Friday, October 28, 2005

Stupid Stat Watch

From a TV ad for AOL (wording approximate, since I didn't tape it):
A high-speed internet connection can make your computer more vulnerable to spyware, slowing your performance by up to 500%.
Say what? If spyware slowed your computer down by 100%, it would be completely frozen. So if it's been slowed down 500%, is it going backwards?

I assume this is yet another example of the base-switching problem. I'm guessing the reality is that spyware can slow your computer by about 84%. Rather than using the original performance level (100% of top speed) as the base for calculating the percent change, they used final performance level (16% of top speed) instead. This yielded a percent change of over 500% (going from 16 to 100), which they erroneously called the percent decrease.

But I'll admit there could be some computer jargon here that I don't get.


Jeff Brown said...

That would be wacky, if there were a logarithmic processor speed index that could be negative. I never heard about such a thing when I was a comp sci major.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

I think analysis of any claim for the advantages of AOL broadband is doomed to failure.

Aaron Davies said...

I vaguely recall seeing someone online suggest using logarithmic percentages when dealing with increase/decrease questions like this, but I don't remember how they worked, except that they obviously involved e somehow. The point was that they gave the same result in either direction.

Randy said...

It's probably a task based measurement system.

Pre-spyware a task took 1 minute. Post-spyware it took 5.

After a marketing droid gets done with it that means "slowed by 500%.

Sure it's not technically accurate, but AOL doesn't exactly market towards the technically competent.