I ran across this interesting quote from Bruce Schneier on a competition for choosing a new general secure hash function:

NIST has stated that the goal of this process is not to choose the best standard but to choose a good standard. I think that’s smart of them; in this process, “best” is the enemy of “good.” My advice is this: immediately sort them based on performance and features. Ask the cryptographic community to focus its attention on the top dozen, rather than spread its attention across all 80 – although I also expect that most of the amateur submissions will be rejected by NIST for not being “complete and proper.” Otherwise, people will break the easy ones and the better ones will go unanalyzed.

I think it’s such an interesting statement because it so succinctly encapsulates the intrinsic dearth of time and resources that would be required to actually determine which is best.

With some lazy googling, I also came across this article about purchasing wine:

…consumers irrationally (at least from a wine lover’s perspective) chase after bottles that critics have awarded 90 points or more, but shun those in the 85 to 89 range, even though the lower-rated wines may be cheaper, more flexible with food and readier to drink.

Vintage ratings, like wine ratings in general, have a powerful psychological effect on consumers. The higher the number, the greater the desirability of the wine, which feeds into the myriad reasons people make their buying decisions. It should be no surprise that, as with cars, clothes, handbags and other consumer goods, status seeking, showing off and fear of embarrassment all play important roles.