Geeky Statistician Nate Silver Takes Social Media By Storm

By Cameron Scott 

data, blogsNate Silver is a popular man today, after offering on the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog what turned out to be far more accurate predictions for the election than many reputable polls. Social media is exploding with adulation for the geeky numbers cruncher.

Silver, who graduated from the University of Chicago, first demonstrated his skills as a statistician when he created the baseball forecasting system PECOTA. His blog first appeared on the New York Times in 2010.

Twitter is currently seeing hundreds of tweets mentioning Silver per minute.

Nearly 3,500 people are “talking about” Silver’s Facebook page, and its “likes” are at 11,541 and climbing.

Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise, published last month, is the second top-seller on Amazon, with sales up 850 percent today.

The New York Times posted an interview last night with the star blogger on YouTube, which has gotten more than 13,000 views.

“Nate is probably snorting coke off naked hookers right now. If he isn’t, he should be,” one user commented on the video.

Because Silver offered a more positive view of Obama’s chances than many mainstream polls, Silver faced a fair amount of criticism from pundits. Many technophiles are touting his success as a victory of science over rhetoric.

One Twitter user touted “a new geeky generation” that valued “statistical analysis vs. gut feelings.”

Silver also stroked technologists’ egos with his assertion that the polls that most closely predicted the election results were those that made sure to include prospective voters who had cell phones but no landlines.

With Big Data a hot buzzword in the industry, many also see Silver’s success, which stemmed from surveying multiple polls, as proof of its utility. Indeed, others are lauding the Obama campaign’s own data that helped him win. That’s the subject of another book: Victory Lab.