The Amazing Ability Of People To Simply Ignore Data That Proves What They Believe Is Wrong

from the the-hall-of-shame dept

Nate Silver, who, before he became famous as a political data analyzer on his FiveThirtyEight website (now hosted by the NY Times), was famous to a much smaller group of folks for his similar data analysis of baseball data at Baseball Prospectus. Every so often, he jumps back to baseball analysis, such as with his recent effort to question some of the common wisdom concerning the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s a common complaint among fans and some in the press that the Hall of Fame has become “watered down” in some way, and that they’re letting in players who really shouldn’t qualify. The comment that is repeated way too frequently is “It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.” However, Silver breaks down the actual data, and notes that percentage-wise significantly fewer players are getting into the Hall of Fame today than in the past. He shows the following chart to help prove the point:

As he notes, the point is not to say that one period is correct, and the other is not, but simply to challenge the suggestion that admission to the Hall of Fame has become much easier today. And, yes, he also discusses some of the obvious counterpoints — such as the fact that, thanks to expansion, there are now more players — and why there are other equalizing forces (the internationalization of the game, for example).

It’s an interesting article if you’re interested in that kind of thing. But, what’s most entertaining is that a large number of the comments on the story seem to simply refuse to accept what the data says. They don’t refute the data. They don’t suggest explanations that would explain the data. They flat-out ignore it and insist that the Hall of Fame has been watered down these days. I noticed this thanks to King Kaufman who aggregated some of the sillier comments. Here are a few:

  • “Too stringent”? Au contraire. Over the last couple of decades they have admitted so many bums that it defies description. If anything, the standards should be tightened. There are perhaps six active players who should EVER be considered.
  • We’ve dumbed down America and now you want to water down what makes a true athlete great. They should measure up or not be considered!!!! That’s the problem with America continually relaxing standards and codes.!!!!
  • The statistical look at the question is entirely misdirected. There have been a handful of standout players in the game, something less than 50 in total.
  • i thought the hall was for extraordinary accomplishments not just very good …the hall is so diluted these days.

There are probably some decent explanations for these kinds of mass delusions. I would guess that people who either never actually saw some of the Hall of Fame players from an earlier generation, or saw them so long ago and are overcome with nostalgia, are dealing with a bit of confirmation bias — where they only remember (or know about) the highlights, and ignore the rest. With more recent players, they’ve probably seen them a lot more, or remember things a lot more clearly, and thus the “great” feats are diluted in their heads by the fact that they weren’t preternaturally good (but, no one is).

That said, we often see this sort of thing around here. I’ve presented numerous studies concerning certain areas of interest, and almost immediately we get comments that don’t try to rebut the data, or point to errors in the studies (and there may very well be errors or confounding factors), but to simply insist that what they’ve always believed simply must be true. It seems like a form of cognitive dissonance on display in ways that are both troubling and amusing. It’s the basis of what I call “faith-based” decision making, where actual data is simply ignored for what “must be” true.

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Comments on “The Amazing Ability Of People To Simply Ignore Data That Proves What They Believe Is Wrong”

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Sam (profile) says:

I’m reminded of a post today on Ars Technica looking at the extent to which people trained in scientific reasoning actually apply it, which is strikingly low:

People just seem to be extraordinarily bad at thinking about things critically, relying much more easily on intuition.

Norah (profile) says:

mass delusions and misleading data

I agree belief and faith does even affect the scientist in evaluation of hard data. However, graphs, although visual, can misrepresent the intention of message. Per example, wouldn’t a percentage per 1000 athletes be more revealing and represent trending better than percentage of the whole because of such factors like internationalism?

Anonymous Coward says:

More than anything, this is a post that proves that figured don’t lie, but you can make them say anything you want.

Percentages are always a sneaky thing, because unless you have a constant sample size, there is no way to know what the real results are. So the numbers are not particularly meaningful.

The average over the life of the hall of fame is 3.95 inductees per year. The current pace is 3 per year. There are a few exception years (1939,1945, 1971) that tip the numbers up, otherwise the current pace would be about the same as it has been on average over the life of the hall of fame.

There is no real dilution. Nor are there any less players getting in.

The graphic just shows how you can easily manipulate “facts” to create the wrong impression.

btrussell (profile) says:

More teams/players does not equal more Wayne Gretzkys’. In fact, it equals the opposite, percentage-wise.

