# How To Compare Apples & Oranges

## Use this simple comparison tool to, uhh, compare stuff.

Here’s what I woke up thinking about at 4AM this morning:

When faced with the choice between an apple and an orange — or any number of somewhat dissimilar options — what simple algorithm might be used to facilitate a rational decision?

*(Weird, right? It’s just the way my brain works. Be glad you’re you.)*

As an example, say you’re on a road trip. You’re the driver and it’s time for a snack. Here are your options:

Assuming you only get to pick one snack, how might you consider which is best? Well, I’m happy to say, I’ve figured it out!*

### Step One — Establish Criteria

We must first decide what attributes are important. In *this* context (driving a car) I’ve come up with the following criteria:

**Tasty**— I definitely want to eat something I like.**Lack of Preparation**— Because I need hands on the wheel; eyes on the road.**Easy to Eat**— Same as above. Plus, I don’t want to get yucky.**Tidiness**— I don’t want crumbs all over or food spilling between the seat and the console.**Healthy**— There’s no sense gaining a few more pounds before I get to my destination!

### Step Two — Assign Weights

In any decision, some criteria are more important than others, so let’s rank them. To keep things simple, we’ll use a three-point scale and the following rule:

**Total the number of your criteria, then distribute that number as “preference points” — zero, one or two — to each of the criteria, where**

**“2” means it’s***very*important**“1” means it’s***somewhat*important**“0” means it’s of***little*importance.

(You must use *all* the points.)

With a total of five Snack criteria, here’s how I rated mine:

**Tasty = 2**(This is the most important attribute!)**Lacks Prep = 1****Easy to Eat = 1****Tidiness = 0**(This is least important; I can tidy up the car when I get there.)**Healthy = 1**

### Step Three — Score Each Option

Our goal is to assess each option’s rating across our criteria — both positively *and* negatively — and pick the one that rates highest overall. To do that we’ll begin with a neutral baseline of “average” and determine whether each option exceeds or falls short for the various criteria. Here’s how.

For each option:

**Draw a horizontal line**and write your weighted criteria above it.**Rate each criterion**by placing an “x”*above*,*on*or*below*the line, where:**Above = Positive**— The option rates above average for this criteria.**On = Neutral**— The option rates about average.**Below = Negative**— The option rates below average.**Eliminate any “deal breakers”**— options that fall “below the line” for criteria with a weight of 2. (There’s no point in considering options that fail to meet your most desired criteria.)**Multiply by each criterion’s weight**to score each rating:

If the “x” is**above the line**, multiply the criterion’s weight by**+1**.

If it’s**on the line**, multiply the criterion’s weight by**0**.

If it’s**below the line**, multiply the criterion’s weight by**-1**.- Lastly,
**sum the scores**for the option’s*Total Score*.

Here’s how my snack comparison added up, starting with the apple:

- I love apples, so
**Tasty**scores**2 points**.

(Tasty weight of 2 multiplied by positive rating of 1) - They need no
**Preparation**, so**1 point**here.

(Prep weight of 1 multiplied by positive rating of 1) - Apples are
**Easy**to eat, but they can get a little sticky down at the core, so I gave it a neutral rating for this criterion;**0 points**.

(Easy weight of 1 multiplied by neutral rating of 0) - As for
**Tidiness**, I can throw the core out the window (into the tall grass, where bugs will eat it) and avoid messing up my car, but this criterion had a weight of 0, so**no points**here. - An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
**One more point**for**Healthy**.

**As you can see, the apple gets a Total Score of 4.** Now how about the rest?

### Step Four — Highest Score Wins!

You can now compare the totals and determine which choice is the best match for the criteria you care about most. In the example above, **Grapes win** with a perfect score!

Use the following hierarchy if the score is tied:

- Whichever option presented the most “2s”
- Whichever option had the fewest “-1s”
- If you have more than one criterion with a “2” weight, determine a “super criterion” and select the option that exceeds therein.
- Still can’t decide? Just flip a coin; statistically speaking, it might be your best solution.

### Now You Know

So, the next time somebody scoffs at the ability to compare apples and oranges, you can say with confidence: “I know how to do that!”

** Disclaimer: I’m not totally sure this is my invention (after all, **algorithms have been around since1600 BC**), but it’s a lot more productive than counting sheep.*

*Originally published at **www.dangerouskitchen.com** on March 16, 2016.*