Lair Of The Multimedia Guru

December 30, 2007

Did you know… (aka daily nonsense on wikipedia)

Being a little bored and too lazy to do any meaningfull work. Ive looked at wikis main page and on that the Paradox of choice caught my eye, thinking its some interresting thing about math like the Axiom of choice is.

After reading the article iam puzzled why something like that is on wikipedia at all. Not to mention how things like that get linked from the front page.

Psychology has together with astrology always been a little astray from science and logic. But that article is really missing the point. Consumers dont have a problem with too many choices, they have a problem with making choices based on lack of information, wrong and irrelevant information (as presented in advertisements).
If one has a small set of products to choose from at the supermarkt one can try them all or at least a significant fraction of them and then in the future choose the best (considering quality, taste, price, …). With more products trying a significant fraction becomes impossible, one has to rely on other means of comparission. With many products thats still dead easy, for example after trying 3 differnt brands of noodles one realzes they all taste the same. So simply choosing the cheapest is the ideal choice. The same is true in a sense for green tea. None of the green teas from supermarkets i tried tastes as good as a random one from a real tea shop. It gets a lot trickier with these frozen, refrigerated, canned or dried, ready made foods there are far too many to try them all. Theres no obvious trend of taste vs. price, not even a reliable taste vs. brand trend. Only thing which has been always true is that cooked by my (grand)mother or myself tastes better :). I think supermarkets really should add some “number of packs sold per month” and “average customer rating” to their price tags.

Supperior (no frozen and dried crap), half finished, yesterday:

img_2351-small.jpg

Finished (still yesterday)

img_2355-small.jpg

Filed under: Off Topic — Michael @ 19:48

14 Comments »

  1. don’t compare psychology to astrology :P While psychology might appear to be less scientific than stuff which studies protons rather than people, it is only through lack of information that you label it a pseudoscience :P

    Comment by ninth — December 31, 2007 @ 11:17

  2. What is that food?

    Comment by Anonymous — January 1, 2008 @ 8:05

  3. > What is that food?

    I dont know what its called in english :)
    But its basically rolls (bought too many before christmess, and i hate eating 2+ day old rolls) cut in pieces and soaked in milk+eggs+sugar (or artificial sweetener) and that alternated with layers of pears + cinnamon (normally one uses apples instead of pears but i like pears …). And then obviously put in the oven for a while ;)

    Comment by Michael — January 1, 2008 @ 14:00

  4. > don’t compare psychology to astrology :P While psychology might appear to be less scientific
    > than stuff which studies protons rather than people, it is only through lack of information that
    > you label it a pseudoscience

    We know more about people than protons IMHO, or what was the half life time of a proton? Is it stable? Are quarks out of which protons are made up fundamental or are they themselfs made of other particls. Why are there more protons than anti protons in the universe?
    If one looks at the wikipedia article of the proton, it very well summarizes what is known, what is assumed and what is not known. Not making claims based on guesses like psychology or on statistically insignificant variations of random data like astrology …

    Comment by Michael — January 1, 2008 @ 14:25

  5. > Psychology has together with astrology always been a little astray from science and logic

    You might be interested in studying Philosophy of Science. I don’t remember now where I read about this pseudoscience stuff. It was probably Feyerabend. (Reading it in-depth is of course much better than a quick Wikipedia overview =)

    > they have a problem with making choices based on lack of information

    Well, not everyone wants all that information. I know you and me and all the hackers that comment here have a thirst for knowledge and information, and will try to learn as much as possible before acquiring something (your digicam saga is a good example), but some people just want to take a photograph…

    Comment by Ramiro Polla — January 5, 2008 @ 15:08

  6. > > they have a problem with making choices based on lack of information
    >
    > Well, not everyone wants all that information. I know you and me and all the hackers that
    > comment here have a thirst for knowledge and information, and will try to learn as much as
    > possible before acquiring something (your digicam saga is a good example), but some people just
    > want to take a photograph…

