Critique the analysis, not the person: professional behavior

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Submitted by powayseller on September 25, 2006 - 10:35pm

Some people who disagree on this forum react by criticizing the *person* who made the analysis, rather than the *analysis* itself.

This type of criticism occurs daily at Roubini's blog, where some people really lay in on him, but offer no facts or data of their own. This also happens here at piggington, with me as the prime target.

My work mentors taught me never to attack a person, but to debate the idea. I learned that when I disagreed with someone, I had to focus on the topic and give the reasons that my idea was better, why my way would yield better results and how much money that would save the company, but *never* accuse the person. Keeping the emotion out is very important in the workplace. Those who master this skill will probably rise farther in their careers.

Instead of criticizing a person, criticize that person's line of reasoning. Do you want to show me you are smarter than I, or just more emotional?

If you disagree with me, make a bloody good case for WHY! If you want to show that your analysis is superior, you do it by giving a superior analysis, not by calling names.

Submitted by sdcellar on September 27, 2006 - 1:14pm.


Actually, you expect to be stopped at three traffic lights. You are at risk of being stopped at all ten. Think about it next time your running late and the lights don't go your way.

awww.... Somebody posted the same thing. Oh well...

Submitted by lamoneyguy on September 27, 2006 - 1:22pm.

You said that all soldiers are at risk, but we do not "expect" them all to die. But some will. It would be accurate to say that that percentage (some) is truly "at risk" of dying. That is an "expectation", but certainly not an absolute (either direction, more/less).

Not all soldiers are in combat situations. Any of them could perish to highly unforseen fire/accident, but the ones that would accurately be described at "at risk" are the ones in combat situations. Then, some amount of loss among those in combat are "expected" to be lost.

Likewise, not all mortgage holders are "at risk" due to ARM resets, etc. Among those that are "at risk" due to ARM resets, etc. some percentage would be "expected" to default.

Submitted by powayseller on September 27, 2006 - 1:54pm.

If the loans won't default, then there won't be foreclosures leading to recession, making the entire paragraph nonsense.

Furthermore, if you study the lack of underwriting guidelines out there today, you would wonder why Cagan didn't say, "About half of those people are going to default".

Submitted by PerryChase on September 27, 2006 - 1:58pm.

I love languages so I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with sdrebear; "expect" does not mean with certainty.

Both their parents have doctorate degrees. I expect John and Jane to receive a great education then go on to successful careers. There's no certainty of that happening.

Submitted by powayseller on September 27, 2006 - 2:07pm.

woodrow, you have lost credibility in my eyes as well, because you prefer insults over debates. I respect people who contribute to a dialogue by starting their own threads or using logic to make a case. Telling someone you are apologizing because they are hypersensitive is passive agressive. No thanks to your apology. But please, start your own thread. I would love to read your opinions and commentaries!

Submitted by lamoneyguy on September 27, 2006 - 2:08pm.

Both their parents have doctorate degrees. I expect John and Jane to receive a great education then go on to successful careers. There's no certainty of that happening.

"Expect" does not mean with certainty, rather more like, "in all liklihood," or "probable."

Despite both their parents having doctorate degrees, there remains the risk that either John or Jane may fall into the wrong crowd and not attend college. However, I would not expect that to occur.

Submitted by sdrebear on September 27, 2006 - 5:02pm.


I'm not sure that in one post you can say that I'm at risk for hitting all 10 lights (meaning that there is risk in some degree for every potential outcome) and then in another post say that not all mortgage loans are "at risk".

That's a bit of a contradiction. Yes, there is some risk (however small) that any, or every loan in this country could default. Just as there is risk that I could hit every light. I may have failed to qualify the 30% with "reasonable risk", or "high risk".

Again, I just don't like that the analysis said 19% of loans are "at risk". Truthfully, all of the loans are at risk to some degree. Using the term "risk" is a slick way for an analysis to get his opinion and "prediction" out while being able to avoid putting down a hard number that could come back to bite him later. You see, by saying "risk", he has a nice fat range of zero to 19% (even if he was slightly over 19%, I'm sure nobody would crucify him). If he said "expects", he'd be held to a hard number of 19%. More than likely, that was his true meaning.

