Behind Reporting

Have you ever had a sense that you don’t know what’s going on?

I’m not talking in the general sense (that’s your problem), but on a project, at work, or looking over some report or news article?  Yeah, I’m sure you have.

I’ve often wondered over the years as a psych major, engineer, and manager just how people can be so terribly wrong in keeping track of things.  Bad articles, incoherent software, senseless status reports all keep adding up to “duh” over and over again.  It’s sad enough that whenever I start some new project of any kind, I figure that the reporting involved is going to be wrong as a default.

But there’s something behind every meaningless statistic or confusing game interface.

That is MATH.

Math is what you use to report.  Math is what you use to say what things mean.  If you don’t have good numbers and do the right math, it’s meaningless.

This may or may not seem like a revelation, but to me it is – because having a science background, having built inventory systems, I’m used to math.  I marinate in math.  I have a minty math scent.

But not everyone has that experience.  Or interest.  Or obsession.

So next time you have to communicate data, next time you’re running a status report for a con, remember no matter how good you are at math or how much you like it – not everyone is like you.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at