books, and cartoon strips, and TV sitcom episodes based on it.

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Decision making – the Parliament, general elections, and referendums

Here’s a basic principle of decision making:

If a decision is critical and not easily reversible, consider all options deeply.

If a decision is easily amendable, make a quick decision and revisit frequently.

General election voting uses the first principle. Parliaments vote using the second. The Brexit referendum was an illogical mix of the two, causing a biased outcome.

Decision Making – the parliament, general elections and the Brexit referendum
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