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Comment: lies, damned lies, and... (Score 2, Insightful) 487

by stile (#8371644) Attached to: Two Spam Filters 10 Times As Accurate As Humans

statistics.

This headline is misleading. I refuse to RTFA, because I imagine the "10 times as effective" figure comes from the article itself.

Come on, folks. The figures do, in fact, show a 10 times increase in effectiveness between humans and these filters. But what the heck does that mean? I have to question the studies. How did they come up with this 99.84% figure? Does it mean that one person will mis-classify about 16 emails in 10000 (a small number indeed)? Or did one or two outliers taint the data?

The important thing here is that we're comparing three averages. Were the conditions between the trials the same? Were the humans given time limits? Were the accounting methods accurate? Were the spam messages the same?

It's quite possible that these averages were bounded by possible error quantities (they should have been!) and that these were tossed when reporting the numbers to us. This was so that a startling result (10 times as effective as a human) could be shown in a headline. It's all about coming up with a flashy "fact".

It's very easy to make numbers say what you want them to say, so I'd be a little wary of running around to your friends "citing" this 10x improvement figure without doing some deep delving into the processes involved in arriving at the number.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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