Saturday, May 14, 2005

It's a long learning curve, not a steep one

You often read quotes from folks who say that it will take a long time for people to understand something because "it's a steep learning curve."

If you think about it, a steep learning curve means learning occurs rapidly. If the Y axis is amount of learning, and the X axis is time, then a steep curve means rapid progress.

When folks say that, they're conflating the cliche of "a steep hill to climb" with the concept of a learning curve.

But an AP article run in Business Week online quotes someone who gets it right:

Microsoft tests version of tuneup service

MAY. 13 2:08 P.M. ET Microsoft Corp. is rolling out a test version of an all-in-one subscription service that aims to protect computer users from viruses and spyware and give them tools to make machines speedier.
"There is a long learning curve in producing a live security service," said Risto Siilasmaa, F-Secure's chief executive.

It was so refreshing to see someone use the learning curve metaphor and actually get the math right! I know, I know, I shouldn't take metaphors that seriously. Making pithy comments for the media is a tough row to hoe.

As Will Rogers might have said, I never metaphor I didn't like.

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