How much does it irk you to hear One Data, Two Datum #MRX

data datum statisticsIf you’re a grammar grinch, you probably suffered a slight heart attack upon reading that title. It’s a grammar problem that plagues researchers to no end. In fact, it’s a problem that really isn’t a problem as I learned recently.

Below you’ll find the rule as well as a link to the original source with nine other rules you’ve been getting wrong all along. Enjoy!

8. Treating “data” as singular instead of plural: Remember what I said about Latin screwing with your life? “Data” is a word that makes lots of people unhappy. It comes from the Latin word “datum,” a second declension neuter noun that becomes “data” in the nominative and accusative plural. (Latin has different plurals for different parts of speech.) We’ve inherited a lot of Latin plurals, and many of them we no longer treat as plural: for example, we say “the agenda is” rather than “the agendas are” and “opera” is not the plural of “opus” in English.

In some cases, using “data” as plural is legitimately useful. You’re more likely to encounter “data” as plural in scientific and mathematical writing where you might talk about collecting each individual datum. My 2007 copy of the AP Stylebook uses “The data have been collected,” as an example of a sentence where “data” is being treated as a group of individual items. In that case, “data” is being treated as what we call a “count noun.”

While some style guides will recommend always using data as plural, in daily speech we frequently use data as what’s called a “mass noun,” meaning it has no natural boundary, no individual units that we can count. Charles Carson, managing editor of the journal American Speech, uses “butter” as an example of a mass noun. Sure, you can talk about pats of butter or cups of butter, but when you talk about just butter, you say, “How much butter is in the pie crust?” When using data as a mass noun, it is perfectly standard English to treat it as grammatically singular.

Carson employs this handy rule of thumb:

If you wish to use data as a singular mass noun, you should be able to replace it in the sentence with the word information, which is also a mass noun. For example,

Much of this information is useless because of its lack of specifics.

If, however, you want to or need to use data as a plural count noun, you should be able to replace it with the word facts, which is also a plural count noun. For example,

Many of these facts are useless because of their lack of specifics.

O’Conner deems treating data as a grammatical plural a dead rule, writing, “No plural form is necessary, and the old singular, datum, can be left to the Romans.” She also argues that media should be treated as singular when referring to mass communication and as plural only when referring to individual types of communication.

via 10 Grammar Mistakes People Love To Correct (That Aren’t Actually Wrong).

Weighting and Reweighting #MRX

Here are the relevant stages of a research project.

  1. create a sampling plan based on the required characteristics for the project
  2. go into field and gather data from research participants such that the returns look similar to the sampling plan
  3. if the difference between the sampling plan and your returns is large, go back to step 2
  4. if the difference is small, weight the returns to match your sampling plan
  5. if upon analysis of the results you determine that your weights were calculated incorrectly, reweight the data

Did you catch that? You can’t reweight data unless you’ve already weighted it at least once before. So, if you catch yourself using the word reweight in your next report, ask yourself if you really did reweight the data. You probably didn’t. So don’t say it.

Today’s grammar and statistics rant is brought to by the number pink and the letter seventeen.


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13 tips for giving the worst presentation ever

It’s possible that I’ve attended too many conferences in the last few years as I have witnessed more terrible presentations than I would have ever wanted. If you are eager to make it to the top of my WORST PRESENTATION EVER list, here are a few tips to follow.