It equals Wayne Gretzky representing a smaller percentage of the overall.

The graph is right, but the conclusion may be wrong.

More players just means that a player that wasn’t good enough to make the team yesterday, is now good enough to make the team.

Mike C. (profile) says:

mass delusions and misleading data

While I’m not a baseball fan, I think the graph is misleading as well. Sure, a smaller percentage of players are getting in, but there are more players in the league so a percentage per 1000 might be a better yardstick.

I think one of the other complaints is that the players getting in aren’t as good as the ones that used to get in. This graph does nothing to clarify that point. So what if only 3% were accepted in 1990 vs 6% in 1970. If the 3% from 1990 were only half as talented, people would have a valid complaint. Perhaps not just a comparison of the numbers that get in, but also a comparison to league averages of that year so that you account for overall player improvement over the years.

Ben says:

Yes but you have to ask the question. How would someone like Roger Maris or Ted Williams do against todays pitchers? It would be fun to see how they would do. Standards always change with societal viewpoints and on how they believe the standards should be. And the people putting athletes into Halls of Fame are, by and large sharing the same viewpoint.

Anonymous Coward says:

The data isn’t very scientific. A chart showing the exact number of players admitted would clearly show the data. Part of the problem is if you don’t provide the proper type of statistics, it’s going to leave it open for argument. It also assumes a set percentage of players every year are automatically deserving of the hall of fame. It would seem most people don’t feel there are high quality players in modern times.

Urza9814 says:

mass delusions and misleading data

What do you even mean by ‘percentage per 1000 athletes’? Wouldn’t that just be raw percentage? Or are you including all sports in ‘athletes’?

The most sane way to do it, IMO, would be as a percentage of the total world population. You’d have insanely low numbers (maybe label it in millionths of a percent or something), but the idea is that, if there are 100 players today, and tomorrow I add another 100 players to the league – well, in theory the first 100 players would be the top 100 players in the country. When I add another 100 players, I’m only adding the next 100 players. So the number of truly outstanding athletes would still be the same – the same people. Or to put it another way, if you’re measuring raw skill in the sport, it seems more likely that one in x humans will have the skill, not one in x professional players.

Of course, the popularity of the sport (number of kids playing it and practicing, as well as the salary of employees) has a huge impact on raw skill…as do plenty of other things.

In other words, if you think of the hall of fame as being only people above a certain skill level, then it’s quite possible that it could get easier to get inducted even while the percentage of players inducted decreases. But if you’re taking it as being the top x% of players, then yea it’s getting harder.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

This is why politics is more than just providing data

Although I think more information available to the public is always a good thing, I don’t expect it to change people’s opinions, unfortunately. We’ve got more information available than ever before in the history of mankind, and yet we have people making decisions based on inaccurate information because it confirms their pre-existing biases. I’m not sure how one addresses this.

Darren Tomlyn (profile) says:

How much does our language affect our perspective?

This is, I think, slightly, (very?), related to something I’m working on at the minute.

I’m currently working on a study of games as a matter of linguistics, (in relation to the English language), and the amount of confusion that exists around the subject is extremely high, all due to one problem:

The subjective manner in how we USE the language, affects our perception, recognition and understanding of what other words within the language represent.

Since we’re taught to use the English language in a very subjective manner, (and the language itself reinforces such subjectivity), how much does this affect our perception and understanding of the world around us, without our awareness of what is happening?

Malak (profile) says:


There’s an interesting blindness on your side too.

Now, I’m over in Blighty and know nothing of baseball, but those comments are about the /quality/ of the players being let in, not the proportion, which is all those stats address.

People seem to be saying ‘the standards are lower!’, and to hold up stats that simply say ‘The proportion is lower!’, and claim that these commentators are blind to the facts, seems like a blindness of sorts on your side.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

The comments aren't about the percentages


MOST of the people that feel the Hall of Fame is watered down aren’t refering to the NUMBERS of people allow in, but the QUALITY of the people allowed in.

You can say 15% in 1950 and 1% in 2010, if 100% of those allowed in in 1950 were EXCEPTIONAL players and 100% of those in 2010 were middle of the road players you still insult the accomplishments of the 1950 players by even allowing the 1% in in 2010.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe they are unsure about the data

But I agree to simply ignore the data can’t be good.

For the most part I agree with that statement, unless the source of the data is highly suspect. If I posted stats saying that 92% of all baseball players are all criminals and should excluded from the Hall of Fame, but offer nothing to substantiate my “facts,” then you would be wise to ignore it.

