Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NCAA and the Wisdom of Crowds

I know it’s not a Leaf post, or even a hockey post, but Wayne Flemming has a very clever article in today’s (28/03/06) National Post on James Surowiecki’s great book The Wisdom of Crowds and the rather improbable outcome of this year’s Final Four bracket.

Unfortunately, the article is for paying subscribers only but I’d encourage you to search fish joints, subway seats and other places where dead newspapers thrive so that you can read the whole thing.

Here’s the nut:

In The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki says crowds are better at "solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future."

Clearly, the masses were wrong about the 11th-seeded George Mason University Patriots.

ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge drew more than three million entries from 1.5 million people. Participants predicted the outcome of each game in each bracket before March Madness began. No one picked all the games correctly and only four people nailed the Final Four teams who will face off in Indianapolis this weekend.

I wonder if the 1.5 million folks who entered at ESPN are a diverse enough crowd – it’s a huge sample size, but it may be a bit of a monoculture. Fascinating nonetheless - more on Surowiecki, stats and the NCAA here, here and here.

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