Strong opinions, weakly held

New York magazine interviews Nate Silver

New York magazine has an interview with Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, this year’s go-to polling analysis site.

I’ve been reading Nate’s baseball analysis for years and was thrilled to see that he was applying his analytic approach to political polling this year. The results have not been disappointing. This paragraph describes my general reaction when I found out who was running fivethirtyeight.com:

Silver’s site now gets about 600,000 visits daily. And as more and more people started wondering who he was, in May, Silver decided to unmask himself. To most people, the fact that Poblano turned out to be a guy named Nate Silver meant nothing. But to anyone who follows baseball seriously, this was like finding out that a guy anonymously running a high-fashion Website turned out to be Howard Cosell. At his day job, Silver works for Baseball Prospectus, a loosely organized think tank that, in the last ten years, has revolutionized the interpretation of baseball stats. Furthermore, Silver himself invented a system called PECOTA, an algorithm for predicting future performance by baseball players and teams. (It stands for “player empirical comparison and optimization test algorithm,” but is named, with a wink, after the mediocre Kansas City Royals infielder Bill Pecota.) Baseball Prospectus has a reputation in sports-media circles for being unfailingly rigorous, occasionally arrogant, and almost always correct.

There are two things that I find interesting about this. The first is that I’ve been reading quantitative analysis of sports for years and wondering how the lessons drawn from that analysis can be applied to other fields. Silver’s work is illustrating just how applicable those lessons are, and I wasn’t surprised to read that he is being invited to speak before business audiences on his work.

The second is that it shows yet again how the secret to being a successful blogger is producing excellent content. Anyone who’s thinking about starting a blog should look at the success Silver has had. He started the year with a diary on the Daily Kos and now he runs a political blog that gets millions of views. Do great things, and the audience will be there.

The lesson for long-time bloggers with small (but wonderful) audiences is self-evident, sadly.

1 Comment

  1. 600k visitors per day is absolutely remarkable for a single website. Would be interesting if he posted similar analysis on his website and traffic sources. I’d be keen to see the demographics of his visitors to know how well they represent the voting demographic.

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