    True, but the solution for these people would be to provide them with a simple recommandition of what to get. Like: “If you just want to take photos and dont want to seriously compare cammeras buy a cannon ixus 1234 IS”. So i maintain that IMO lack of information is the problem not having too many choices. That is simple and short information for thouse who want a simple one sentance recommandition and more indepth information for thouse who want that. Neither is available in any shop or supermarket ive seen. Asking some of the friendly people also is a waste of time they rarely know about the stuff they are selling (though of course they pretend to do in most cases). That surely leaves customers frustrated and depressed but the problem is lack of information, wrong information and badly organized information not too many choices …

    Comment by Michael — January 5, 2008 @ 17:56

  7. > We know more about people than protons IMHO
    Certainly, but just because “less” is known doesn’t mean that we have know nothing! It’s a wide world, and we will only ever scratch the surface of potential knowledge imo :)

    > or on statistically insignificant variations of random data like astrology …
    Do you mean astronomy? Astrology is about horoscopes, astronomy is about black wholes ;)

    Comment by ninth — January 20, 2008 @ 6:59

  8. > > or on statistically insignificant variations of random data like astrology …
    > Do you mean astronomy? Astrology is about horoscopes, astronomy is about black wholes ;)

    No i meant astrology, the sort which claims there would be a relation between the relative positions of planets and various features of people who are born at that time. The sort of astrology which at least does look at a few hundread people, their birthdates the planets at the time and then ignores that there is no statisically significant correlation (likey due to lack of knowledge of statistics). I did not mean the kind of people who consciously invent random predictions knowing they are nonsense, that kind qualifies as scammers or criminals not as the pseudoscience astrology IMHO.

    Comment by Michael — January 20, 2008 @ 20:08

  9. >Consumers dont have a problem with too many choices, they have a problem with making choices based on lack of information, wrong and irrelevant information (as presented in advertisements).

    if we can say infinite choice requires infinite amount of info, then we can exactly say that we have a problem with too many choice, as they require too many information. nobody can devote all of that attention to mere shopping.
    so i would support stance that problem is of too many choices.
    also, that information…nobody can really provide it for you; if one man liked it, it doesn’t mean i’ll like it too…tastes differ.

    about the proton vs. brain; i would say we know less about both. on the surface it may seem we know more about proton, but if we pursue it at a deeper level we’ll soon recognize huuge gaps in knowledge about protons.

    Comment by i4004 — May 3, 2008 @ 15:37

  10. > if we can say infinite choice requires infinite amount of info, then we can exactly say that we
    > have a problem with too many choice, as they require too many information. nobody can devote
    > all of that attention to mere shopping.
    > so i would support stance that problem is of too many choices.
    > also, that information…nobody can really provide it for you; if one man liked it, it doesn’t
    > mean i’ll like it too…tastes differ.

    You also cannot put an infinite number of products in any building or produce them or anything else. Still assuming you could (like you assumed in the argument above) then you could as well just pick a finite number of these products and seperate them from the infinite rest. In a seprate room for example, in that case the customers would not be any worse off than if he had just this finite set without the second room with the infinite remainder.

    What you describe really is that with a large heap of randomly placed products there are problems if there are too many products. This does not apply to well sorted products. Just sort them from best/most popular to worst. And if you argue that the shop keeper cant do that easily well if he can have a shop with fewer products then he could as well place that smaller selection first in the shelfs. And the customer could then choose how many products in the line of inifite products she should consider depending on her available time and interrest. It would be like, shit ive no time … looks at first 2 products knowing they are the most popular and picks one vs. iam in no hurry lets look at the first 50 and read the reviews hanging under each product and then pick what would fit my needs best …

    Besides, a shop with an infinite number products could satisfy a finite number of thiefs each with an arbitrary large finite number of products and still have as many as it had before the thiefs borrowed some :)

