by Laurianne McLaughlin

Number-speak Hall of Shame

Jan 23, 20074 mins

The IT community can’t get enough of numbers. Now that hardware speeds and feeds have been passé for several years, we eat up every morsel of data we can get on return on investment, total cost of ownership, and oh yes, technology-minded survey after survey.

Admittedly, we tech journalists are helping fuel this desire for instant gratification via metrics and stats. In the age of web news, few things make readers click faster than a sexy stat. But some of these numbers should do more than make you say “hmmm.” Consider these three recent gems:

1. Today, Kelton Research reports that “65 percent of Americans spend more time with their computer than their spouse.”

If you count all your work time, maybe, but this survey asked about time with your home computer. Still, writers across the web couldn’t resist this little Mars/Venus nugget. (Guys, you all talk the talk but we know the truth: If you’re lucky enough to have a spouse or significant other who cares about you, you’re not ditching them for a computer, even if it is a sexy little Apple number. Plasma TVs are a different story.) 

This survey goes onto report that “the average consumer has experienced computer troubles eight times – about every four months – over the last three years.”

These guys are not living in my home PC world. One problem every four months? My PC’s not that well-behaved. And what’s “computer troubles” anyway? Is that when my mom drags her entire email inbox somewhere and can’t find it? Is it when spyware shows up under the radar on your PC, or is it when your hard drive dies? Send these numbers right back to the company who sponsored the study: SupportSoft, a company promising to, hmmm, improve your PC support options with an upcoming online support service.

2. Now check out this winner, courtesy of NPD Research: According to their “Kids and Digital Content” study, released last week, “Kids are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, playing video games and using and downloading content to cell phones, computers and portable digital music players as young as age 2.”  The study examines kids age 2 to 14 and their device and content habits, asking them, and yes, their mothers, about their digital lives.

According to NPD, “only 15 percent” of 2- to 5-year-olds are using cell phones, but 62 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds use them.

2-year-olds using cell phones?

I have an almost-three-year-old and he could use a cell phone – as a passenger in a dump truck, a percussion instrument, or something new to hurtle through the basketball hoop. But he’s not ordering up a custom ringtone anytime soon. Or maybe they’re talking about simply saying hello to grandma on the cell phone, once out of the ten times you try? Sheesh. 

3. “Green” used to be about money, but this year it’s all about being “carbon-neutral.” Just watch, that term will be popping up in well-dressed vendor materials everywhere. But this newsflash would make even Kermit the Frog smile: “Secure Instant Messaging to Save the Earth from 14.2 billion lbs of CO2 Every Year.” Or so says technology consultancy BWCS, in research being promoted by a UK secure instant messaging company, Presence Networks.

If 25% of office workers in the UK would just get with this instant messaging trend and stop commuting to work, that’d be the equivalent to planting 713.5 million new trees annually, the study continues.

Are they counting their trees before they bloom? Who honestly knows?

I’ve learned a lot of technology-related math in my time. I learned how to check hard drive math. I learned how to check microprocessor math. But tree math? Nope. Not going there. Personally, I think many of the current tree numbers are probably for the birds.

Now let’s make this more fun. What unbelievable number have you seen recently? Shame on.