Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Apples and Oranges

Waxy points to a nice essay about the iPad. The whole thing is worth a read, as it highlights many of the reasons that so many people have been down on the device, but what really got me was this quote:

Is a stick shift better than an automatic? No. Is an automatic better than a stick? No. This misses the point. A better question: Is a road full of drivers not distracted by the arcane inner workings of their vehicle safer? It’s likely. And that has a value. Possibly a value that outweighs the value offered by a stick shift if we aggregate it across everyone in the world who drives.

I often try to explain this same idea to people when it comes to different modes of communication. You can’t say email is better than a face-to-face conversation because they’re just so different. Sure, face-to-face is much higher fidelity, but flying to Japan for a two minute face-to-face conversation asking a friend to send back my copy of some book they borrowed hardly seems like the best use of anyone’s time (not to mention environmental impact).

The saying “it’s like comparing apples and oranges” didn’t become a cliche because there was no truth. Comparing two things that are totally different doesn’t really get anyone anywhere. (No pun intended by the apple thing, by the way.)

January 29, 2010