Anonymous Coward says:

How much does our language affect our perspective?

No – the meaning of the words direct and indirect in relation to competition are, as AFAIK, completely consistent with the nature of the word compete to begin with – it’s merely an extremely logical extrapolation based upon its definition:

Direct competition, would be the type found in a simple game of, say, football – one team is directly competing against another to try and win the match, by scoring more goals than their opponents.

In, say the premier league, even though in each match you directly compete against an individual team, you are still, indirectly competing against every other team in the league. AFAIK this is exactly how the terms are used. My post above is completely consistent with this.

The only problem, is that people don’t fully understand or recognise just how PREVALENT competition really is within our existence, or feel it is TOO prevalent, and so generally tend to ignore it.

Games ARE competitive, because the moment you examine ALL games for what they ARE, the similarities between them become extremely obvious. There are a handful of simple games which EVERY other game in existence is derived from – and all of those are, by their nature, competitive. If an activity does not fall under such a description, then there is generally a very good reason for that – it’s not actually a game, merely a puzzle, work of art, competition, or simple play, (either structured or not), that is mislabelled as a game.

But such an examination hasn’t really happened yet. There is a very good reason for this, however, which I am working on at this time.

Structured play is simply not enough to describe a game. Without an element to compete against, it would not be consistent with how the word is used. I play a musical instrument – and can do so for either work OR play. Playing a piece of music for my own enjoyment – (non-productive reasons) – would be considered play, and would count as structured based on the rules I would be following when reading the music in doing so. Is/would playing a piece of music in this way (therefore) count as a game? No. The use of the word game is not consistent with such an activity. I am not competing against anything, either directly OR indirectly in playing a piece of music for itself, therefore it is not a game.

Tag, hopscotch, snakes and ladders, and all other examples of basic and simple games DO involve competition, however, and is one of the primary reasons for their existence, whether recognised or otherwise.

If you can think of a game (which would be perfectly consistent with the word and how it is used) that does no involve competition of any kind then tell me…

I very much doubt you will, however, since, as I said, I have yet to come across ANY game, (which would not turn out to be a puzzle/competition etc.), that does not involve such competition, and therefore does not appear to be derived from the 3/4 basic games humanity has always had.

The words game, art, puzzle, competition, (as an event/activity), work and play (as nouns), all exist INDEPENDENTLY of each other in the language, based on how they are used.

The problem we have at this time, is that people do not fully understand how and why that is the case, and so get confused.

Understanding each of these words for what they represent, (based on how they are used), and how they are related to each other based upon such a thing, and how the word competition, (as an application of compete), is related to them as-well, is very important in understanding how, and therefore being able, to fully design and create a (good) game to it’s full potential AS a game.

The reasons behind such problems are what I’m working on at this time. (An examination of games as a matter of linguistics).

EDIT: One of the biggest problems people have in understanding and recognising what the word game represents, based on how it is used, comes from recognising that play, as a noun, actually has no place in its description/definition. Games are also often played for WORK. Since the nature of most work IS as a structured activity, simply defining games as such is COMPLETELY INCONSISTENT with how the word is USED.

The word game, is, and has been, used by humanity as a whole to describe something far more specific than just a structured activity. The lack of recognition and understanding of the word compete/competition, is part of the reason why the word game itself also suffers from such problems. Since you fail to recognise and understand that my use of the term indirect competition, is fully consistent with how both of the words are used, it is obvious that you also fail to fully understand or recognise competition for what it represents too.

You may like to know that, based on my studies, we are simply dancing around a deeper problem in the language itself at this point, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to wait to find out what that is…

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

people will belive what they want to believe. its always been true, its no shocker.

as it relates to this particular article however, i think this is the exact type of perception that parity in pro sports is going to result in. and every analyst thats actually played has agreed on that point when they are sitting around the table talking about it.

it used to be that only a few teams had all the talent, but that talent has been spread around. yes you still have dominant teams but there are very high talent players that are on teams that dont have all the pieces at the same time, they may have a great defense and some great defensive players, but a trainwreck offense and ho-hum special teams for example. your standout players are going to not stand out quite so well on a top 5 ranked defense when the offense cant seem to get out of their own way.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Hall of Fame

Excellent article and analysis.

