Most of us take top 10 lists at face value, believing that a particular CD or film is worth checking out.
To shed light on the trustworthiness of such rankings, Harvard researchers have created LineUp, an open-source application it says allows us to make quick, easy judgments about rankings.
“It liberates people,” Alexander Lex, a researcher at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in a statement. “Imagine if a magazine published a ranking of ‘best restaurants.’ With this tool, we don’t have to rely on the editors’ skewed or specific perceptions. Everybody on the Internet can go there and see what’s really in the data and what part is personal opinion.”
For example, users might look at the raw data behind university rankings and decide for themselves the relative importance of student-faculty ratios or the number of citations per faculty member.
LineUp's creators say that previously, people without deep statistical or technical knowledge had no way of knowing authors’ or institutions’ potential biases or agendas, and that it brings us one step closer to simpler, personalized, and more meaningful data analysis.
“Essentially, it’s a tool to allow people to explore the complexity of reality,” says Lex.
LineUp is available as open-source software, free to use by anyone, at lineup.caleydo.org.