  1. Dress to impress. Pick out your crappiest jeans and throw on a wrinkled shirt. This will show everyone that you’re far too important to care how you look at such an inconsequential event like this.
  2. Bugle clip artDo a sound check as soon as you step on stage to begin your talk. This is necessary because the sound team generally forgets to monitor the sound of speakers and they need you to remind them.
  3. Stand directly behind the podium with your hands firmly clasped to the edge. This way, you will appear in complete control of the podium. Your power and importance will be obvious. And, you will be perfectly positioned with your face hidden behind the microphone .
  4. Read your speech. Everyone knows that grammar is important. By reading your speech, you will be assured that no one can judge you for misusing a verb tense or uttering an incomplete sentence. Grammar nazis are everywhere.
  5. Mention your company name not once, not twice, but at least 20 times. People won’t know which company to rush over to and shake their money at if you don’t remind them every 30 seconds.English: This is clip art
  6. Reference your work with as many important people and companies you can. Some people call this name dropping but they’re just jealous. They know that it’s proof you are highly skilled. Specifically, mention a project you plan to conduct with Stan or Diane or Pinterest or Apple. Be sure to refer to people casually so we think you are personal friends with them, and not just picked out from the article you read this morning.
  7. Use a laser pointer to highlight points that should have been obvious without a laser pointer. Because lasers are cool.
  8. Let people know that you aren’t good with numbers and your data guy can get back to them if need be. It’s good to show you understand your own weaknesses especially if you don’t want to bother to improve them.
  9. Tree-with-applesBe sure to choose good colours in your prezzie. Focus on complementary colours such as red font on green background or yellow font on blue background. They aren’t called complementary for nothing!
  10. Make sure to use 12 point font. Anyone who can’t read your prezzie from the back of the conference room is just too stupid to move to the front of the room and doesn’t deserve to read it anyways.
  11. Put equations on every page. It makes you look really smart so it doesn’t matter if people can’t read them due to fonts and layout.
  12. Don’t show any data. People aren’t concerned with details and they’ll believe everything you say anyways. Besides, numbers are hard to understand. [Insert whiny voice here.]
  13. Public domain image for the en:User:UBX/Desper...Put clip art on every page. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t find a picture that actually demonstrated the point. People love pictures!

How women should ask for a raise if they don’t want to follow Microsoft’s CEO advice of Trust Karma

Someone’s wishing they could go back in time!

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft was unable to answer a question about how women should ask for a raise. Watch the video and read about the fiasco here.

He followed up with a too short response on Twitter which satisfied almost no one.

As a result, I’ve decided to share the advice that I offer to both men and women regarding raises.

Brownies...yawn...boooring.Ask for a raise. You won’t get what you don’t ask for. I want that brownie but no one is going to just get it for me. Well, actually that’s not true. I yap on so much about sugar that someone ALWAYS brings me sweets at conferences. And I like it that way. But let’s ignore that example. HR and benefits packages are very carefully planned according to the companies financial success. Your ‘preferences’ are not part of that plan. Your ‘wishes’ and ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’ are not part of that plan. You won’t get more staples or more pens if you don’t ask for them. Why is a raise any different. You are in charge of making sure you achieve what you want in life. No. One. Else.

You won’t die by asking for a raise. I get it. It’s uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Humiliating.  “But I’m shy,” you say. Tough *&^%. So am I. The world is designed for extroverts who love gathering together 50 of their closest friends to share their most intimate secretes. Well, this is yet another case where anxious and shy people lose out. But you won’t die asking for a raise. I haven’t yet.

Prove you’re worth it. Whiney babies need not apply. If you can’t back up your request with specific examples of how you’ve improved productivity, increased customer satisfaction, increased sales, increased the quality of processes, take a year and DO those things. Then go ask for a raise.

Your best chance at a huge raise is getting a new job.  Most companies are set up to offer raises according to cost of living increases. If you are a great employee, you might even get a raise of up to 10%. What’s 10% of $50 000?  It’s just $5 000. What could you get by taking your experience and selling your skills to a new company? $20 000 or more. Assuming you are currently employed, if you can be patient, wait for the job that gives the raise you want. My advice – stay in your first job for a couple of years and learn, learn, learn. Get a good raise at your second job and stay for a couple of years. Your third job should be a job you LOVE and you should hope for a nice big raise. Yes, this is ideal and completely guaranteed. But have a plan and you’ll be further ahead.

When a hiring company asks you, “What were you earning in your last position?,” don’t answer that question.  Really, you’re not obligated to answer ANY question they ask. You CAN, however, say something like “I’m looking for a position that offers $50 000.” It doesn’t matter if your last job paid you $30 000 or $50 000 or $70 000. YOU are the person who decides what you are worth and what you are willing to accept. YOU have the power to accept or decline a job based on the salary.

