The problem with quadrant charts isn’t that they have two axes and four boxes. It’s the magic part — why their contents are what they are.

Well, okay, that’s one of the problems. Another is that once you (you being me, that is) get in the quadrant habit, new ones pop into your head all the time.

Like, for example, this little puppy that came to me while I was watching Kong: Skull Island as my Gogo inflight movie.

It’s a new, Gartnerized test of actorhood. Preposterousness is the vertical axis. Convincing portrayal of a character is the horizontal. In Kong, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, and John C. Reilly made the upper right. I leave it to KJR’s readers to label the quadrants.

While this might not be the best example, quadrant charts can be useful for visualizing how a bunch of stuff compares. Take, for example, my new Opinionization Quadrant. It visualizes the different types of thinking you and I run across all the time … and, if we’re honest with each other, the ones we ourselves engage in as well.

It’s all about evidence and certainty. No matter the subject, more and better evidence is what defines expertise and should be the source of confident opinion.

Less and worse evidence should lead to skepticism, along with a desire to obtain more and better evidence unless apathy prevails.

When more and better evidence doesn’t overcome skepticism, that’s just as bad as prejudice and as unfounded as belief. It’s where denial happens — in the face of overwhelming evidence someone is unwilling to change their position on a subject.

Rationality happens when knowledge and certainty positively correlate. Except there’s so much known about so many subjects that, with the possible exception of Professor Irwin Corey (the world’s foremost authority), we should all be completely skeptical about just about everything.

So we need to allow for once-removed evidence — reporting about those subjects we lack the time or, in some cases genius to become experts in ourselves.

No question, once-removed evidence — journalism, to give it a name — does have a few pitfalls.

The first happens when we … okay, I start my quest for an opinion in the Belief/Prejudice quadrant. My self-knowledge extends to knowing I’m too ignorant about the subject to have a strongly held opinion, but not to acknowledging to myself that my strongly held opinion might be wrong.

And so off I go, energetically Googling for ammunition rather than illumination. This being the age of the Internet and all, someone will have written exactly what I want to read, convincingly enough to stay within the boundaries set by my confirmation bias.

This isn’t, of course, actual journalism but it can look a lot like it to the unwary.

The second need for care is understanding the nature and limits of reportage.

Start here: Journalism is a profession. Journalists have to learn their trade. And like most professions it’s an affinity group. Members in good standing care about the respect and approval of other members in good standing.

So when it comes to reporting on, say, social or political matters, a professional reporter might have liberal or conservative inclinations, but are less likely to root their reporting in their political affinity than you or I would be.

Their affinity, when reporting, is to their profession, not to where they sit on the political spectrum. Given a choice between supporting politicians they agree with and publishing an exclusive story damaging to those same politicians, they’ll go with the scoop every time.

IT journalism isn’t all that different, except that instead of being accused of liberal or conservative bias, IT writers are accused of being Apple, or Microsoft, (or Oracle, or open source) fanbodies.

Also: As with political writing, there’s a difference between professional reporters and opinionators. In both politics and tech, opinionators are much more likely to be aligned to one camp or another than reporters. Me too, although I try to keep a grip on it.

And in tech publishing the line separating reporting and opinion isn’t as bright and clear as with political reporting. It can’t be. With tech, true expertise often requires deep knowledge of a specific product line, so affinity bias is hard to avoid. Also, many of us who write in the tech field aren’t degreed journalists. We’re pretty good writers who know the territory, so our journalistic affinity is more limited.

There’s also tech pseudojournalism, where those who are reporting and opinionating (and, for that matter, quadrant-izing) work for firms that receive significant sums from those being reported on.

As Groucho said so long ago, “Love goes out the door when money comes innuendo.”

Tom Friedman discovered the Internet ten years ago (The World is Flat, 2007). I’m sure you were as pleased for him as I was.

But to be fair to Friedman, he’s a smart feller who sometimes does have useful insights, like, for example, about Digital stuff. Without using the term once — and good for him, especially for not using it as a noun — he recently provided as neat a synopsis of how we should all be using the Digital adjective as I’ve seen (“Folks, We’re Home Alone,” New York Times, 9/27/2017).

Here’s the exact text:

We’re moving into a world where computers and algorithms can analyze (reveal previously hidden patterns); optimize (tell a plane which altitude to fly each mile to get the best fuel efficiency); prophesize (tell you when your elevator will break or what your customer is likely to buy); customize (tailor any product or service for you alone); and digitize and automatize more and more products and services. Any company that doesn’t deploy all six elements will struggle, and this is changing every job and industry.

Let’s take a closer look:

Analyze: In Friedman’s view this means finding patterns, presumably through the use of multivariate statistical techniques, leading to the well-known logical fallacy of thinking correlation proves causation.

For businesses, though, the framework of causality that leads to a pattern often doesn’t matter. If the data reveal a pattern — say, that the presence of fire fighters correlates with the presence of fires — it really doesn’t matter if the fire fighters are setting the fires or putting them out. What matters is that this is a good place to put a lemonade stand, because the data also reveal the pattern that fire fighters who are near fires are often thirsty.

Optimize: I know the route to the airport. But I still use Google Maps to get me there. Why? Google will route me around traffic snarls to get me there faster.

More broadly, we’re leaving the age of fixed-flow linear processes in favor of processes that dynamically adapt to changing situations. Take, for example, the OODA loop we’ve discussed in this space from time to time (observe, orient, decide, act).

More and more data (observe) means you need to use Digital technologies to analyze it for meaning (orient), followed by self-learning AI choosing a course of action (decide) and learning from the results (back to observe). Humans might or might not be involved in implementing the decision (act), depending on whether the action takes place in the physical or virtual world.

Prophesize: Look at the figure. It shows white noise. Since business first started eons ago, the best strategic decision-makers have learned to ignore noise, searching for the signal within it.

But as algorithmic traders have figured out, if you can make decisions fast enough the noise can be the signal. You just have to be able to respond to each change of direction fast enough. Do this and it counts as prophesy: “For the next x units of time we should expect our markets to follow this very short-term trend.”

Customize: Here’s something I’ve been writing about for years. Especially with increasing wealth stratification, the ability to tailor and customize, driven by affluent customers’ desire for uniqueness, will be a critical competitive differentiator. Luxury is, after all, relative, not absolute, which is why even the snazziest-looking Timex watch that keeps perfect time is not a luxury, while a Rolex, which, having a mechanical movement, keeps nothing resembling perfect time, is a luxury for those few who can afford one.

Digitize and Automate: I don’t know what the difference is between “digitize” and “automate.” I’m pretty sure one, the other, or both mean “have the computer do it, not human beings.”

Either way, the idea is that businesses can reconfigure themselves more quickly when everything is done in software. And they can, assuming modern application architecture, modern integration architecture, and short-cycle-time techniques like the Agile/DevOps combination.

Collaborate: This is a big one, and Friedman missed it. Individuals can’t do everything all by themselves. That takes teams, and teams of teams. Not groups. Teams. The difference: Members of a team trust each other and collaborate. Members of a group trust nobody, and negotiate. This slows everything to a crawl.

Companies can’t do everything all by themselves either, so the teams and teams of teams in question often consist of employees from more than one company. If they can and do trust each other they can collaborate. If they can collaborate they can deliver terrific results together. If they can’t they probably can’t.

So let me ask you: How much is your company willing to invest in trust?