I love this quote, but alas, Einstein never said it. (Isn’t it amazing how many quotes are not correctly attributed?) Apparently this gem originated in a 1963 paper by sociologist William Bruce Cameron: “It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Which is about the best defense of the validity of the social sciences of I’ve seen. So no matter who said it, I like it.
Here in “The Valley” –Silicon Valley to those of you who might wonder–here in The Valley, where engineers are king–there’s always been great respect for things that can be counted: data, sales, eyeballs, clicks. It’s always been quantitative over qualitative. That’s the world we in which we live.
But not so fast! I want to defend quality over quantity.
Not everything can and should be reduced to a number. To a quantity. For example, some fabulous TV shows have been cancelled on the basis of numbers. Now yes, I get that advertisers need viewers. Today’s audiences have so many choices that viewership is fragmented. But it would be so nice if networks of all kinds would invest in a little quality television programming as their give-back to viewers. One such show was Laura Dern’s HBO series, Enlightened, which was quirky but so interesting. Gone now. And The Newsroom, which so many of us loved. Even pay premium networks cancel fine shows.
I’m sure there’s a business case, and maybe it has to do with the age of the audience. TV shows that skew older aren’t as appealing to advertisers because advertisers somehow think younger people consume more. Spend more money. I can make a different case, but advertisers don’t want to hear it.
Do we really need another vampire zombie series? Or more violent shows on TV?
Folks love Downton Abbey on PBS–yes it’s kind of soapy but still miles above network series and appealing to an older audience, too–you’d think other networks would see the value of high quality programming.
So, with all due respect to you numbers people, I’m proudly waving the flag of quality over quantity. And I sure wish more of our institutions did.