Being much older than anyone else likely to read this blog, I have a slightly modified view (without in any way disputing what was written).
There was a time when the concept of “majority rule” was much appreciated. We didn’t, generally, penalize people for disagreeing with the majority, but without solid logic for such disagreement, it was ignored.
Today, we seem to have a “me-centric” society. I have friends who argue “waste in government” with no logic at all – when I ask them about this “waste” – is it highway repair? Clean water? Food safety? Where is this “waste”? – I generally get a stony silence, or am accused of being argumentative (well, I guess I am, actually – though I feel like my arguments are backed by at least a little logic).

Tom says:

More questions

While I don’t disagree with the notion that crowds have an incomprehensible ability to ignore data, the numbers provided aren’t the full picture.

Perhaps too many have learned to disbelieve numbers, because often the whole picture isn’t provided. Messy details don’t fit well into sound bites.

1. Are players’ careers longer or shorter now? Since the measure is compared to active players, the longer a player is active, the greater his “chances.” This method of comparison is inappropriate, as players are given a “chance” (for lack of a better term) more than once. More appropriate might be to compare to number of rookies or retirees, thus measuring each player only once.

2. Are team rosters the same size as they used to be? (Or, how is “active player” calculated?) If rosters are expanded (second string, third string, etc.), then if the percentages remain constant, the number of inductees per team has increased.

3. Perhaps the complaint of critics is that performance differences have narrowed, or put more precisely, that the variance between players’ abilities has narrowed, thus the differences between players three standard deviations from the norm (approx the top 0.3%) and the top quartile are quite small. This complaint holds even if the proportion of players inducted remains constant.

My point is that even well-intentioned reporters of data face the challenge of simplifying data enough to be consumable to the typical reader, but doing so often glosses over complexities important to the question. I assert that as a whole, people are better off being skeptical than accepting.

Richard (profile) says:

The real problem here

The problem here is not the statistics at all – it’s the difficulty of defining what the Hall of Fame is supposed to include. I suspect no-one really agrees on that – and that is the real problem. Until there is consensus on that point the statistics are meaningless.

There are several possibilities:

1. Players that reach a certain absolute level of performance.

2. Players that get into the top x % of active players during their career.

3. Players that get into the top x (absolute number) of active players.

4. Players that accumulate a certain number of “good events” (depending on the sport – I’m fairly unfamiliar with Baseball – but the equivalent in Cricket would be runs or wickets).

5. Players who achieve a certain “average” – again this depends on the sport. In Cricket there are batting and bowling averages – I guess Baseball will have some equivalent.

6. Players who achieve a certain level of pre-eminence over their peers (probably as measured by their average relative to their contemporaries.)

7. Only players who advance the sport in some way (eg invent a new technique) should be admitted.

Now I’ll make a few assumptions that apply to most of the sports I’m familiar with and see where it leads:

a) The absolute level of professionalism, technical knowledge, fitness and equipment quality has increased over time (measurably true in a athletics, swimming etc) resulting in higher absolute performance. This would only be false for a sport with declining popularity.

b) There are more matches/competitions now than in the past

c) There are more players.

d) As a consequence of a-c the sport is more competitive at the top than in the past.

Now looking at the various criteria above in turn

1. Many more players should be inducted – since even mediocre players of today would beat yesterday’s stars.

2. More players should be inducted – if the percentage remains constant and the absolute numbers rise.

3. The same number of players should be inducted.

4. More players should be inducted – the extra matches guarantee that these numbers will rise.

5. These numbers will change as the nature of the sport changes this one isn’t predictable.

6. The extra competition at the top means it is now much harder to stand out from the crowd. Inductee numbers should fall.

7. Very few players will ever be inducted and the current numbers will probably be really low.

So you see, the expectation really depnds on the criteria – and the quoted statistics really only apply to one possible criterion (Number 2), My suspicion is that the dissenting voices were using criterion No 6 or No 7 – and on either of these criteria it is easy to see that (plausibly) inductee numbers ought to fall significantly and hence your argument fails.

DCX2 says:

mass delusions and misleading data

If the 3% from 1990 were only half as talented, people would have a valid complaint.

But the trend is not for players to get worse. If you look at graphs of Olympic records, they all go down. People in general are better than they were in the past, especially with all the technology we have now.

