|Whenever I buy a new gadget, I make a product comparison matrix. This might be one of the geekiest things I do, but it's also the best idea any human being has ever come up with. It turns out I'm not alone: One of the guys I work with does the same thing for camping gear. I got Wendy into it when she was thinking about buying an iPod. What can I say; it works.
The system is simple. All products have features, and all features have some sort of value. Size, weight, megapixels, LCD size, storage space, price, etc. Depending on the device and the user, each feature will have a different weight. For example, I might place more emphasis on LCD size and less emphasis on megapixels. So a 5-megapixel camera with a 3-inch LCD will be rated higher than a 10-megapixel camera with a 2-inch LCD. The rating system is sort of fuzzy, or at least it can be. Technically, ratings should have numbers, so the final choice will be as simple as picking the highest number. But unfortunately, things don't always work that way. It's hard to quantify my desire for a bigger LCD versus my desire for more megapixels. I'll often make my final choice based on an array of time-sensitive and hard-to-explain reasoning, such as, "This one's the better camera, but that other one is $100 less for the next two days. I'll get the other one."
It turns out this is actually something I learned in college. It's a way to choose a final design based on several choices. I didn't realize I was using something I learned in school until I learned it again in another class. Damn my education! It stuck with me!
It also turns out this method can be applied to choosing political candidates, as Wendy has figured out. It's really the same idea, but with different "features". Each candidate has a position on each issue, and each issue has a relative weight depending on the voter. I might value government subsidies for poor, homeless, illegal immigrants (I don't) while another person might want to nuke the moon. My point is not that politics is a big stupid waste of time (though it is), but that you can choose a candidate as easily as you can choose a digital camera. #products