Happy to share more personal opinions about ANY questions along these lines.

Good luck!

How to create a word cloud with word counts, Excel, and Wordle

When you’ve got the right purpose in mind, word clouds can be very useful. But when you only have a list of words and their counts, particularly when the word counts are large,  how do you turn a short list of words into word cloud?

Well, let’s take an easy example and work with this list of words. Because this is an easy list, we could just re-write it into this: Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake, brownies, brownies, brownies, cookies, cookies, pie, pie, pie, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, tarts, squares, squares, squares, squares. That took me about 1 minute to write out.

Cake 5
Brownies 3
Cookies 2
Pie 3
Tarts 9
Squares 4

But what happens when your list looks like this? Are you really supposed to write out each word thousands of times just so they can be copied into Wordle? And what happens if there are several hundred words in your list and they all have hundreds or thousands of mentions? It could take an hour to do to accurately and, as you’ll soon find out, is a complete waste of time.

Cake 4522
Brownies 3492
Cookies 2431
Pie 3142
Tarts 878
Squares 3627

Have no fear! A quick little Excel trick is in order. Have a peek at the picture here and notice the equation. This handy little equation tells Excel to choose the word in column A and then repeat it by the number in column B. The concatenate portion inserts a space between each word which is important for Wordle to distinguish between each word.


Now all you need to do is copy the contents of column D into Wordle.


And then click on Go! Now you can try it with a really long list of words and it will just take a couple minutes. Enjoy!


5 ways to sexy up a chart without using the 3D function #MRX

I know. It’s tempting. You want to make a splash. You want to liven up the page. And you need to do it fast. But what are you supposed to do knowing that the 3D function misrepresents data and makes you look unprofessional as a data visualizer? How can you make your chart really cool and sexy?

Have no fear, my tips are here!

1) choose a really sexy chart that best reflects the data. Line charts for changes over time, bar charts for comparisons of categories, pie charts for percentages that add to 100.
2) choose sexy colours from the primary and secondary colour wheel. Avoid fluorescent colours. Avoid using yellow on white. And keep in mind that 8% of guys are colour blind so consider a restrained use of dotted or dashed lines.
3) choose really sexy labels and titles that clearly describe and explain the contents of the chart.
4) choose sexy scales that start at zero, end just above the largest number, end have 3 or 4 cut points in between.
5) as a last resort, if you think a chart can only be sexy if it has unnecessary and extraneous components, insert several sparkly blinky unicorns and switch careers


How Groupon MR Fuels Smart Products and Programs by Eric Rasmussen, Groupon #CRC2014 #MRX

CRC_brochure2013Live blogging from the Corporate Researchers Conference in Chicago. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.