In the end, it is all semantics (as I believe you said in the other thread). We have a very rich language and we all use (or, should use) context to understand the writer's message. I saw something much milder in PS's title than some and caught the inference she was making. Other's may not have. I can see the point being made by others (yes, it's a stretch to directly link "risk" and "expect"), but I think way too much is being made of the "intent" of the writer (PS). I feel that she "read" Cagan's meaning pretty well. The more you read analysis, you'll see that they rarely speak in absolutes.

Submitted by sdcellar on September 27, 2006 - 5:30pm.

Well, in the latest topic it's become "WILL", so what do you think of the interpretation now?

Submitted by powayseller on September 27, 2006 - 5:52pm.

Yes, he said "1 million loans will default" back in March.

Submitted by lamoneyguy on September 27, 2006 - 11:58pm.

I'm not sure that in one post you can say that I'm at risk for hitting all 10 lights (meaning that there is risk in some degree for every potential outcome) and then in another post say that not all mortgage loans are "at risk".

sdrebear, touche. That does appear to be contradictory. I would agree with you if the liklihood of all of the outstanding mortgages had an equal liklihood of defaulting. I have no way of distinguishing between one street light over another. Thus they are all "at risk." The difference is randomness. Street lights are random, liklihood of mortgage defaults are not.

The problem is that the original author did not define "at risk." If he had said that an at risk mortgage is over a certain LTV or is scheduled to adjust to a payment that is above a certain percentage of gross household income, then it would be more clear. Out of the total set of outstanding mortgages, any of them can default, but we know that a certain subset defined by parameters such as I named are at higher risk for default.

I agree about the slippery language analysts use to qualify everything they say. I think he could have been more clear by defining "at risk" as I mentioned, and by explaining that a certain percentage of those "at risk" mortgages are expected to default.

An "at risk" high school student may be defined as one who is failing a certain number of classes, has over X number of tardys and absences, and has had disciplinary issues. Some of these kids will not succeed. They will drop out and perhaps get into legal trouble. I certainly do not expect all of them to. Likewise, a student who gets good grades and has not had any problems CAN drop out and get in trouble with the law, but we would not have described this child as "at risk" before that time.

Submitted by carlislematthew on September 28, 2006 - 8:32am.

My work mentors taught me never to attack a person, but to debate the idea.

Proposal: Stop telling people they're "delusional" or "liars" or implying that they are evil owner/realtors if they disagree with you, and I'll stop saying you're extreme...

It's hypocritcal of you to ask that people don't call you names, or assign labels to you, when you do the exact same thing. Yes, I just said you were hypocritical, and yes I know I just judged you.

On the other hand, I will agree with others that you bring good information to the forum. You obviously spend a lot of time scouring the web for information and many on this forum, including myself, are very thankful for that. But in the move from presenting the data to adding your commentary (the analysis stage) you cannot help but let your personal bias get in the way. If you looked inside yourself (figuratively speaking) and understood your own bias, then I believe you'd make a better analyst. Instead of just searching for articles/information that PROVE your theories, look for articles that DISPROVE. Do both!

Look for faults in data that you support, as hard as you look for faults in data you don't support. I remember one post (I'm not interested in searching for it) where someone presented a graph that supported the idea of increasing home prices (or something similar). You immediately, and correctly, jumped in it for not looking far enough back in time. A little while later you yourself presented some data to support your forecasts that didn't go far back enough in time. In fact, it went back less than the data you *didn't* like. So, with the forecast you didn't agree with, you looked VERY hard for faults, cracks, problems. With the forecast you agreed with, you didn't do the same. I believe it's called confirmation bias, selective thinking, or some other term.

Submitted by sdrebear on September 28, 2006 - 9:10am.

Dang it!! Add me to the Tract vs Track thread.

I kept saying "analysis", when I meant to write "analyst". Sorry for anyone who found that hard to read due to my error.

P.S. All good points lamoneyguy.

<walking off in shame> Man, I knew that was wrong...

Submitted by powayseller on September 28, 2006 - 9:45am.

Good points, carlisle...

Submitted by lamoneyguy on September 28, 2006 - 10:19am.

[walking off in shame] Man, I knew that was wrong...

Haha, not in shame, and probably not wrong. As we said earlier, this is all about semantics. The beauty of the English language is that there are multiple valid definitions for these words.

I just love to debate my point. :)

Submitted by powayseller on September 28, 2006 - 11:25am.

carlisle, this is the post to which you are referring. I took it seriously, since it came from Merrill Lynch. Well, shoot me for believing Merrill Lynch!

Then FormerSanDiegan posted a chart going back for several decades, and it shows the correlation did not exist back then. So I thanked him for that.

