Chocolate and Gold Coins

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ockham’s Razor and The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named

Ockham’s Razor (sometimes spelled Occam’s Razor) is an important idea in the sciences and in other areas where deductive reasoning is important. Ockham said that if there are two plausible theories that could explain the evidence, the simpler theory is more likely to be true. In the sciences, including economics, this theory is called Maximum Likelihood. But this idea extends to other areas.

For example, suppose there is a small fire in a hotel and an employee puts it out. Then a year later another small fire starts in the same building and the same employee puts out the fire. At first glance, you think, “What an odd coincidence.” But a second theory emerges, “Maybe the employee started the fire.” You check for signs of arson and sure enough, you find out the fire had been set. Sure, Ockham’s Razor by itself proves nothing, but he’s been right too often to be ignored. And a corollary to Ockham's razor is that if you get caught starting a fire, you'll get blamed for every fire.

Now consider this: a blogger toils in anonymity for more than a year and gets almost no readers. Then he or she happens to be on the periphery of a major blog scandal and gets tons of visitors. That in itself is not so surprising. After all, it would be an odd life in which nothing interesting ever happened. But then two weeks later the same blogger happens to be there to witness another once-in-a-lifetime event. What a coincidence…or was it? A careful reading of the second incident raises questions. Maybe the blogger made the whole thing up.

Shivam Vij, who writes a very nice blog called Mall Road, alludes to this blogger here. This blogger could be called “The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named” because no one wants to point the accusatory finger just yet. But it will happen shortly.

In the IIPM brouhaha, the motive behind the bogus blogs with bland IIPM content and the words IIPM repeatedly in the title was clear: make sure that IIPM-friendly material would always remain high in a google search and not anti-IIPM blog posts (they also raise the pagerank of someone else). But some comments on blogs lead back to these IIPM blogs – and in Blogger this could only happen if the owner of the blog made the comment. Some of these comments were outrageous. Some of the bogus blogs had outrageous “please sue me” titles like drnoamchomskyonline. Why would the IIPM risk their reputation on immature comments and blog titles? I wondered about this point in this post. I thought at that time that one possibility was that a malicious blogger was creating some of these blogs leaving these comments purposefully to start a blog forest fire. But this theory was not the simplest theory simply because it assumed the existence of a malicious blogger who would post lies for the purpose of creating controversy. Sure, it could happen, but in the absence of any direct evidence, why assume this is likely?

But now The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named has walked onto center stage. What other fires has this blogger set? We have to wonder.

Update
The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named is not Gaurav Sabnis and not Rashmi Bansal.

16 Comments:

  • Do you have any proof of this - ie the splogs being created by this one particular blogger.. or is it all just assumptions.. im very much against this sorta thing happening - lies, that is.. but how sure are u that it was indeed this one blogger who went about splogging for iipm....

    Sorry - i'm just trying to be double sure before something wrong blows outta proportion...

    cheers,
    Strav.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 AM  

  • Hi Strav
    I have no proof and this post is not about proof. I did not name names is part because I lack proof. This post about using Ockham's razor to identify the prime suspect. The point is, we all tarred IIPM as the prime suspect in the obscene comments on Rashmi's blog - without any proof that they were behind it.

    They (IIPM) presumably benefitted from the splogs and so the nasty comments pointed back at IIPM. But someone else benefitted from the splogs also. It is possible that someone else did this deed. That is all that I am saying here.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:40 AM  

  • Michael , this is far too confusing for a casual reader like me. Could you be more specific ? What did the Liar Who Cannot Be Named lie about ? All the details please...

    By Anonymous Raj Mehta, at 5:41 PM  

  • Oh I got it. Some nasty blogger pretended to comment on behalf of IIPM.All those pro-IIPM posts were by this single person.So who was it and how could you find out ?

    By Anonymous Raj Mehta, at 5:50 PM  

  • the suspense is killin me... d:-"

    By Blogger The Arbit Council, at 12:22 AM  

  • Hi Raj and Arbit
    Raj: No we (people who have been talking about this) do not think that all of the IIPM blogs were created by a single person. In fact, there is too much evidence to the contrary. But there might be a small number of blogs that were created by a blogger for selfish purposes. We think we know which ones. These do not include the infamous oraclecoder or IIPMstudent9 blogs, btw.

    The possibility that all of the blogs will be blamed on rogue bloggers is possible and very unfortunate. This bothers a lot of people and this is why the blogger will be left unnamed for now.

    Arbit: As Karl Rove would say, "I've said too much already."

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:53 AM  

  • But how does it matter?

    By Blogger Nilu, at 8:26 AM  

  • with your update atleast, you don't leave much doubt about who the person is.

    By Blogger Deepa, at 9:59 AM  

  • The whole situation is A B S U R D u mean Michael rite ? I suspected it at the first instance anyway.

    By Anonymous UKnowMe, at 3:09 AM  

  • I love these kind of dark theories. Well! Michael your post and update doesn't leave any room for guesses. So you have said too much already. But I doubt that any connection can be "proved". So the blogger will remain the one who must not be named. The whole thing does sound ABSURD I Am Very sure!

    By Anonymous Amir, at 12:52 PM  

  • Dr. Higgins:

    "Ockham said that if there are two plausible theories that could explain the evidence, the simpler theory is more likely to be true. In the sciences, including economics, this theory is called Maximum Likelihood."

    Well, actually, no: Ockham's razor is not the basis of maximum likelihood. As you no doubt know, likelihood is the probability of the evidence E (at hand) given some hypothesis H. Maximizing likelihood does not track simplicity. For example, the use of maximum likelihood in phylogeny-construction most certainly doesn't rely on Ockham's razor or any other criterion of simplicity.

    Kumar

    By Blogger Kumar, at 6:46 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:42 AM  

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    By Blogger Netpowersoft, at 9:53 AM  

  • I would love to be that blogger as blogs today has been the only vent to the anger of the IIPM students. Of the Rs 430 crore that IIPM makes its staff is still treated like dirt and its facilities lay un touched by modernising.Students are exploited at various levels and to curb such practices blogs should take a central role as the News media has been bought. I am sad to say this but a product can survive only on the basis of brand if enough ads and PR is dedicated behind it. un published discovery of Arindhum chaudry. I am collecting hard evidence and the worst is yet to come. bubbs.lulla@gmail.com

    By Anonymous bubbs.lulla@gmail.com, at 2:48 AM  

  • I would love to be that blogger as blogs today has been the only vent to the anger of the IIPM students. Of the Rs 430 crore that IIPM makes its staff is still treated like dirt and its facilities lay un touched by modernising.Students are exploited at various levels and to curb such practices blogs should take a central role as the News media has been bought. I am sad to say this but a product can survive only on the basis of brand if enough ads and PR is dedicated behind it. un published discovery of Arindhum chaudry. I am collecting hard evidence and the worst is yet to come. bubbs.lulla@gmail.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 AM  

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    By Blogger 123 123, at 5:13 AM  

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