Analysis or Opinion, Faith or Facts?

I had a good email exchange yesterday with a friend. It started after the Tuesday post on improvement – and my comment about switching from MYOB to Xero. My friend is a big MYOB fan, and challenged the assertion that Xero is better.

Now I happen to believe Xero is better as a result of meeting too many people that rave about it, knowing how good the people that work there now, worked there before and invested in the company are, and by seeing it in use by others. But that’s beside the point – as he said:

I thought consulting taught you to work on facts and not anecdotes!!!!

later on he also said:

As consultants we cannot constrain advice to what we have experience with….but if we give advice we should do analysis.

and then:

The issue I have with blogs is the kind of “no discipline” approach to writing. Its easy to have ideas but when you put facts behind them a lot of good ideas become bad ideas. How many time have you done consulting…had ideas…but when you use discipline and write them down…using facts…you end up discarding them.

Also the fact that I believe the problem of the world is not lack of information, but lack of proper analysis of information.

All good points. My take is that bloggers are not alike – and that some blogs find news, some add analysis to the news, and some add informed or uninformed opinion. Indeed some blogs are ‘faith based’ rather than fact based.

The more faith-based opinion blogs (which are often political) can be good fun to have a decent argument in, and the great ones generally get a lot of traffic from their fans and detractors alike.

The analysis blogs need to walk the line between writing insightful content and writing articles that will actually get read. It’s hard, takes a lot more work and boring prose is ever-threatening.

In reality we bloggers all do a bit of everything – using faith and fact as the basis of our analysis or opinion. I see it as a continuum.

And here I should present a chart showing popular Kiwi blogs on a continuum from fact based to faith based, and from rigorous analysis to canned opinion:


As you can see – it is empty.

I tried – I really did – but it is too hard and only going to get me pelted from all sides. Who wants to be ‘faith-based’?. What I should really do is make up a scoring system to measure each of the two axes, and systematically measure the top blogs in NZ and the USA.

That’s a great idea – but it would take time that I’d rather put into other things – but I will continue to mull the idea for a while.

Meanwhile aside from the occasional Valuecruncher, which stays consistently fact based and analytical, most bloggers vary from post to post. I would posit they we have to do this to stay interesting and insightful while being with fun to read and more importantly, fun to write.

So over on interest.co.nz/blog you will get boring fact based analysis on exchange rates (though I’d say that any analysis on short term exchange rates is faith based) along with highly charged opinion pieces, albeit with supporting facts, from Bernard.

WhaleOil meanwhile mixes facts and analysis into the polemic faith-based opinions, making for both entertainment and interesting reading.

No Right Turn and Kiwiblog (commenters aside) each operate from a particular faith-based angle, but they strongly support their opinions and analysis with facts and vary their posts across the spectrum. Both blogs make for entertaining, informational and insightful reading.

Personal blogs like this, Rowan Simpson‘s and Natalie at Simpleandloveable and many many others (I’ll stop there for risk of offending anyone I miss out – one reason I don’t do a blogroll) vary between the occasional rant, the odd bit of analysis, some genuine insights and the odd bit of personal news. They also operate across the spectrum.

What do you think – is this a chart and measurement system that could work? Do we care? What do we really want?

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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7 Responses to Analysis or Opinion, Faith or Facts?

  1. sue says:

    what i know of xero is it looks amazing, and it is amazing.

    but
    if you sat down with people who do the accounts, actual account clerks you often hear different stories. As much as MYOB is a dog there are still things it does that xero doesn’t.

    Yes Xero is constantly upgrading and updating
    but for a switch to happen one needs to check if xero can do everything you need it to.

    you need to spend some time at some accounts society meetings with people who do the work and get their thoughts, but not at a xero event just as one of their normal networking ones, people start talking over tea and cupcakes :D

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  2. “Do we care? ”

    That would depend on who we are.

    Had a chat with a young woman yesterday at the Don Brash AUT speech who felt that David Farrar wasn’t up front about his National Party bias. While I disagree about that, she is probably sufficiently discriminating that knowing a blogs a position on your chart is no doubt important to her. I suspect fact and analysis would appeal to that kind of person.

    I find the “The Standard” and it’s “choosing facts to support it’s faith” approach so nauseating that I am unable to even read it’s RSS feeds let alone dirty myself by going there to read.

    Kiwiblog’s threads are crawling with trolls who are so deep into their faith that they believe their opinions are facts. I doubt if fact based analysis would appeal to them at all.

    Obver at interest.co.nz we have a few “true believers” who fit their response into any particular issue into their particular religion.

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  3. Ben Kepes says:

    Lance… as one who is already offended at the omission from your post (not really, just ribbing) it’s an interesting question.

    For me I love the fact that I can read your blog, gain some insightful analysis, be pissed off at your opinionated pieces 9when they don’t concur with my world view) and enjoy having a glimpse under the covers (to risk the use of that particular metaphor) and see some of the stuff that goes on for you – your bike trips, investment updates and the like.

    This is the context that Barry Colman forgets about when tearing strips off bloggers – it’s the content that builds a contextual whole – and one that is hard or impossible to replicate in the traditional model…

    So… to answer all your questions

    1) MYOB vs Xero – people are trying to measure this in black and white. It’s so not like that. Both have strengths and weaknesses in functionality and market strategies. Both are developing stuff to a greater or lesser extent and both have value to different users.. they’re just tools after all

    2) The blogging graph – it’d be so hard to do. I look at my own blog and each post can swing between the axes you’ve plotted and I have no idea where the median would lie…

    Interesting…..

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  4. sue says:

    Well i think you should keep on doing what you do
    it’s a mix of inspiring and practical

    what a brilliant mix

    I think blogs should be what the writer themselves wants to say
    if not join a blog collective with set ground rules

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  5. Paul Walker says:

    Isn’t the whole point of blogs that they are basically opinion? Hell if I want “fact based analysis” I would just stick to reading the AER, QJE, JPE etc.

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  6. “Isn’t the whole point of blogs that they are basically opinion? ”

    Blogging is just another media for communication like TV, Radio, newspapers,magazines. It has the advantage of being able to easily include diverse types of media but their is no particular type of content it suits best.

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  7. Phew, I thought I was in for a long night of self-analysis! Then I saw that you already had me sussed.

    I still remember a debating competition in high school. We arrived with our brains, our competition arrived with (quite literally) mountains of facts and figures. We won.

    Some things are black and white. Some things (like MYOB vs Xero) may not be… It’s the analysis and interpretation of facts (e.g I had no idea people thought MYOB even stood a chance against Xero, given the ‘facts’ I was aware of) that is fascinating and has the power to change opinions, philosophies and lives.

    On top of that, I find plain facts boring. :)

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