Yesterday, I continued the discussion of this chart by posting a financial advisor's study from, which shows statistically, housing and the stock market have a .84 correlation with a 1 year lag since 1995.

So where is my bias? This Merrill Lynch-originated homebuilder/stock market chart made the internet rounds, and unfortunately some people posted only the data since 1995 without explaining that the prior years were exluded because the correlation was low. It was up to any of us, you included, to show that it did not go back far enough, and that there is a greater correlation between the index and housing since 1995. It's too bad that nobody has made any theories as to why housing is the economy since 1995, and not before.

I post the stories that I like or that are interesting, and you can post the stories you like. In that vein, I would love to see some posts from you. What kind of articles strike your fancy, what do you consider worthy of posting, what kind of bias will you show in your posts?

I get bored reading my own stuff, and would love to read posts started by people who disagree with me! That is how we can get more diversity here. Don't just wait for me to entertain you with my writing, and then complain about the content. Step up and start your own thread!

Submitted by JES on September 28, 2006 - 11:31am.


This thread is now officially closed in order to reduce personal attacks and critiques - the very actions this thread was initiated to stop. Future posters will be ruthlessly attacked personally and professionally until they stop posting.

Submitted by Bugs on September 28, 2006 - 11:43am.


Submitted by powayseller on September 28, 2006 - 6:07pm.

oops, sorry I messed up the link.

Submitted by lewman on September 29, 2006 - 1:04am.

wow some of us need to chill ... now is that considered personal attack ... lucky I didn't mention any name ...

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 2:22am.

"Just to clarify, are you holding me to a higher standard than Nouriel Roubini or Barry Ritholtz? "

No. They are professionals, who use massive amounts of data, and undoubtedly create large spreadsheet and/or database models to perform complicated analyses and reach insightful conclusions. You don't even open Excel.

Problem is - I hold you to the same standards as them, and other world-class analysts (not economists) that I know personally, and you don't stack up. Not even on the same planet as stacking up.

Just because you read Robini doesn't mean you are Robini.

I appreciate it when you post interesting articles, I really do. But when you spin them improperly, it is very bothersome and erodes your value to this forum.

And I agree with woodrow's evaluation of your inappropriate use of the word "expected".

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 2:24am.

Expected and at risk are completely different. Sadly, the term "at risk" is pretty vauge. "At risk" means there is some chance of success and some chance of failure. In this article that chance is never stated.

My issue with Powayseller is the way she turned a vauge statement into a very specific number. We don't know how "at risk" those loans are yet Powayseller assumed they were at 100% risk.

Why assume %100 risk, then state it as fact, when the level of risk is simply not stated anywhere? That is the kind of bothersome powayseller conclusion jump that is so common in her posts.

sdrebear - you quote the definition, which uses the word "certain". Then you claimed it doesn't really mean certain. Not sure I follow you there.

Expect can also be an expected value, in probablilistic terms, which is different from those items at risk.

For example, one might consider 10% of the loans at 50-50 risk of defaulting, which results in an an expected value of 5% defaults. Powayseller is applying the expected value to the items at risk, which is incorrect, unless the risk is 100%.

Submitted by powayseller on September 29, 2006 - 3:56am.

sduuude, peace to you!

Submitted by sdrealtor on September 29, 2006 - 8:53am.

Save your breathe. It is obvious she is not interested in real analysis. She is only interested in furthering her own agenda of feeling she made the right decision and believing that she will buy a home in a few years at nominally 50% off the current prices. You provided a thoughtful, accurate and gentlemanly explanation to which she responded "peace to you". Does that sound like someone interested in listening to reason?

Submitted by sdrebear on September 29, 2006 - 9:26am.

Hey sdduuuude,

I chose not to alter the real definition (just to support my point more strongly) which did include the word "certain".

"to consider probable or certain"

Don't you leave out the other word there, which is "probable" just to support your point.

You also illustrated my real point (much better than I did actually) which is that the term the analyst (hey, I used it right!) used, "at risk" was too vague and left open the opportunity for PS (and others) to use the 100% part of that risk assessment. Was it technically correct to assume that outcome could occur? Well, yes. Is it probable? I doubt it.

It was just the fact that people were killing her on the point when on the extreme technical side of the argument, she was actually within her rights to do that (even if it is "spin").

