WAPOR Day 1: Why are Google, Facebook, and Microsoft so far ahead of us in research? #MRX


WAPOR opened with a bang as David Fan described the statistical techniques he used to organize the accepted papers into relevant bunches. The key terms included cluster analysis and the traveling salesman approach as a number of presenters were asked to determine which of the other accepted papers were most similar to theirs. One of the methodological issues that had to be dealt with was that some presenters were forced to back out at the last minute such that the carefully designed grouping didn’t end up being perfect. Alas, as with every research project, errors creep in.

And in case you’re curious, no, there was no parade of WAPOR figure heads each welcoming us with a short prepared talk. There were no dance routines, fun videos, or Nice tourism representatives. Yes, a room full of data geeks got a truly geeky talk from the head geek.  I’m still chuckling about it.🙂

Rather than summarize the talks I went to, I’ll mention a few interesting tidbits and a few thoughts that came to mind for me.

  • Do you ever consider responder needs, not your own needs? When you’re designing surveys, do you ever really think about what the responder needs as part of the research process? I know you want quality data and you want to design surveys that generate quality data, but do you really think about the fact that responders may want to answer a survey on a phone because they can take it to a private room or a quiet room?  Similarly, do you realize that people may not want to answer a phone survey because there are other people in the room or it’s too noisy for them? Stop fussing over whether you do or don’t want people to take a survey on their phone. Give them the tools to give you the best data they can – from a quiet room, a private room, or anywhere.
  • People don’t fan pages they don’t like. One of the speakers mentioned that people don’t fan brand pages if they aren’t truly fans of the brand. Well, that’s not completely true. Many people ‘fan’ or ‘like’ a page so that they can leave a complaint or criticism on it. Or, they want to monitor what the brand is doing to see how it compares to their loyal brands. Or, they like the page to learn about discounts and coupons that they can redeem with their own brand. Whether Facebook or Twitter, it doesn’t matter what the social network names the buttons – people will click on the button that suits their purpose.
  • Social media data has yet to be validated. Someone also mentioned that social media data is taking a while to become widely used because the data itself hasn’t been validated yet. For instance, if someone tweets that they went to McDonald’s, did they really go to McDonald’s. I found this comment kind of funny coming from someone in the survey world. Hm… if someone says on a survey that they went to McDonald’s, did they really go to McDonald’s? Something to ponder!
  • Why are Google, Facebook, and Microsoft so far ahead in research? This comment came up as a tangent and was never answered by the speaker, but I’ll take it on here. Why? Because they aren’t research companies. They don’t have to fuss and fret and worry that their norms and standards will be royally screwed up. They aren’t worried about fitting 412 questions into 5 minutes of survey time. They aren’t trying to figure out how to make their product ‘fun.’ We DO have to worry about these things. Actually, I disagree that we have to worry. If we keep worrying as we have been, then Google and Facebook and Microsoft will wipe our faces with their research. If we don’t get with the times and become our own thought leaders, that’s what’s going to happen. Be aware of your norms and be cautious as you change them. Make the research experience enjoyable as it should be. It’s your business at stake. Stop talking. Start doing. (me included!)
  • Are AAPOR guidelines too American? You know, I never really thought of that before. There are a number of organizations in the research world that want to be global. Given that WAPOR is the world version of AAPOR, I must conclude that AAPOR does want to be global. Yes, as was mentioned during today’s talk, most of the AAPOR guidelines are drawn with first world, English countries in mind – everyone has a phone, everyone has a smart phone, everyone has a physical legal home. Do the AAPOR guidelines make it easy or even possible for people in other countries to conduct ‘good’ research? It’s worth a ponder.
  • Let’s stop the probability/non-probability debate. Hear hear! I don’t believe there is such thing as a probability sample in the human world (generally speaking). Yet, AAPOR continues to promote the idea. You see, even if you COULD know an entire population and select a random sample, people will still decline to participate, quit participating, answer questions incorrectly, misread questions, lie on questions, etc. The assumption is that probability samples create perfect data and this is just never the case. I would love it if we could just drop the whole probability superiority complex and get on with our work.
  • Candy is a legitimate snack. Breaktime featured a fine selection of…. candy? yes, candy. For the second time today, I was happily shocked. Someone later mentioned that fruit was also available but I don’t know what that is and I didn’t see it. So they lied.

And that, my friends, is the Day 1 wrap!

GUN control, he said GUN control!  :)

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