The problem is that back then, a spectacular player was way, way better than his colleagues. Now, a spectacular player is just way better than his colleagues. The average has gone up, while the top hasn’t gone up as much.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“More teams/players does not equal more Wayne Gretzkys’. In fact, it equals the opposite, percentage-wise.

It equals Wayne Gretzky representing a smaller percentage of the overall.”

This is a common mistake made by those that talk sports, but it’s easily corrected by following one simple rule: do not ever ever ever draw analogies between baseball and any other sport. They aren’t the same. Baseball is a weird animal, where the guys who played so long ago could still compete with the guys that play today (minus the PEDs).

Case in point, the Hall of Fame as a whole is really kind of silly, because it should essentially only consist of Babe Ruth and no one else. Every other player in the history and present of the game is only “very good” compared with what that guy did….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

mass delusions and misleading data

“People in general are better than they were in the past, especially with all the technology we have now.”

As I mentioned elsewhere, while this might normally be true in sports, it isn’t plainly false in baseball. Babe Ruth was simply the greatest player to ever play the game. If he played today, he’d be killing it like he had then (minus PEDs).

Don’t draw analogies between baseball and other sports. It NEVER makes sense. It’s like those that try to take a saber metrics approach to football, never realizing that unlike in baseball, statistics in football lie….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

mass delusions and misleading data

Yes, I did mean it as you thought. And no, it really isn’t in decline, it’s stable. The thing about Ruth is that no matter where in the timeline he fell, he would have been the overwhelmingly best player of all time. Take him out of the equation, along with the PEDs, and you’ve got comparable players throughout history and present….

Richard (profile) says:

mass delusions and misleading data

I’m not familiar with Baseball – but I guess the comparable figure in Cricket would be Bradman – the greatest batsman of all time – with a test average of nearly 100 (no-one else has beaten 70).

Whilst he probably would still be the top batsman if he were playing today it is doubtful that he would score quite many as he did then – the fielding is taken much more seriously these days and bowling is more disciplined.

Anonymous Coward says:

If one believes that the talent is watered down and that the athletes were better in the past, then the number of players going into the HOF mean nothing and this graph means even less. Many would say that Barry Bonds wouldn’t even make a team from long ago (besides the fact that blacks were not allowed) even with steriods.

Personally, I think those folks are just nuts. I doubt Babe Ruth would have been much more than an average player today. Bob Hayes would be an also ran at the Olympics and Wilt Chamberlin wouldn’t be scoring 100 points in a game.

There is only one type of athlete that has not really improved physically and ability wise, and they are the 4 footed participants in horseracing.

Chargone (profile) says:


you say that as if politics is more honest than statistics…
politics is usually one of the major causes of statistics being on that list… statistics are kinda a subset of politics in that reguard… or at least there’s an overlap.. or something…

basically politics should be a lot further down that list 😛

(also, obvious troll is obvious, i guess? *feeds vegetables*)

Anonymous Coward says:

mass delusions and misleading data

Steven Jay Gould, A evolutionary paleontologist, who thus knew a bit about statistics and keen base ball fan wrote a fair bit on this subject –worth reading. Main point he made was that because training -coaching (and video replays) are so much more professional and widespread , the natural variations due to raw talent are much smaller now than 100 years ago — hence the distance between the good and the exceptional is much smaller now– Though Babe Ruth still stands out as a ‘freak’ twice as good as any of the rest of the best.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

“The question of whether “More or Less Players are being admitted to the baseball hall of fame than in the past” is completely irrelevant! Are their career performance numbers good enough to warrant it is what really determines if the Hall of Fame is letting “bums” in!”

Sigh, this is why, again, talking about this stuff w/o being informed muddies this debate. For the hall od fame, players aren’t competing against the numbers of every one in the hall. The proper test is if they were a dominant player at their position throughout their era. Career performance numbers relative to the rest of the hall are meaningless….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

“If one believes that the talent is watered down and that the athletes were better in the past, then the number of players going into the HOF mean nothing and this graph means even less. Many would say that Barry Bonds wouldn’t even make a team from long ago (besides the fact that blacks were not allowed) even with steriods.”

If you actually believe that the guy who hit more home runs than anyone in the history of the game wouldn’t make a team in past eras, then I have to fire you from watching baseball anymore, because that’s jut silly…

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Humor & Irony

“The Amazing Ability Of People To Simply Ignore Data That Proves What They Believe Is Wrong”

Perhaps Mike Masnick and the rest of TechDIRT staff do not have any scientific training? Most certainly comments on TechDIRT make it clear that they lack training in invention, patent law and economics of the business.

