New York Magazine’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells thinks America expects too much for Nate Silver and his new FiveThirtyEight site. At least that’s how Wallace-Wells spun what was an overall sense of disappointment with the site’s launch earlier this week:
FiveThirtyEight, as it launched, had a bloggy, familiar feel — there was a great deal of talk about numbers and the mainstream media’s discomfort with them, and significantly less actual deployment of data to resolve matters of public interest. The New Republic questioned his central metaphor, which is more or less the judgment that once exiled Rick Moody. “I have long been a fan of Nate Silver, but so far I don’t think this is working,” the influential economist and blogger Tyler Cowen wrote yesterday afternoon.
That judgment — made just hours after Silver’s site launched — was ludicrously quick. Content-wise, it wasn’t really even a bad first day. Nevertheless, I had some more modest form of the same feeling.
FiveThirtyEight’s first-day content, which should have been picked to blow the socks off its readers, apparently failed to do that:
A piece about whether paper toilet-seat covers actually do anything for public health (great question!) ended by throwing up its hands, as did another that hoped to judge how many rats live in New York City. A contrarian political essay meant to tamp down media enthusiasm for Scott Brown’s Senate candidacy merely pointed to his approval ratings, which is exactly the kind of superficial stat that the Beltway pundits whom Silver loves to mock have been citing for decades.
In the headline, Wallace-Wells asks if we expect too much of Silver.
Is it really too much to expect Silver to fathom the importance of first impressions?
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