Saturday, May 5, 2012

5/5/12 Report - The Overgeneralization Trap

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Gold Nugget Crucifix Pendant Beach Metal Detector Find.

I was talking about nugget jewelry the other day, and pendants.  Here is another one.  I think you would call it nugget.  Maybe abstract.

Computers result in, or should I say create, data.  I was looking at google analytics, which I do almost daily, to see how many people read the day's blog and noticed that you can view how many people viewed the blog hour by hour.   I looked mostly out of curiosity - just because it was there.  What I noticed is that there are two peak periods of  daily activity.   One is around 6 to 8 AM, and the other around 6 or 7 PM.   They are about equal in usage.  And the time when hardly anyone is reading the blog, as you might expect, is after midnight and into the early morning hours.

Being a data junky and enjoying the process of theorizing and learning, naturally I thought about it a bit.  That is what I do - observe and try to make sense out of the world.  Passing along my observations and thoughts is secondary to that but gratifying when it seems there is someone on the other end of the computer that is paying attention and benefiting from my efforts.

Anyhow, the data supported what I had previously heard.   People have told me that the blog is the first thing they look at in the morning.  It seems there is a group of people that do that on a regular basis.   Then there appears to be another group that reads the blog after coming home from a day of work.  And of course smaller numbers at most hours of the day.

People are creatures of habit.  That can be a problem when it comes to detecting.  If you always hunt the same parts of the same beaches, those hunted spots can become cleaned out.  And if you are hunting the same beaches and spots that most other people are detecting, your efforts can become less productive.

If you have success at one spot, you'll tend to return to the same spot.  It is like the Skinner box.  You know - reinforcement.  Or you might call it reward and punishment.   But unlike a Skinner box, a beach is a complex and dynamic system.  It changes.  Constantly.

Just because you had success at one spot in the past and no success at other spots, doesn't mean that things won't change.  You might have been hunting for years, and had a lot of success in a specific range of the beach.  As a result you might very well start to spend almost all of your time on the part that was productive in the past.  That will pretty much guarantee that you won't find much in the areas that weren't productive in the past.  You aren't spending your time there so you won't find much there.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You don't believe you'll find anything there, so you don't hunt there, and you don't find anything there.  That is the trap.

I advise busting out of your preconceptions every once in a while to simply test your theories.  I'm not saying spend a lot o time where you don't expect to find anything, but check out those areas once in a while.  You just might be surprised.  I've often been surprised, and as a result had to reconsider my beliefs and had to adjust my thinking to take into account new discoveries.
Instead of falling into the trap of hunting the same spot or two over and over again to the exclusion of all the other possibilities, one thing you can do is rotate the locations that you hunt.  After cleaning out one beach, move to another the next day or week.  Move from one to another on a regular cycle.  Five or six spots in your rotation might be a good number.   But don't be afraid to bust the cycle.  Site rotation works best on beaches that have a lot of activity and are replenished on a regular basis - not as well on most treasure beaches. 
Even if you have a system, break out of it once in a while.  Check other areas once in a while just to check you thinking.   And  if you want to continue to learn, you have to occasionally try new things  And you have to test your old ideas.  Things change.  Don't get stuck in a rut.  Especially an unproductive one.

If you find rusty artifacts such as shipwreck spikes, you know what happens to iron after it has been immersed in salt water.  I've talked about how to treat iron in the past and given some helpful links.   Here is another link if you want to learn more about rusty artifacts.

The beach conditions and forecast haven't changed.   It is still beautiful weather, with calm seas and very low low tides.  It is a nice time for wading or snorkeling.   And there seem to still be a lot of iron and other metals on the beach fronts.  Still some dips in front of the beach.

Happy hunting,