Perhaps most telling is the inability of TechDIRT to the humor and irony in the title of this post.

Ronald J. Riley,

President – – RJR at

Other Affiliations:
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 9 pm EST.

Another AC says:



I am not a serious baseball fan. I am however a reasonably serious hockey fan. Babe Ruth’s talent at the plate(especially considering some of his lifestyle choices) can be equated to players like Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. In the sport of hockey, only these two athletes showed the talent and skill to completely dominate the sport during their eras. Had Wayne come into his prime during the current hockey era, players like Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin(all considered some of the most talented players in the current period) would be considered simply above average. Same could be said for Lemieux(may be even more so). Lemieux was on pace to meet or beat many of Wayne’s records in scoring. His Achilles heel was his overall health. Had this stayed consistent he would have been a singularly dominating force in the NHL.
I realize that Baseball really does not compare head to head with other sports due to the nature of the game, but do not lessen what others have done in their respective sports.

Anonymous Coward says:


Nah, you know when politicians are lying (their lips are moving). They are easy. It’s fairly easy to know what TD is lying (it usually involved something like “we have already shown that” followed by a link to another opinion post), after that it is all downhill. Many people confuse stats with truth, when in fact they can be manipulated to say almost anything (thus feeding the second best, TD, with all sorts of useless things).

Truthiness, it’s not just fot TV commentators.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

All “discussions” about sports require that logic, reason, and intellect be put aside, and only emotions are permitted. That’s the way it’s always been, and always will be. If you scream louder than the other guy, and longer, why then you win the argument! End of story. Oh, extra points for name calling, and casting aspersions on the opponent’s family history and sexual practices, particularly those involving circus animals.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“Or perhaps – did they frighten the opposition?”

No, it’s whether or not their performance was dominant. In baseball more than any other sport, it’s about the statistical analysis. One of the keys is their statistical similarity profile, where you can tell what are the ten players throughout the history of the game that most closely resemble the player. If most of those players are hall of famers, AND the numbers are a cut above most everyone else at their position when they played, that’s a hall of famer (barring the PED thing, of course).

Dave (profile) says:

cognitive thinking

I returned to college at age 42 and had a psychology professor tell me I was that way. By age 42, I thought I had a handle on things, but he pointed out that I refused to accept what he was teaching. That I had a “resistance to learning”. I came to understand he was correct, and from then on I became “teachable”. Nice point you make, I used to be just like that.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Humor & Irony

Perhaps Mike Masnick and the rest of TechDIRT staff do not have any scientific training?

Not true, actually. A good portion of our staff has some pretty serious scientific training. But, no need for you to check your facts or anything.

Most certainly comments on TechDIRT make it clear that they lack training in invention, patent law and economics of the business.

Also not true, as explained to you.

Perhaps most telling is the inability of TechDIRT to the humor and irony in the title of this post.

This is especially funny coming from you Ronald. For YEARS now, I have presented numerous studies from a variety of different unbiased sources, highlighting serious problems with the patent system. I have asked you to provide ONE SINGLE STUDY that supports your position. And you have failed to do so, and simply ignore every study I have presented.

You are the exact type of person we are discussing in this post, Ronald. Except, in your case, we know why you ignore the studies.

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Re: Humor & Irony

“in your case, we know why you ignore the studies.”

Mike Masnick,

It is you who ignore an overwhelming body of information which runs counter to your agenda. I have seen you and your minions repeatedly ignore and dismiss valid information which many people have presented. In light of a consistent pattern of half truths coupled with outright lies.

There is a reason that inventors respond to you in the manner they do. Your arguments about patents are intellectually dishonest. I think you know this.

Ronald J. Riley,

President – – RJR at

Other Affiliations:
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 9 pm EST.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


I find it interesting that the comments here are, in fact, doing things like refuting the data and suggesting explanations for the data.

Indeed. I said in the post that there very well could be additional explanations/confounding data. My point was not that Nate was automatically right — and I find it odd that so many people immediately assume that was my point — but that those arguing against him make no effort to counter the data, they just ignore it entirely.

Richard (profile) says:


I find it interesting that you think Baseball has been stable enough in its structure for such an analysis to be valid.

