Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Matt Raible has a post asking people for various statistics about their web framework of choice. He’s asking for numbers for the following:

  • How many tools (i.e. IDE plugins) are available for your web framework?
  • How many jobs are available for your framework on What about
  • How many messages where [sic] posted to your user mailing list (or forum) in March 2007?
  • How many books are available for your framework?

What on earth does he intend to do with them, I wonder? All of these numbers superficially look like they should be “more is better”. On second glance, they’re anything but:

  • If you have lots of IDE tooling available, it probably means the configuration for the framework is overly complex and unmanageable without it.
  • The framework with the largest number of jobs available is probably Struts 1. Enough said.
  • People only post to user lists when they are stuck. If the framework is hard to use, there will be lots of e-mails. If it has a steep learning curve, and/or the documentation is poor, this will be particularly so. On the other hand, an active list might point to a large active user base. Who knows which is which from a raw figure? It might be better to find the number of posters, not the number of messages.
  • If your framework is fairly stable, and someone has written a fabulous tome on it that is universally acknowledged as “the bible”, few people would bother writing another book for it. Niche books usually only get written if there is no book currently in that space or if the existing books are rubbish and the author(s) think they can do better. How many books are written is therefore a function of the number written on the subject before a good one arrives, and how stable your framework is. The first is a small random number, probably. The second number is “more is worse”, assuming you don’t like frameworks that change under you all the time.

So, I guess I’m curious what extrapolations Matt intends to make from these figures.;-)

One thought on “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”