Friday 9 November 2007

Lies, damn lies,

I love a good statistic. I like the population counter on the Statistics New Zealand homepage (4,244,761 and counting). I like it when cricket commentators tell you that the record for a seventh wicket partnership by New Zealand versus Pakistan has been broken. As a child I was fascinated by the Livestock Improvement catalogues, with their pictures and stats of bulls and their offspring (I realise that may be sharing a bit too much).

So thanks Tyler Green for pointing out the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new Dashboard feature on their website.

The Dashboard presents some figures and prercentages, in a nice round-cornered bright'n'shiny Web 2 design, that reflect aspects of the IMA's performance. I'm not sure if they're pulling the numbers from smart folders or some idiosyncratic database, but it's an interesting selection: electrical consumption per day, new plantings, number of works in the collection with incomplete World War II-era provenance, number of hours spent by conservators examining art.

It's an interesting selection ... and yet it offers no more insight into the IMA's working than the 7th wicket stand gives into the eventual outcome of the match. Most of the figures are numbers without context - okay, so 12% of visitors are IMA Members: but is visitation up or down on this time last year? The Dashboard looks pretty and all - but I'm just not sure what it's for.

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