Saturday, February 8, 2014

Counting the votes: A hypothetical Tale

There is nothing mysterious about voting. We vote with our pocketbooks every time we buy something.

People who own businesses do surveys of their customers all the time. Getting the numbers right are important because business decisions and investments will be based on the assumptions that the numbers that the results are correct.

Imagine a restaurant chain that serves two deserts- cheese cake and apple pie on Friday nights. Because Friday nights are crowded, they don’t know which they make more money on. So, they decide to do a survey.

The central office could decide how the counting should be done and have all stores do it the same way. Each store should decide how to do it the way it wants. Some stores could count the receipts and other stores might buy computers and survey counting computer software

They could count the number of apple pies and also chocolate pies bought on Friday night from the sales slips

Get a computer whiz who works at the restaurant to write at the bar to write a program
Get some clerks in their down time to make sure the results of the computer are the same as the results of counting the slips

-Between these two extremes there are different option
-Train people to ave check each of the steps of the computer program and
   • make sure the deserts are copied correctly
   • make sure none of them are missed
   • none of them are coped twice
- Decide what to do about biases like the restaurant gives chocolate cake for birthdays, chocolate cakes are more often shared, most waiters like chocolate cakes a lot better.

A committee of representatives from each store is tasked with recommending what method should be used. To make sure that they covered everything they examined machines and software that has been built for polling and surveys. They learn that prices vary widely, that you can buy just software and hardware (computers). The biggest companies do not let you see the programs they wrote. 
“ How do we test them to make sure they work for what we are doing?”
“ We have experts that are trained to do that, so you don’t need to worry about that. That’s the beauty of our solution. We do it all”
“ How would we know if you made a mistake”?
“ We don’t make mistakes”

The company lawyer has a few words to say.
"Business relationships are of course based on trust, gentlemen and trust is earned. We would , of course be prepared to sign a nondisclosure agreement and consider your system despite its high cost, and then if it worked, which I assume it would, endorse your product. Can we get past this and move further."
  "I’m afraid that’s out of the question".

  A puzzled look crosses the lawyers face. In all my years dealing vendors. I have never been asked to spend millions of dollars on a product that I know nothing about. Who are your usual clients? the government?

No comments:

Post a Comment