Monday, May 6, 2013

Statistics in context

These might seem like unrelated subjects, but they're not entirely - both are about how to apply statistical analysis in a context that might not seem like a reasonable candidate. The first, "The Evolution of King James" by Kirk Goldsberry, is about LeBron James and his improvement in scoring:
Over the years, James has attempted thousands of field goals, but those shots are going in at much higher rates recently. In James's rookie year he shot 42 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. This year those numbers are 56 percent and 39 percent, respectively. There are two reasons for that substantial improvement in his field goal percentage: (1) He's a much better shooter now, and (2) also a larger share of his shots are close to the basket now.
How did he make the change? And almost more important, how did he know that he wanted to make a change and what change to make? James listened to some commentary. He thought hard about his game. And he changed it, going from a 3-point and wing shooter to a post shooter. Here are his most common shot locations, during James's first and second years in Miami:
The story is about hard work - grueling work - and about using numbers, and context, to guide that work.

The other story, "Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data," by Brooks Barnes in today's New York Times has generated a large number of comments and shot almost to the top of the most emailed list. when I read the article this morning I was initially in the camp of "you can't measure art" until I got to these paragraphs:
Mr. Bruzzese emphasized that his script analysis is not done by machines. His reports rely on statistics and survey results, but before evaluating a script he meets with the writer or writers to “hear and understand the creative vision, so our analysis can be contextualized,” he said.
But he is also unapologetic about his focus on financial outcomes. “I understand that writing is an art, and I deeply respect that,” he said. “But the earlier you get in with testing and research, the more successful movies you will make.”
The service actually gives writers more control over their work, said Mark Gill, president of Millennium Films and a client. In traditional testing, the kind done when a film is almost complete, the writer is typically no longer involved. With script testing, the writer can still control changes.
One Oscar-winning writer who, at the insistence of a producer, had a script analyzed by Mr. Bruzzese said his initial worries proved unfounded.
“It was a complete shock, the best notes on a draft that I have ever received,” said the writer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing his reputation.
It's partly the comment about context. But it's also partly, I think, the acknowledgment that Bruzzese is doing some interpreting too. What do you think?

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