Jason Fried

February 7, 2024

The data came from where?

Now you have the data.

Thousands of responses from a survey with dozens of questions.

You worked hard to come up with questions that painted the picture you felt you needed to make the decision with the data you gathered.

And now you've got it. Comprehensively. Quantitatively. You're data driven, and now you have the stuff that drives you.

You're more sure than ever.

But wait a second. Where did that data come from?

Your survey, yeah... But where did the questions come from?

Best practices? Opinions on what to ask and how to ask it? According to who? Are you sure those words before the question marks were the right ones? What if the questions were asked differently?

So much certainty coming out, so little going in.

"How often do you..." vs "How often would you..." vs. "Last week did you?". The responses to those could be wildly different. Did you check your words as closely as you checked your results?

If you slide back a few steps, you'll see that it's all a judgement call. How you asked, what you asked, when you asked, which words you paired together, how you started the question... All these things matter. In fact, they are the matter that form the answer.

And you know what? There's no right way. Which is the exactly the point I'm trying to make.

Your hard data comes from subjectivity. A sense of solidity built from mush. False confidence at the finish line, from a shapeshifting starting line.

It's all a judgement call. Even the stuff you can measure.

And it's a beautiful thing.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.