Selection Bias: The Silent Ignorance Generator.

It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your view of the world is the authoritative stance on everything. I can remember falling into that trap myself many years ago, way back in 2004 when I was first able to vote in a federal election. I, like many Canberrans, was a staunch Labor supporter and the discussions I had with my friends lead me to believe that there was absolutely no way that the Liberal party would get in. The resultthen was pretty startling and stands as one of the most distinct memories I have of being sucked into the group think and (wrongly) extrapolating that out to apply to the wider world.

Consequently the years that followed that fateful day when I realised I knew a lot less about something I thought I knew everything about I’ve been cautious when applying my understanding to the wider world. Sure it might not look that way on this blog sometimes (there have been a few posts that I’ve been horribly wrong about) but whenever I’m making some claim I always make sure I’ve got at least some evidence to back me up. As a rule if what I’m writing is festooned with links that means I’m usually writing something that I don’t believe should be taken on face value and needs to be backed up with evidence. A lack of links would indicate I’m writing something slanting towards an opinion piece, much like the one you’re reading now. I tend to strive to be logically consistent however, which I find sorely lacking in writings similar to mine.

Of course such a rant like this didn’t just come to me after staring at the blank post screen for a while. No as usual my morning browse through the feed readers for a topic of interest happened across this little gem:

Instead, like Beach says, the thing some consumers don’t like about the iPhone is that it’s AT&T only (in the U.S., obviously). Even if you live in an area where AT&T doesn’t absolutely suck, having no choice of carriers is a big restriction. People have work plans, family plans, etc, etc, that they just can’t switch. Or they don’t want to.

If the iPhone was on Verizon (which is a larger network, remember), is there any question that it would be selling at least double the amount of units it is right now in the U.S.? I don’t think so. What if it was available on all the networks? And what would happen to Android sales if that was the case? That is the big question here.

And the original article that inspired it.

The article deals with the idea that Android is only succeeding because of the exclusivity agreement that Apple has with AT&T. While I don’t argue the fact that limiting a handset to one carrier in a large market would affect sales it conveniently forgets the fact that nearly everywhere else in the world the iPhone is not exclusive to one carrier. In fact the exclusive agreements that were in place for many carriers in other countries ended some time ago. Sure the US is a large market but the conditions of the market there are not indicative of the rest of the world and to draw conclusions based on that is at best misleading.

Funnily enough the whole idea that the TechCrunch article was based off was just a throwaway line from the original article, which overall I agree with. Had the iPhone not had any exclusivity agreements with any carriers its market would definitely be larger and would have caused some issues for Android adoption rates. However the fact that Android devices are available to a much larger market due to their wide range of handset options means that whilst that would have caused problems for them initially it would only delay the inevitable. The rest of his comments I have to take on face value as I’ve only just downloaded the SDK for Android and have yet to pay the Mac tax in order to be able to do some iPhone development.

Realistically its nigh on impossible to not succomb to this kind of behaviour as you can never have all the information required on everything you need to pass judgement on. I understand that and hell I’ve made enough decisions based on incomplete information than I’ll care to admit. However understanding that your view of the world might be missing some critical information can help make your judgements more sound and rational, or at the very least give you pause before doing something that will come back to bite you in the ass sometime later.

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