Beware of leaping to conclusions without first looking for alternative explanations!
There can be many explanations for events and results that we notice. Assuming that the first one we find is the ONLY one can be wrong… and can sometimes make us look a little foolish.
Here’s a glaring example I recently noticed.
As a writer, I am always eager to learn how to write better, and particularly so for the internet. Recently I clicked on an article on sources of ideas for writing great (i.e. popular) social media content.
The writer recommended that his readers should study posts that were labelled as “successful” because they had been re-posted many times. Note should also be take of those that failed – i.e. had been re-posted less often. By comparing the two, he explained, one could learn what is likely to succeed and what would probably fail.
As examples he referred to items published on four specific dates; two for which social sharing of his selected (but unnamed) items was extremely high, and two on which it was very much low lower. He wrote that first two obviously included “excellent” content, and that content on the second two days, must not have been “engaging or effective” because there were far fewer re-posts.
In other words, he took the quality of the content as the ONLY reason for changes in the number of shares.
However… (yes, you knew that would be a however, didn’t you?) the writer seemed not to have noticed that the two days with the highest share numbers were both on Mondays. The two days with the very low numbers were Saturdays. As we know, Monday is the day when many people return to their “work” computers and spend their time on social media until the boss arrives – and maybe at other times during the day. Conversely, on Saturdays many of us have other activities on our mind than social sharing.
In fact, then, we do not actually know whether content on those first-mentioned days was indeed “excellent” or if that from the second two was truly neither “engaging” nor “effective.” To get a clear idea about that would call for comparing content that was or was not highly shared on the same day of the week. And, probably, at the same time of day.
I am guessing that there may be many other unnoticed variables leading to other conclusions, but I think this makes the point without more detail.
The data may be accurate, but just because one conclusion comes to your mind, do not assume that it is the only explanation. Let your creativity look for other possible causes. In this case, the writer was so focused on quality of content that the weekday of publishing apparently did not occur to him.
Many years ago I taught adult ed courses about ESP and similar topics. I would start each course by saying, “When you feel a cool breeze on the back of your neck, and you remember that today is the anniversary of Aunt Maud’s death, do not immediately say ‘Oh, Aunt Maud’s spirit is visiting.’ Before you come to that conclusion, check to see if you are standing in front of an open window.”
I would continue, “In this course I will teach you how to look for the open window.” Of course, the “true believers” did not return for the second lesson because they did not want to look for alternative explanations such as that the breeze might – or might not – come from an open window. And that was okay.
Check around for alternative explanations before coming to conclusions. Don’t stop looking just because you find one that fits with what you currently believe. A thorough search may help you to avoid landing on a conclusion that is based on quicksand, a potentially dangerous result.