I’m particularly interested in performance metrics and statistics and how they are used and manipulated. One of my favorite terms from The Wire was “juking the stats” — manipulating the crime statistics for political reasons, usually be reclassifying felonies as lesser crimes to make the felony rate appear lower. Any quantitative system for measuring progress toward a goal provides the opportunity for juking the stats, and the challenge for creators of such systems is to be aware of these methods and account for them.

Michael Froomkin posts about a statistic law schools are measuring — attrition of students after their first year, and how that statistic can be interpreted. In his comments, he describes the incentive for top tier law schools to admit fewer first year law students and accept more students as transfers after the first year. This enables them to cherry pick the best students and increase their bar passage rate, which is one of the metrics applied by the all important (but dubiously accurate) US News rankings.

Expect more posts on juking the stats in the future.