    Comment by Michael — May 3, 2008 @ 17:37

  11. michael, if you lived in both socialist and capitalist society you would probably instantly agree with that book wikipedia article is about.
    i did, and i fully agree: seeing a enormous stash of same-type products indeed makes me anxious.
    it’s just a giant mess for me. people should do something better than explore whole that mess of products in supermarkets…
    that’s what i was pointing at when i said infinite. i didn’t mean you’ll literally have infinite amount of products, i just used that to show how information stacks and begins to be redundant.

    let me say one example why user choices can be bad(like i said above) and not good for me at all:
    todays lcd tvs. most of them suck and are too expensive, but people that already bought them won’t really be able to admit their new expensive lcd looks worse than my old crt, yet that is the true.
    so if you were to judge by no. of units sold(probably those cheapst sold best..) or by people’s impressions, you would be wrong.

    so in the end you’re left “to your own devices”(eyes, ears, nose..) and that means you must spend too much time on it. if you have time for it, it’s good, if not, you just wish somebody else would pick for you and put just few types of same thing, not 50.
    and in the conclusion it means too much choices just makes shopping harder.
    and information about all those products would just suffocate customers even more.
    information-overkill.
    (so those who don’t know will probably just ask friends, who got their preference god knows where etc.)

    i remember the waffles type we had prior to capitalism: we don’t have them now, instead we have 50 types of that product, and they all suck…
    seems just like everybody is copying everbody else, and then in the end you have same product with different brands on it.
    many, many different brands…that just try to confuse you…

    offcourse, like you say, for some simple things (eggs, milk, flour etc.) it’s simple, but as soon as you move to, say, yoghurt, the whole hell breaks loose…heheh

    also, there seems to be a trend of things that were once good going bad overnight(or so it seems)…in any case, customers life is not getting easier at all…quite the contrary…

    Comment by i4004 — May 3, 2008 @ 20:10

  12. > michael, if you lived in both socialist and capitalist society you would probably instantly
    > agree with that book wikipedia article is about.
    > i did, and i fully agree: seeing a enormous stash of same-type products indeed makes me
    > anxious.

    What you talk about is not what the wiki article is about. Yes todays supermarkets suck and they carry dozens of near identical bad products. This is bad and its a problem. They should carry better and more diverse products and provide correct information about their products.
    For example: “15 identical products by 15 different manufactors which are owned by 2 large corporations, they all are worse than what we had 5 years ago”.

    > i remember the waffles type we had prior to capitalism: we don’t have them now, instead we
    > have 50 types of that product, and they all suck…
    > seems just like everybody is copying everbody else, and then in the end you have same product
    > with different brands on it.
    > many, many different brands…that just try to confuse you…

    Well and what solution would you think be better?
    A. having just 10 of these 50 bad products in your shop?
    B. having 51 available your good old pre capitalist one and the 50 pieces of crap?

    The wiki and the book point to A being better and thats what i disagree with.

    > offcourse, like you say, for some simple things (eggs, milk, flour etc.) it’s simple, but as
    > soon as you move to, say, yoghurt, the whole hell breaks loose…heheh

    Buy the cheapest plain yoghurt (price per weight), buy fruits and sugar or jam mix it and you have your own fruit yoghurt. Tastes better, and will be free of various things that dont belong in there anyway. :)

    > also, there seems to be a trend of things that were once good going bad overnight(or so it

    Yes, thats absolutely true but this is IMO not related at all to the number of products in the shops. Its just capitalism failing :)
    A few years ago one could buy good tasting rolls in every supermarket around here. Now less than 1 out of 4 supermarkts has edible rolls, sure all 4 continously turn frozen things in their hot air ovens into things looking like rolls. But for some reason the quality went steeply downhill the price of course went up at the same time.
    A small baker would go bankrupt if he tried to sell such trash, but the large supermarkets which are owned by huge coporations and that is 10 “different” supermarkets with different names owned by 1 arent affected enough for capitalism to be effective.

