The Book of Blogs: Social Media Research Chords and Lyrics #NSMNSS

Book of Blogs social media in social research kindleAre you ready kids!

For the musicians among us, let’s celebrate the launch of “Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries” edited by Kandy Woodfield with a little song. Please enjoy this slight adjustment to Peter Gabriel’s song. I couldn’t help myself!

If you take a video of yourself playing the song, I’ll post it here for everyone to enjoy. And if you’re lucky (unlucky?), I might post one of myself playing the ukulele.


The Book Of Blogs by Annie Pettit

(Better known as the Book of Love by Peter Gabriel, from the 2004 Movie “Shall We Dance”)

*** Capo on Fret 1
*** Actual Key Is Ab / Play in Key of G

Each line transitions through G C D G

Intro – G/C/D/G — G/C/D/G —  G/C/D/G  — G/C/D/G

The book of blogs is long and helpful
You can learn social research from it
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
and instructions on new methods

And I……..
I love it when you read it to me
And you……….
You can buy me the Book of Blogs

The book of blogs has insight in it
In fact that’s where insight comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is up for debate

And I……..
I love it when you read to me
And you……….
You can buy me the Book of Blogs

Bridge: G/C/D/G  — G/C/D/G  — G/C/D/G  — G/C/D/G

The book of blogs inspires to try it
It’s written by such great authors
It’s got advice on social research
You should try to implement

And I……..
I love it when you read to me
And you……….
You can buy me the Book of Blogs

And I……..
I love it when you read to me
And you……….
You can buy me the Book of Blogs

And I……..
I love it when you read to me
And you……….
You ought to buy the Book of Blogs
You ought to buy the book for me

Launching Today! Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries #NSMNSS

Book of Blogs social media in social research kindleOn Wednesday October 29, 2014, a brand new book is being released including a chapter by moi! It’s called “Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries” and it’s edited by Kandy Woodfield who is the Learning and Enterprise Director at NatCen Social Research, and the co-founder of the NSMNSS network. Buy the book on Amazon and leave a review!

Social research as a craft, a profession, is all about making sense of the worlds and networks we and others live in, how strange would it be then if the methods and tools we use to navigate these new social worlds were not also changing and flexing.  Our network set out to give researchers a space to reflect on how social media and new forms of data were challenging conventional research practice and how we engage with research participants and audiences. If we had found little to discuss and little change it would have been worrying, I am relieved to report the opposite, researchers have been eager to share their experiences, dissect their success at using new methods and explore knotty questions about robustness, ethics and methods.

Our forthcoming  book of blogs is our members take on what that changing methodological world feels like to them, it’s about where the boundaries are blurring between disciplines and methods, roles and realities. It is not a peer reviewed collection and it’s not meant to be used as a text book, what we hope it offers is a series of challenging, interesting, topical perspectives on how social research is adapting, or not, in the face of huge technological and social change.

You can join us for the virtual launch by following the tweets here or the blog posts here. I won’t be able to attend the launch but you just might catch me in a quick video. I’ll see you there virtually!

book of blogs blurring boundaries social media research

Are you Guilty of Engagement Speak?

Over the years, we’ve learned to identify survey speak. You know, those words and acronyms that only get used in back rooms and boardrooms but then suddenly end up as foreign words in a survey for consumers. We are getting better at dropping them from surveys and I’m glad to see the acronym SKU appearing on surveys less and less often.

willy wonka genuine engagementBut social media has made us create a brand new problem. Engagement speak.

We’ve learned that the best websites use engagement tactics to increase the level of engagement they have with their readers. Thousands of social media experts now advise brands to encourage conversations with Engagement Speak, that short little call to action at the end of every blog post.

Tell me more.
What is your opinion.
What would you do.
Have you encountered this before.

Sure, they’re great and it’s nice that you want to encourage engagement. But it’s gotten to the point where it’s easy to see that you’ve read the free ebook and drunk the koolaid.

Write blog post, insert call to action.

But when I see the call to engagement, here’s what I really see.

Write blog post, insert call to action, check blog statistics.

Now is the time to stop. Now is the time to put the ebook down and have a genuine conversation with your readers. DON’T say tell me more if you only need to say thanks. DON’T probe if you don’t genuinely have a question. DON’T ask for my opinion if you’re just trying to increase your comment count.

You know what? Don’t end with a call to action. If your point was strong, genuine, and worthy of a comment, you won’t need to ask for it. An open (moderated to prevent spam) comment box is all people need.

Salted Caramel Icing: 2 test groups + control

I tasted a salted caramel cupcake at a bakery somewhere and I’ve been longing for a fabulous salted caramel icing for quite some time. The scientist in me came out today. There seems to be one standard icing recipe floating around online so that was my control group. I made three batches of icing using an iterative methodology, each one incorporating an n=2 focus group.

The control batch had the right amount of saltiness but not enough caramel flavour. In the end, one small change did the trick. I halved the amount of butter.

And the winner is….


  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup whipping/heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt  (be careful if you’re using an imperial/metric spoon because 2ml vs 1/2 tsp is very different than 3ml vs 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


1) Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil it over a good medium-high heat but do not stir it. (I did, it crumbles into uselessness). Boil it for 4 to 7 minutes until it turns dark amber in color. Here you see the progression from starting out as clear and darkening to amber.

sugar caramelsugar caramel

IMG_3595sugar caramel










2) IMG_3602Remove it from heat. Very slowly, in drips and drops, add in the cream while stirring vigorously. It will go all fluffy and foamy. Add the vanilla. Let it cool about 25 minutes. Here you see the three bowls of caramel I made, excluding the one that turned to garbage. You can see they all turned out exactly the same so there was no issue of one being more or less boiled.

3) In a mixer, mix butter and salt for around 3 minutes until it’s fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, and mix well.
4) Pour the caramel in and mix for another 2 minutes.
5) Refrigerate before using.
6) It’ll do 24 cupcakes. Lick the beater, spatula, mixing bowl, and any other utensils that may have touched the caramel. Oh yum.

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!

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