All posts by Guest Blogger

Online Political Polls Catching On?

As Americans’ modes of communication are continually changing, the techniques/methods that produce the most accurate polls are changing as well. At qSample, we have to stay on top of the latest political polling techniques in order to get the most accurate results when election season comes around, which is just around the corner

 

In 2012’s presidential election, a number of polling firms that conduct their surveys online had solid results. But others, especially those that relied exclusively on calling land lines, performed very poorly, showing a more Republican-leaning electorate than actually turned out.

 

Up until the 2012 election, the most renowned political polling companies had not adopted online polling. Notably Gallup, which had been known as the gold standard of the industry for the past three decades. According to the New York Times, some of the most accurate firms were those that conducted their polls online, citing internet polling companies like Google Consumer Surveys, Ipsos, Angus Reid Public Opinion and YouGov for producing surveys whose results held up after the election.

voting

Despite stellar results, polling standards, adopted by most all notable media outlets, still do not permit reporting of online polls because it is still estimated that one in five people in America still do not have access to the internet. New York Times policy states, “In order to be worthy of publication in The Times, a survey must be representative, that is, based on a random sample of respondents. Any survey that relies on the ability and/or availability of respondents to access the internet and choose whether to participate is not representative and therefore not reliable.”

 

Online polls differ from telephone surveys in some fundamental ways. Respondents to Internet polls complete the surveys using their computer, mobile device or smartphone.

Within the field of online polling, there are important differences in the way respondents are selected. This is known as sampling.

 

Phone polling holds as one of its founding principles the idea of probability sampling; for the universe that is being surveyed, each member has a defined and equal likelihood of being selected to participate in the survey.

 

When almost every American lived in a household with a landline phone, it was easy to design a representative sampling frame for a basic political survey. Presently, a dual-frame sample, combining landline and cell phones, is considered by phone pollsters to be closest to a true probability sample.

Internet polls, in most cases, use nonprobability sampling. They exclude households without Internet access; these demographics tend to be older and lower-income Americans. Most online polls are also completed by people who choose to participate. Some participants sign up to complete online polls on websites that offer prizes such as gift cards to chain restaurants and movie theaters, giveaways, etc. Others are responding to ads placed on other websites that may or may not be related to the poll’s subject, a technique known as river sampling.

A few news organizations did begin to experiment with Internet polling during the 2012 cycle. CBS News used online methods, partnering with YouGov. But CBS also conducted national live-caller telephone polls, and they partnered with Quinnipiac University for the battleground-state polls. It will be interesting to see if pollsters will begin using more online samples with the results the 2012 election had.

 

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qSample offers many great panels for data collection and analysis. In addition to the likely voter panel, qSample cultivates other high-quality specialty panels. Those panels include:
Mobile Users, Gamers, Doctors, Contractors, Home Owners, Students, Baby Boomers, Veterinarians, and Pet Owners.

You can find more information by clicking on the panels tab above, or contact qSample here

 

Sci-Fi Writing Influencing Innovation

Video Chat. The Internet. Ear buds, Antidepressants. All of these innovations can be found in science fiction stories many years before they became reality, and now the Holoroom is one of them.

In an interesting collaberation, Lowe’s teamed with science fiction writers at SciFutures to help solve a common problem that vexes home improvement customers everyday. One might wonder, “What could sci-fi writers possibly bring to a brand selling DIY products and home decor?”

The seeds of the idea were planted with SciFutures co-founder Ari Popper, who commissioned a story and pictures about a hapless future couple who design their next DIY projectusing a 3D virtual simulator.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs made the simulator a reality they’re calling Holorooms. Holorooms will launch in two Lowe’s outlets in Toronto later this year.

Essentially, shoppers can build virtual 3D models of, for example, their bathroom and see how different mirrors, vanities, fixtures would look in it. The concept helps tackle the difficulty shoppers often have visualizing what new products will look like in their own space.

Lowes VR
The Holoroom uses augmented reality, a technology that enriches the real world with digital information such as 3D models. Shoppers input the dimensions of the room they’re trying to animate into a computer program and load different products they’re thinking of purchasing. They then gointo a Holoroom with a tablet. There, they can use the tablet to see what the room would look like with the new products they’re thinking about purchasing. Markers on the walls and floor of the Holoroom helps inform scale so that products appear correctly sized for the environment.

Walking around the Holoroom is designed to replicate the feeling of walking in the users’ actual room, giving shoppers the ability to, for example, toggle through different cabinets for their kitchen.

Although Holoroom will launch in only two Lowe’s stores in Toronto later this year, Lowe’s Innovation’s Labs have continued their work with the writers of SciFutures and will be making more announcements in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Lab Rat or Just Old Hat? Should Facebook Apologize?

In a controversial study, Facebook reported the results of psychological experiment it conducted on nearly 700,000 of its users last week, sparking outrage from its users.

Facebook found that it can influence users’ feelings positively or negatively by manipulating what shows up in your newsfeed. The results indicate “emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

Some think the controversy over the study points to a broader problem in the data/analytical industry. Ethics are currently not pertinent issues for data scientists. Raising the question, should there be a line drawn in the sand relating to the social media industry between the privacy of participants and the research objectives, both monetarily and academic, of the corporations that control their data?

The manipulation struck a nerve amongst users, academics, and even politicians. Last Wednesday, senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide more information about recent reports that Facebook manipulated user news feeds during an emotional manipulation experiment. Warner is asking the agency to determine if Facebook violated their consent agreement with the FTC.