Submitted by powayseller on September 29, 2006 - 9:49am.

sdrealtor, I just spoke with a lady I met recently, who is a life coach, and asked her how to handle unprovoked criticism.

She told me that less intelligent people attack a person, because they lack the intelligence to debate. She suggested that I just act pleasant, so that's what I did. It seems like good sound advice.

The Excel file comment is just ludicrous, so I didn't even respond. Well, I do like to hear different points of view, so I would love to read your analysis. What do YOU think of the UCLA Anderson Forecast? Wasn't your colleague there? What did HE think of it?

sduuude and sdrealtor, what do YOU guys think of Cagan's paper in which he analyzed the impact of resetting ARMs?

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 10:13am.

sdr - Fair enough.

Submitted by woodrow on September 29, 2006 - 10:35am.

sdrealtor, I just spoke with a lady I met recently, who is a life coach, and asked her how to handle unprovoked criticism.

Re-read the original thread, and the 2 subsequent whine-fests you started in defense of your defenseless position that "at risk" = "expected".   You were/are being criticized b/c you spun the quote to make it appear more bearish, as you often do.  The criticism was neither personal nor unprovoked, it was an observation from serveral people who read you often and compliment your efforts for the most part.  Several of us who are obviously schooled in basic economics have tried to tell you that there is an important fundamental difference between the two terms, yet you refuse to budge.

Your quest to be right 100% of the time is amusing.  None of us are right all the time - we should all be happy to get more right than we get wrong.  Even you PS.

Have a great weekend - we'll have to agree to disagree.  I'll wear kiddie gloves when replying to your posts in the future.




Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 10:51am.

"unprovoked criticism"

I think you asked the wrong question of your life coach. In a way, it is provoked. You are posting to a public forum and dishing out advice. If you get it wrong, I consider it a provocation because alot of people look to you for advice.

It isn't like you are walking down the street and some moron is lauging at your hair or telling you to get a boob job. That is the kid of unprovoked criticism your life coach is talking about.

I know you feel our criticism is as such, but it really isn't.

Second, the people criticising you are very intelligent, all around. If I were a life coach, I would suggest that when so many smart people criticize your public comments in unison over and over again, listen and consider that they may be right.

On a more personal level, powayseller, I really think you shoot yourself in the foot when you spin these articles incorrectly. If you want to be respected, you will stop it, and more importantly stop defending it. The people here pointing out issues like this could be helping you, if only you would stop and listen and absorb the criticism.

Before dismissing it as meanness from unintelligent people, stop and think. Learn. Some of these people are smarter than you and I suspect a couple of them could have lunch with Robini and teach him a thing or two.

Lastly, I don't necessarily criticize you to convince you to change your ways. I criticize you for two other reasons also 1) To let new readers and lurkers know this is not a "yell bubble without thinking" forum and 2) to help ensure that others reading your posts don't believe it blindly.

People have a tendency to perceive those who talk alot as being more intelligent than those who talk less, and on this forum you talk alot. I just want to make sure the average reader out there sees the other side of your post and realize when you jumped to a conclusions.

I want others to see the housing bubble in reality, not in the (slightly) over-blown sense with which you portray it. If you can't handle people picking apart your every word, this is the wrong place for you.

I think Cagan's paper is not clear and thus not very useful. If you have an outdoor party coming up and you are concerned about the rain, and someone comes to you and says "you are at risk of getting rained on". You would say "give me the CHANCE of rain, using a number" to make it more clear what they meant by "at risk."

I think you sensed this problem so you tried to put a number to it and made a bad assumption - but I think Cagan should have put that number in, not you.

To bring it back to the topic of this thread:

Be careful saying "peace" then implying I am less intelligent in a back-handed sort of way. That is exactly the kind of personal slam that you were trying to avoid in the title of this thread, isn't it?

Your life coach probably would have suggested you leave that bit out of the post because it wasn't "being nice". I mean - the life coach says "be nice" and you do exactly what she told you not to do and say we lack the intelligence to debate. Amazing.

In summary - when we hammer on powayseller, lets stick to the analysis and avoid the snide remarks. But by all means - hammer away.

Submitted by powayseller on September 29, 2006 - 11:13am.

This thread was about using logic to debate, and not criticizing the person. I am disappointed that some people prefer to criticize the person instead of using logic. I did a poor job of getting my message across.

Ultimately, our response says everything about our intelligence and character.

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 11:19am.

"Ultimately, our response says everything about our intelligence and character."

Well said.

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