BuzzFeed Bashes Creative Use Of Data, Then Tries To Hire Data Geek

BuzzFeed is apparently trying to hire a data editor (see the job listing here, we’ve also screen capped the top part of it below for when it’s eventually taken down):

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But I am venturing a guess they’re going to have a difficult time hiring a data scientist with integrity. Why is that?

First of all on the editorial side they wrote a story bashing a math geek for using data in a creative way. Funny they did this while at the same time on the hiring side they’re looking for, and I quote from the job listing:

“… we want someone who will blow us away with ideas we’ve never imagined.”

Then, they had the audacity to approach the person they just bashed to work for them. Of course, he turned it down (not just for bashing them, but also for much the same reasons we are not always enthusiastic about BuzzFeed’s approach to content). Also in the story linked the mathematician eloquently and calmly responded to the BuzzFeed story which bashed him unfairly.

This in and of itself seems pretty aggressive (and negative) for the data science community overall. Data geeks (myself included) are a curious bunch and want to experiment in all aspects of life. To belittle this shows a misunderstanding of our industry and honestly makes me not want to be a part of their culture. As shown above others feel the same.

Even more so though, BuzzFeed has a history of sharing stories that use data to paint an inaccurate picture of reality purely for pageviews (here’s a response to the latest example). This definitely would get under the skin of many data geeks. Although the fact they do this is unsurprising, as Maddox shares this is BuzzFeed’s entire style and approach — pageviews and links at any cost, credibility and clear citations be damned.

I guess I just don’t personally see BuzzFeed as a place that would attract too many serious data scientists. Especially when there’s so much opportunity here.

With that said I wish them the best, hopefully a good hire could help turn around BuzzFeed and show them they can be credible, use citations properly, drop the gimmicky/cheesy headlines and stop sharing data sets with sample bias in stories — yet still get traffic. Is that asking too much?

Hat tip Mike Tigas for sharing this story with us.