    Comment by Michael — May 4, 2008 @ 1:10

  13. >Consumers dont have a problem with too many choices,

    I disagree.

    If you have 20 brands of say pineapple juice on the shelf are you going to waste time reading 20 labels with a magnifying glass to see which one has aspartame and which one uses regular sugar?

    >and then in the future choose the best

    And when they stop selling that one? Rinse, repeat. Boring.

    >So simply choosing the cheapest is the ideal choice.

    That is a negative feedback loop.

    By picking the cheapest brand, you are basically saying that you don’t care about quality. As a consequence of your choice, better but more expensive brands don’t get on the shelves anymore and they go bankrupt because the store managers order cheap brands that sell the most and thus bring them the biggest profit.

    Net result is what you see in stores today — 20 different packages of the exactly same sh*t with the exactly same low price. You are left with an illusion of choice — real choice has been removed long time ago, and there is also that worm wriggling inside your brain whispering “perhaps I should have chosen the yellow one?”

    Furthermore, if you interpret “capital” in capitalism as “large”, then it hasn’t failed because large companies mass-producing cheap sh*t are doing very well.

    Finally, if you have watched The Incredibles (2004) there is a great dialog between Helen and Dash:

    Helen: “Everyone’s special, Dash.”
    Dash: “That’s just another way of saying no one is.”

    I believe it can be applied to this “paradox of choice” thing pretty well.

    Regards,
    Igor

    Comment by Igor Levicki — November 3, 2008 @ 2:27

  14. >>Consumers dont have a problem with too many choices,
    >I disagree.
    >If you have 20 brands of say pineapple juice on the shelf are you going to waste time reading
    >20 labels with a magnifying glass to see which one has aspartame and which one uses regular
    >sugar?

    They tend to say “sugar free” in big letters when there is no sugar in it.
    And yes i do read what is in some new product before buying, and that never costed much time. I dont exhaustively read labels because its normally not neccessary, if several products of a brand are poor in the same sense, likely all similar products of that brand are as well. So once ive tried 3 of these ready and frozen menus from brand X and they all where shit compared to 3 similar menus from somewhere else then i just assume all menus from that brand likely are, and avoid them most of the time.
    Besides its not that hard to pick randomly, humans do have to eat something quite regularely. So when you do alraedy buy something and eat it you likely do notice if you liked it or not. If you did like it, buy it again. If not, buy something else. If you have no choice you are left with one product which you either like or more likely do not like. If you have a choice you can try a few and more likely will find a product you like.
    Dont blame the amount of choice because all are shit. Blame the companies producing just shit.

    >>and then in the future choose the best
    >And when they stop selling that one? Rinse, repeat. Boring.

    well, you remember what you are arguing against? It seems not because thats a discussion of choice vs. no choice, and honestly if i have just one product and they stop selling it i likely wont be that much happier.

    >Net result is what you see in stores today — 20 different packages of the exactly same sh*t
    >with the exactly same low price. You are left with an illusion of choice — real choice has been
    >removed long time ago,

    That i fully agree with, but the word choice for me implies having different stuff in the products, 20 products with the same shit in them is not what i would call choice.

    >and there is also that worm wriggling inside your brain whispering
    >“perhaps I should have chosen the yellow one?”

    not really, no. Being someone who uses some text mode applications instead of GUI ones where they are better, i honestly must say the outer color or pictures on the box do not affect me. Except of course for quickly finding products i already know, its easier to find a product on a poorly sorted shelf that looks different than one that looks like all others.

    >Furthermore, if you interpret “capital” in capitalism as “large”, then it hasn’t failed
    >because large companies mass-producing cheap sh*t are doing very well.

    yes but i dont consider bosses heaping money “success of a system”. Success implies happy, healthy and well informed customers, thats not what real live capitalism is creating today

    Comment by Michael — November 3, 2008 @ 11:17

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