The Wisdom of Scottish Weddings

It’s great having friends you admire. And one of the many things I admire about my mate Matthew is that he always wants to test things out for himself. Here’s an excerpt from a recent mail:

“at my cousin Al’s wedding
on Saturday, one of the guests organized a sweepstake – guess the
combined length of the wedding speeches. I asked if I could have the
list of times everyone had guessed after she had finished with it.

After I got back I calculated the mean average of the times everyone had
guessed. I did not have high hopes, there’d been just 38 entries in the
sweepstake, as opposed to over 800 for the guess the pig’s weight when
‘dressed’ of Surowiecki’s book, and I feared 38 would not be enough to
take advantage of the crowd’s wisdom. There had also been 3 hours of
booze before dinner (which was late), and I thought judgements might be

Here are the results:

Actual length of all wedding speeches: 33 mins 41 secs
Winning guess length: 34 mins 26 secs
Mean average of all guesses: 34 mins 9.8 secs

So the closest guess in the sweepstake was 45 seconds out, and the
crowd’s guess (mean average) was 28.8 seconds out – 16.2 seconds closer
than the winning entry. For some reason, which I am unable to
articulate, when I realized the crowd’s guess was by far the closest, I
found that I had a ridiculously big grin on my face.”