How Groupon MR Fuels Smart Products and Programs by Eric Rasmussen, Groupon

  • local deals, national brands/deals, goods, travel, luxury, medical, dental
  • less than 5 years old but 51 million+ activer users, 500+ marketings, 12000 global employees
  • how much of your advertising goes towards current customers, giving them a discount when they would have paid full price
  • groupon gets you a completely different slice of the pie – new users, lapsed users, and still some current users, makes  a lot more sense for customer acquisition
  • use research as an educational tool – who and why people use groupon, as well as spreading the word
  • they use existing data – demographic profiles, behavioural, external studies
  • usually have 12 studies in the field at one point
  • merchants need research specific to them – build business with new relevant customers, consumers want something different – it’s people who have disposable income
  • people drop out of groupon because they have financial issues
  • groupon is a discover engine, you can find it all on the internet but they offer a curated experience and know they’ll get a great deal, it’s dipping your toe in the water, you won’t be happy spending a lot of money on something new that you don’t like
  • IMG_2804[1]discovery engine – consumers see groupon as spontaneous, able to reveal hidden treasures, adventurous, introduce to new things and places i might not have otherwise found
  • Saks 5th did a groupon for designer apparel, would this devalue the brand? But, data showed it improved people’s perception of the brand and only 1% made them feel more negative towards the brand. 8 out of 10 people were incremental. only 15% would have bout the product there anyways.  many people brought someone with them who subsequently bought something too – average spend was around $150.
  • Gaming example – why would a game company need groupon? profile doesn’t fit a more female groupon audience. these people were buying it for a gift
  • Travel example – people no longer go a physical travel agency, they just go to Expedia. hotels are now commoditized because they are in a list with every other hotel and people look for the price. Groupon promotes individual hotels in specific areas. People use the websites for price comparisons. People use groupon to find interesting new places. Groupon ended up booking vacations in places that people wouldn’t have gone to otherwise.
  • Gnome project – they track satisfaction very closely. Groupon merchants are more satisfied with groupon than other services and then consumers are even more satisfied, right up there with apple. Realized that people who were tracking their groupon ROI were more satisfied than people who weren’t tracking ROI. Decided to share this knowledge with their merchants. Created a tablet just for merchants with seamless redemptions, all in one cash register, campaign management tools, feedback tracking. Gave merchants control they didn’t have before.
  • marketing funnel needs to focus away from non-internet users which gets you the coveted younger crowd
  • groupon builds brand impressions, over-spend, and gains lapsed users, creates repeat customers
  • lessons learned
    • focus on what will make a difference, ask and push back, will it be done on time?
    • anticipate questions so that you have the answers, think about upcoming initiatives and be proactive,
    • set timing expectations early
    • think globally, use the smaller markets as test arenas

Interviewing for the Edit by Michael Carlon, Hall & Partners and Joe Indusi, RESEARCH2VIDEO #CRC2014 #MRX

CRC_brochure2013Live blogging from the Corporate Researchers Conference in Chicago. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.

Interviewing for the Edit by Michael Carlon, Hall & PartnersJoe Indusi, RESEARCH2VIDEO

  • why is high quality video important – people always remember the videos more so than reports
  • PATIENCE is your friend. we’re trained to probe and fill the silence, we’re uncomfortable with silence. when someone asks WHY all the time, it interrupts the sound bite. HIt the mute button. 3 second rule. think of soundbites during the interview – wait 3 seconds. this lets the editor cut the clip and it leaves room for the person to keep talking. the first answer is usually the answer they think you want to hear but if you wait 3 seconds then they come up with the real answer.
  • Stay out of the LIGHT.  The poltergeist rule. Let the responder have the light. Don’t film in front of windows or it looks like you’re in the witness protection program. You can only use footage if you can see the face of the person talking. It’s important to show their environment, show what represents them, show where they usually sit in their favourite chair. Don’t put them against a blank wall that you could find anywhere. show their character.
  • It’s okay to beat a deadhorse – you do know what’s going on after a few questions or interviews. But then you’re looking for consistency and reliable. and it gives you multiple editing takes in cases where there was a cough or a baby crying in the background. You can ask people to repeat what they said, “we’d like to hear you say that again.” Maybe they’ll say it a little differently or not but it’s okay to ask.
  • Cutaways – don’t forget the B side. if people mention behaviours, keep track of them so you can show them during the filmed interview. it doesn’t need to be just a person talking, show little clips while they’re talking.
  • Consider screening out pet owners – particularly if you know footage will be used, we don’t love your pets all the time, you can’t get footage out of a video full of barking. bring a lint brush :)
  • Capture establishing shots – communicate without having to say it, take footage of the neighbourhood.
  • Interview 3 to 5 consumers per segment – one will be a dud or they have dogs or cats, allows you to show multiple people saying the same thing, you can’t have a montage of one. helps sell an idea.
  • Budget for time-coded transcriptions – do this even for tight budgets, it lets you not take notes and be fully involved, it’s easier to highlight quotes on paper and then show these to the film editor
  • Insist on a video script – think about how the edits will come together, if the filmer can see the script ahead of time, then can plan ahead
  • Work with an editor who know the MRX business – anyone can buy a computer with film editing and anyone can pull clips, but there is an art to pulling clips, they know what makes a good sound bit and how to build a story of clips

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