He argues in his letter that it is not clear whether Facebook users were adequately informed and given an opportunity to agree to the research given the sheer size and length of the user agreement. Most people do not read the “data use policy.”

Facebook has not been very contrite since this study came to light last week. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke with Forbes earlier this week and essentially said Facebook is not sorry about conducting the contagion study. It was conducted in the normal course of business by their data team. It is only sorry that everyone is upset now.

Many people believe that Facebook crossed a line with the study, but do they really have a reason to apologize?

Sale or for-profit use of data isn’t uncommon, but social media sites generally try to keep those transactions away from the press, to avoid negative public reactions. Social media is considered somewhat of a marketing jackpot, due to the abundance of freely given information provided by users, but its personal nature also cultivates a sense of trust between users and sites. People also feel far more attached to social media than most other sites, and for Facebook to alter feeds without their knowledge and consent is seen by many as taking advantage of that trust.

The focus of the experiment may have also played a role in the reaction by users. Facebook controlled content to negatively influence users, as well as positively. For people that were already unhappy, depressed, or even suicidal, that negative influence could have been devastating. People may also feel manipulated because social media feeds are generally considered to be open for all to post without a corporate motive. Facebook manipulated their feeds and them. People just don’t like to feel manipulated, but that’s exactly what happens every day.

Consumers’ emotions are manipulated continuously by advertisers, politicians, marketing professionals, news organizations, etc. and this is generally accepted as something that is unavoidable, like death and taxes. The only real discernible difference is that Facebook’s data team was attempting to gain insight/measure the effect of that.

While most companies hide their results to give them an advantage over competitors, Facebook paraded their findings and methods for manipulating their targets’ emotions in a scientific journal. This allowed the general public a rare glimpse into how companies manipulate their emotions, and they didn’t like what they saw. Clearly their presentation tactics were misguided, but would that put Facebook on the same level as the advertisers, marketers and politicians? Should the fact that they published the study help to justify it? Do consumers simply like not to be reminded of how easily we are manipulated?

These questions are void of simple answers, but perhaps larger corporations should strive to implement and publish more studies of this kind for the mutual benefit of science and business. In any case, an ethical lesson can be gained from this. Whenever possible, all social scientists should inform their subjects that they are being influenced. As senator Warner does point out, there was no real informed consent, as is standard for typical social psychology experiments, which Facebook’s study appears to fall under. There is an obligation, rather implied or otherwise, for social scientists to gain the public’s trust.

Infographics: Creating Value with Visualization

More than 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Furthermore, visuals are processed up to 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. When working with a lot of heavy data like we do at qSample, we understand the importance and benefit of presenting data in a visual manner.

Relaying and communicating data through a visual context involves the use of a variety of visual elements, such as drawings, illustrations and electronic images. When done correctly, using visual aids to present data will be more effective and easier to retain than simply presenting the data itself.

Enter Infographics. Infographics are essentially a means of displaying data and information in the form of a graph or picture.

Here’s one that qSample used to present data about Ivy Leaguers!

Ivy shortened

A well designed infographic that speaks to your audience and conveys useful, fun, and interesting information, can get picked up from your website or your social media pages and re-posted multiple times by your social media followers.

It goes beyond simply presenting information in an interesting way. Infographics can generate leads, build traffic and advance your brand. It arms your audience with something they can repost and share with friends and increases your presence across the Internet.

 

Want to give it a go, but lack designer skills and or experience? Don’t fret, there are plenty of free infographic tools available online. Here the top four as chosen by the qSample Staff:

  • Ease.ly: This is about as user friendly and simple as it gets. It even comes 2 minute tutorial video highlighting these steps: You pick a theme, then using drag and drop, pick objects, add text, choose colors and arrange everything until it’s the way you want it. One drawback is it doesn’t create charts; for that you can use one of the many free online chart generators.
  • Venngage: Another very user friendly site, Vennage offers the best quality and quantity of templates among the other infographic building sites we’re highlighting in this article. Makes a beginner’s final product look like it was designed by a pro.
  • Infogr.am: This site offers less templates than the others, but it has the advantage of a chart generator so there is no need to import a chart if your layout calls for it. What makes Infogr.am stand out is it can also make charts interactive, a feature not found on most other free services.
  • Piktochart: More versatile than some others, Piktochart offers a lot of templates, shapes, and icons. Especially handy when trying to fit everything where you want it, are the multiple sizes it allows.  It’s another drag and drop. Additional features are available in the premium version (gives you access to over 110 themes and over 1,500 graphics), but you can build great graphics for free.

Here are a couple of tips on what your infographic should include/be:

  1. A theme. Keep it simple. It should be easy for anyone to identify what your graphic is about given the icons, color scheme, graphics and pictures being used. If you create a graphic which is so complex in nature that it’s like trying to find the hidden picture in a magic eye calendar, your audience will switch off and it’s message will be lost.
  2. Make sure you know your audience and tailor the graphic to their taste to increase the chance of viral sharing.
  3. Your company signage, logo and or colors to maintain brand consistency as well as to make sure that once viral, you always serve as the originator
  4. Attention grabbing, resonating and memorable
  5. Make sure that the colors are easy on the eye. Avoid loud color schemes
  6. Make sure that your image is searchable in Google images to increase your exposure