You might be a data redneck…


I like comedy a lot and stand up in particular. Some years ago I saw a video of The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. While I am not a fan and was only mildly entertained, there was a piece of it by Jeff Foxworthy that, I learned later, it’s sort of his stand up business card. That piece is widely known as “You might be a redneck”.

To Jeff, the definition of redneck is and I quote “The glorious absence of sophistication”. Let’s save this bit for later…

The reason why I’m writing this post is because in this day and age every knowledge worker claims to be data driven(*)… and many aren’t. This is a very touchy subject. The reason is simple. If everyone around me says they are data driven, it is very hard for me to admit that I’m not. It is even harder to say “I don’t know” when everyone seems to know.

Trust me on this, most don’t know! It is ok to not know. It is the prerequisite to start learning. The problem is that with so many people “knowing” there is a vast widespread glorious absence of data sophistication… See what I did there? 😉

This post is therefor a way to bring a tough subject to the table… with a smile. If you are not aware, I’ll say it out loud: the lack of data sophistication from business users that claim to be data driven is probably the thing I heard more data professionals complain about and I dare to say it is what causes more friction between business users and data professionals.

It is easy for me to write about this. Once I participated in a round table about this subject. A number of analysts spoke before me. It was very hard to hear their experiences. When it was my turn I told of my experience and mentioned that we discuss hypothesis with business users at Miniclip. Astonished eyes zeroed in on me. That was when I understood how lucky I am.

Following Jeff Foxworthy’s punchline I decided to create a list of things that might hint a glorious absence of data sophistication. Please, read it with a smile. If you lack a sense of humour, don’t read any further, there will be a new less touchy subject next week… or something…

If you are a business user and any of these things apply to you think of it as an opportunity to improve. You are not a bad person or professional, you are simply not as sophisticated as you might think. Probably you never thought of this or no one ever discussed it with you. Some are serious I admit but most are not.

If you are a data professional relax, giggle, have a laugh. More important take this opportunity to start proactively helping your business users in being in fact data informed instead of pseudo data driven.

So here goes!

  • If you often ask for graphics, (extra credits for pie charts), instead of asking questions, you might be a data redneck. Good news is, if this is the only one you do in the list, you can be an ex-data redneck in like… 5 minutes! Just read this post.
  • If you ask for an average and reply in a less than polite tone “I said the average!” when you are given a median, you might be a data redneck or innumerate.
  • If you are able to say why one specific experiment is not needed but you are unable to explain why experiments are ran, you might be a data redneck.
  • If you want to change or neglect a KPI because you don’t like its value, you might be a data redneck. This is the linguistic equivalent of using a different vowel because you don’t like how the original one sounds.
  • If a quick reading of a couple of machine learning articles that mention Google Research makes you capable of lecturing and instructing data professionals on machine learning, you might be a data redneck. Unless it’s the one about machines dreaming. Just kidding, especially the one about machines dreaming.
  • If after hearing about a new prediction algorithm developed in house you ask “why don’t you use machine learning”, you might be a data redneck. This one actually amuses me a bit. It’s like someone trying to be smart, coming out as arrogant but simply being ignorant.
  • If you think analysts are not doing their job when you hear the words “not statistical significance”, you might be a data redneck.
  • If “because I just know” is more significant than statistical significance, you might be a data redneck.
  • If you are sure of what caused a change in a trend by just looking at a line graph, you might be a data redneck.
  • If you think that when data teams discuss “all that complicated math” is unnecessary and it’s “just brains/geeks/nerds showing off”, you might be a data redneck. And that’s not the biggest problem.
  • If data either supports your claims or is wrong… I don’t know what you are but it’s technically the exact opposite of “data driven”.
  • If when “data is wrong” your analysts top priority is to rebuild all databases explain why you are right, well… you tell me what you might be…

Hope you enjoyed it! See you next week.

(*)  By the way… data driven is not a great thing. Cool kids are data informed! I learned this from a business user, how cool is that?! I hereby promise to write about this soon!

One thought on “You might be a data redneck…

  1. I remember one funny incident. I was discussing quartile deviation with one of my colleagues when someone with the responsibility of watching over us overheard me, came to my seat and said that I should not deviate from what he has told me… I couldn’t connect to the context of his statement and then it clicked. After that, I never discussed anything regarding statistics when he was around.


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