You can try the same kind of analysis in Cricket but it will not work because so many things have changed over the years. You can see from the averages that Don Bradman is a long way ahead of everyone else but, beyond that, changes in technology the schedule of matches, wicket preparation and even the weather render most comparisons somewhat moot.

Maybe the fact that the ball doesn’t bounce between pitcher and batsman has something to do with it – but then again I always felt that that was the thing that made Baseball much less interesting than Cricket.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Missing factors and also how intution might mislead

Has someone looked at salary comparisons? Maybe more people today have a greater reason to try hard.

How about the relative popularity of such a job today vs in the past?

How about the average player access to sophisticated training? If more people have access (eg, because the league has more money), then the average quality will go up, at least perhaps relative to those that would stand out otherwise, and more will play near the top level of human abilities. This also happens as the sport ages since what might have been a proprietary technique might have been rediscovered or let out of the bag by now.

Opening up to many more players relative to the size of the league will tend to improve the average quality of players as well. [vs if the league grows too fast]

How about (generally) expectations over what one should or can accomplish? It is interesting how the league owners might try to stimulate players to play hard (eg, by changing rules and adding new forms of recognition and money in order to try and make up for the lower chances of standing out).

How about owner dependence on stars vs on the team? A shift here might account for differences in expectations.

Opening up a field to more participants means the “bell curve” is filled out better. This means that while the percentages might be lower, there are many more players not inducted that came “relatively close” to the top players.

There is also the psychology of how many people get inducted per unit time rather than per unit player playing at that time.

Intuition is also affected by our working memory size. If we know about 50 players, then our awareness of these 50 might form an important part of the intuition we develop. We might assume that human memory has not changed too much in 100 years. So related to the “bell curve” point above, those that stand out are ranked against a set of also pretty good players (40 of the 50 all being say more than one standard deviation above average vs say 10(?) if we go back many decades).

Also if more players today train with more great players than was the case in the past, then there will be more higher quality players. The Yankees are no longer almost guaranteed to win. Related is that if “stand out” players are diluted more today (for any of above reasons), then these have less pressure to improve as aggressively since they can more easily stand out within their team and hometown.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re-inforcement and foundations

If we accept something as true early in our analysis and built upon it significantly (especially if from an early age), then it can become difficult to recognize the assumptions we have made since most of the conclusions might follow. The brain might have pushed these “facts” into areas difficult to change. Eg, maybe these understandings work their way towards a central position in the brain with links to many other “facts” we believe.

Now, time might help weed out such broken assumptions, but only if they are challenged enough vs the degree to which they are re-inforced.

Jose_X (profile) says:

How much does our language affect our perspective?

>> The subjective manner in how we USE the language

The words we use…for example, do we ask, “are players going in in smaller percentage terms relative to number of peers playing the game” or do we ask, “is the hall of fame being watered-down”?

There is too much than can mean “watered down” in our minds that is not addressed by a simple graph that covers only a small part of what we might mean by watered down.

So if you don’t address the “watered down” issue (opinion) suitably, then then replies make sense.

GapMinded says:

the statistical process....

The problem that many of these commenters is getting to is that the hall of fame, although statistically much harder to enter, is admitting people who do not necessarily create a gap in their field. In other words, it’s not that the players who get admitted do so out of a field of thousands, but that in the consideration there are several candidates of very similar quality. That’s what standout means.

“The statistical look at the question is entirely misdirected. There have been a handful of standout players in the game, something less than 50 in total.”

So I don’t think this comment should have been considered in the mix. Plus, coming from someone who readily resorts to the quality over quantity argument, it is disappointing that you would pick on individuals either lack the prowess or effort to explain their position. I can know something is wrong without knowing why.

Jason says:


Perhaps you and Mike both have underestimated intuition. I would suggest that these commenter’s definition of greatness has less to do with percentage of inductees and more to do with some other measurement.

I can think of two testable theories offhand that might account for their perception of there being too low a bar for greatness today:

1. Perhaps (so far I’ve only checked homeruns in a season, which doesn’t bear this one out), the shape and depth of the normal curve has shifted in the sport so that even though fewer players are inducted, they are far closer to the rest of the pack than were previous generations.

2. Perhaps (I think this is more likely) their measure of greatness comes from players being compared to what has been done before, and although they can’t deny exceptional talent, they don’t perceive today’s players as being as groundbreaking as those of the past.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe in the power of the masses to be fooled. It’s just that I’m just as dubious about the interpretation of statistics as I am the lack of them.

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