When you find outliers, what do you do?
"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" (No. 49)
This week’s toy: a game table that you can use with your friends anywhere. It’s a giant iPad on legs loaded up with classic table games. No one has created a version of this that works perfectly yet, and it feels like eventually, it will become a household appliance that many people have. Edition No. 49 of this newsletter is here - it’s June 27, 2021.
The Big Idea
The “New Normal” of Hot is Not Normal … at all.
If you’ve seen any news this week and you follow the weather in the United States, you know it’s hot in the West. How hot, you say? Historically hot. All time hot. Knock your socks off haven’t ever seen it before hot.
Also, it’s very dry. Check out this map of the west showing how dry it is as well. Add hot and dry and you have a tinderbox. You have the recipe for a historic fire season and a climate disaster.
But things are fine, you say. I’ve got A/C.
Breaking Historical Records at this clip is not normal
When presented with an extreme outlier as your data, there are a few things you to do to reconcile the model.
Treat this data as a one-time occurrence, and be cautious that it may signal a new pattern - in this mode, you might start by asking: when has a similar pattern happened? Did it persist, or was it a one-off? In this case the Pacific NW has not seen temperatures like this for a multi-day event, though we have seen some nearby temperatures at this time of the year.
We don’t know yet whether this is a new pattern. You might look at the average temperature in late June/early July and see whether it’s moving (it is moving up), the nighttime low temperature (it has been moving too in recent years), or you might look at the number of degree cooling days in Seattle in the summer. Any way you slice it, this is an anomaly.
Throw it away because it’s ridiculous and … things happen - because this heat wave is so out there, you might be tempted to grimace, complain about it, find a cooling station, and hope that it doesn’t happen again. Because statistically (even in a “new normal” situation, it’s pretty unlikely that a heatwave is going to happen again in the next few years, much less the next 20 years.
This one seems less likely as many things in our climate, sadly, are shifting. I very much doubt this is the last heat wave we will see, though one like this might not happen again for a long time.
Consider that it may be a new normal, not just a pattern - the elephant in the room is that this might be the normal expected extreme in this part of the world. If this happens we need to make the housing stock in the Pacific Northwest more resistant to high heat. There are some simple things we can do like install more a/c units, and other broader methods:
better blackout shades/curtains
window coatings to retrofit existing housing
incentives to install heat pump systems
What’s the takeaway? We’ve got extremely hot weather this year in the West. It doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon. We need to prepare as if this is the new normal and expect that we need to do a better job heat-protecting our homes (and our most vulnerable populations).
A Thread from This Week
Twitter is an amazing source of long-form writing, and it’s easy to miss the threads people are talking about.
This week’s thread: How hot is it in the Pacific Northwest? Hot enough to cook an egg.
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ Changing News Creates Changing Results - Google is adjusting their search results to show the variability that happens during a news event. People expect their Google results to be definitive, and Google is acknowledging the initial results during a changing news situation can be spotty.
2/ I hope I never have an AR Hat - This is fine. Facebook has put designs together for a hat that will contain all of the computing power to run an AR experience. No word on whether it would survive the traditional hat conditioning method of wrapping the bill with a rubber band and a baseball to curl the brim (yes, I’m out of style I know.)
3/ How it’s pitched informs how you view it - The Framing Effect explains the impact of pitching an item by setting the stage. It’s not surprising that you need to explain an idea to your audience, but this piece quickly explains the impact of that effort.
On the Reading/Watching List
The pitch for Stadium Super Trucks must have been amazing.
“Let’s take some racing trucks, give them extremely forgiving suspensions, and drive them over some jumps in real time like a video game.”
On a completely different and more serious note… If you need a comprehensive list of product metrics, this piece on Metrics that Matter summarizes some of the more popular models and details the attributes and metrics you might consider when setting up a product funnel. A follow on question: how do you implement this in your world? Models for storing data look great until they encounter an existing system.
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
Want more essays? Read on Data Operations or other writings at gregmeyer.com.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon