Tag Archives: opinion

7 Internet Discussion Rules That Will Save Your Reputation (And Sanity)

Lady happy by sounds of the internet


One of qSample’s management roles is to engage online with peers in the market research industry—in different LinkedIn and Google+ groups. It’s not a chore, mind you, but an added avenue to make connections and pursue edification.

Discussions can get heated, of course. Most of us are passionate about our work. Yet our team consistently remains calm and helpful by following certain laws. No, I am not talking about federal or state laws pertaining to the internet (although we follow those!).

I am talking about ancient ones—at least in tech terms—carved upon digital stone tablets by Hammurabi debate-veterans and later democratically ratified by the collective agreement of members from websites of yore.

These internet laws or rules are unofficial and informal. They are more like etiquette guides before entering an online forum, comments section, or social media thread. Still, they may go a long way in not just keeping the peace of your online community but keeping your very sanity intact. In fact, we have drawn upon these internet laws during qualitative research projects, especially with incendiary topics.

Here are the main ones, and you’ll thank me next time you jump into a chat room argument to prove that Beyoncé  is part of the Illuminati.


Godwins Law





I’m sure many of you can relate to Godwin’s Law:

As an online discussion grows longer, so does the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler.

Author Mike Godwin conceived Godwin’s Law in 1990. It was implemented for those arcane Usenet newsgroup discussions, then spread to all internet symposiums. It’s regarded as the most popular and accepted internet law, more so during political seasons.

Godwin created this maxim to point out how often the accusation of Nazism was flung around in debates. He also wanted to point out that that these mentions minimized the horrible history of Hitler’s regime.

Godwin’s Law gradually evolved into a fallacy where an individual publicly lost a debate on the internet as soon as he or she whipped out the ol’ “Hitler Card.”

For example, if one person on a Facebook thread about baking cupcakes abruptly calls a member a fascist for using margarine instead of butter, Godwin’s Law can be summoned and the accuser summarily group-shamed.


Poe's Law





Poe’s Law states:

Without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.

In short, it means that without the appropriate caveat (or emoticon), making fun of a position by mimicking it playfully (and sometimes maliciously) can be mistaken for actually taking that position.

I’m sure you see the dangers.

On the flip side, Poe’s Law cautions against taking at face value any posted position on the internet without some clarification. Hastily flying off the handle at some joker’s attempt at satire can leave one later on with the proverbial cyber-egg on the face.

Poe’s Law originated with Nathan Poe in 2005 in a Creation & Evolution forum. It was a sensible reaction to various members adopting opponent’s views seemingly to strengthen their arguments.


Danth's Law





I know most of you have experienced  Danth’s Law:

If a person has to insist that he or she has won an Internet argument, it is likely the said person has lost.

Danth’s Law further states that beating that dead horse of an argument long after the argument has ended is…well…beating a dead horse (and wasting everyone’s time). This tends to happen often, as some people just cannot let go of their cupcake recipe.

The name of this internet law stems from a discussion posted on the RPG.net forums in 2005. The disagreement involved two members, Danth and Spiderman1fan—centering on the profound topic of role playing rules.


Wheaton's Law





Wheaton’s Law exists in all faiths and governments, for the most part. It simply goes:

Don’t be a pain.

(Replace the word “pain” with the nickname of President Nixon’s first name, though).

Wheaton’s Law was coined by actor and writer Richard William Wheaton III, during his keynote speech at the 2007 Penny Arcade Expo. A central theme of Wheaton’s speech was the need for sportsmanship in online gaming. Surely, Spiderman1fan did not agree to it.

The key is to be rigidly nice on the internet, margarine or no margarine, if anything for that peace of mind once you have to get back work and deal with “pain” coworkers.


The Law of Exclamation





The Law of Exclamation was first recorded in an article at FactCheck.org in 2008. The law declares:

 The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.

This internet rule pertains as well for arguments on boards or forums, and we all silently wonder when that blessed day will come when a device is manufactured without a Caps Locks key.

In addition, The Law of Exclamation draws from the wisdom of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels—claiming that the more exclamation marks someone uses in writing, the more likely they are mentally unbalanced. Pratchett uses the analogy of a man wearing his underwear outside, but you can find your personal meme of lunacy.


Pommer's Law





Pommer’s Law has never happened to me, except when I’ve gone online for information…

It proclaims:

A person’s mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.

The best place to find data to take a stance is everywhere, not just the internet. There is a reason God invented books, thought leaders, academics, and Jeopardy. A widened net of research will save you much agony on internet discussions, unless you come armed with Danth’s Law first.


The Hawthorne Effect





The Hawthorne Effect isInot exactly a law, but in the name of margarine it should be! (!!!). We certainly rely on it at qSample during quantitative research projects.

Here it goes:

The Hawthorne effect is a term referring to the tendency of some people to work harder and perform better when they are participants in an experiment. Individuals may change their behavior due to the attention they are receiving from researchers rather than because of any manipulation of independent variables.

It may sound complicated, but for online discussion purposes, this is a simpler definition: People are often going to tell you what you want to hear, when you want to hear it, and how you want to hear it.

You may be able to shrug off the negative, but don’t let the positive go to your head. Many who support or applaud your hallowed stance on an issue just don’t know enough, just don’t care, or just don’t want conflict.

Stay stoic, my friend.




More internet laws exist. Many know and follow the revered 34 Rules of the Internet. Further axioms will surely surface from the scars of those burned in the bonfires of online altercations. With the ones mentioned here, though, not only will your sanity and reputation remain intact, but you can reflect on how many times in the past you might have broken Wheaton’s Law and became a…pain.

And don’t do it ever again.

internet argument6

internet argument8

Our Sample For A Cause Charity

qSample is proud (or more like humbled) to support such charities as PAWS Chicago, National Kidney Foundation and others. During this Holiday Season, we would like to increase our giving, and invite you to be part of it. Our sample has worked for many esteemed clients in market research; now we would like to use our sample for a cause.

Here’s how it works:

Request a bid for a data collection project
Project value must be $5000 or above
Sign an agreement to launch before December 31st

At the completion of your project, we will donate $1000 to a charity of your choice

It’s as simple as that. To learn more, contact us or call 312-924-0220 and mention “Sample For A Cause.”

No matter what, we value our client relationships and thank you for being our partner. We look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming year.

All the best to you, your family, and your organization!

The qSample Team

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Time To Permanently Demolish The 40-Hour Work Week

Picture of Narrator in Fight Club looking at boss from Office Space


The 40-hour work week. The 8-hour work day. Ah yes…

These two measurements are staples of the American workforce, entrenched memes in most industries and positions. One size fits like a first world glove.

But do these schedules really make sense? Is that the best way to work to remain competitive before the arriving robots take our jobs? Is there a better way to work?

The answers aren’t blowing in the wind, even if Bob Dylan disagrees, but the data could lead to liberating answers in your professional and even personal life.


How did the 40-hour work week begin, though?


In his popular article for Buffer, The Origins of the 8-House Workday and Why Should We Rethink It, Leo Widrich offers the history of the modern workweek. He explains that today’s work hours are certainly better than the 19th century’s six days of 10-16 workday hours—all to leverage the busy Industrial Revolution.

These incredibly long work days weren’t sustainable, at least for some. A brave (or maybe lazy) man named Robert Owen started a campaign to have people work no more than 8 hours per day. His slogan was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

working too many hours 2

Owen’s calls took a while to find ears, but in 1914 Ford Motor Company not only adopted the 8-hour workday it doubled the pay of its workers. The result was an increase in employee productivity and double profits within two years.

The business world figured out then that treating workers better actually benefited a company, and this 8-hour day became a standard across western society.


But are 8-hour work days necessary?


Obviously, we live in a different times, a world of technology, automation and shared economies. Does the 8-hour workday/40-hour work week really “work” in the Information Age?

Needless to say, many proponents exist for fewer work hours, contending they result in more productivity (just as Owen did). One could spend 40 hours on Google surfing for the arguments for shorter work schedules.

One of the leading proponents would be Tim Ferriss, who makes the case in his bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. The book mostly focuses on being a nimble entrepreneur, but it does contain insights on the bulkiness of working an 8-hour day.

Another example would be Ryan Sanders, cofounder of the HR software maker BambooHR, who instituted an “anti-workaholic policy” in his company. None of his 130+ employees is allowed to work more than 40 hours. Sanders believes that “Burning out is bad for the employees, bad for their families and bad for business.”

On the other hand, many worry that we’re actually regressing to Industrial Revolution levels of work. As Business Insider reports, Americans are staying longer on the job, where “58% of managers in the US reported working over 40 hours a week.” (We work harder than the Chinese yet less than Mexicans).


working too many hours 3

Research says longer work hours are hurting productivity across the board, and the Business Insider piece agrees. As a matter of fact, the standard workday is not even that productive. Research from American Online and Salary.com found that “the average worker wastes about two hours every eight-hour workday, doing stuff like making personal calls or surfing the web.”

More time is not the solution, but better time.

Working 40 or more hours is also creating a culture of dishonesty. As Quartz reports on a study from Market Probe, Americans pretend to be busy, even when there is no reason for it except for being at work, because the feel busy equates with success. The article states:

The report’s authors suggested that our tendency to lie about how busy we are comes from our belief that being busy is equivalent to “leading a life of significance” and not wanting to be “relegated to the sidelines.” This belief, they found, was paramount in countries that applaud hectic lifestyles, such as Germany and the US, whereas countries known to value leisure above work, like Italy and Belgium, are less convinced that keeping busy is a good thing.

Emotional intelligence expert, Dr. Travis Bradberry, writes that this obsession with being busy is detrimental to our jobs, quoting several studies:

They found that the belief that busyness is a sign of success and hard work is so prevalent that we actually fear inactivity. A recent study coined the term idleness aversion to describe how people are drawn to being busy regardless of how busyness harms their productivity.


working too many hours3

So what happens next?


Eliminating the 40-hour workweek will not be easy. After all, part of the reasoning behind standard work schedules is to be fair to all employees (although Henry Ford himself admitted that he lowered work hours not out of fairness or compassion, but so that his employees might have more time to buy products like his cars!).

As Forbes’ Jayson DeMers explains:

Giving all your employees exactly the same schedule and exactly the same number of hours may seem like a “fair” system, but it’s ultimately illogical. Real life doesn’t adhere to such fixed standards, and trying to compartmentalize the natural flow of work can lead to serious problems in individual and company-wide productivity.

Fairness may seem right but it’s ultimately not right for a productive company. Yet it’s hard to argue against fairness.


Blueprints to work less than 40-hours a week


For employers, as DeMers advices, the key is to create a more “project-based” office environment instead of an “hour-based” environment. Meeting deadlines should reign over counting the minutes.

Beyond this, many companies are already experimenting with these options to the 40-hour workweek:

Four-Day and Three-Day Workweeks
Flex-Time (or self-schedule)
Working From Home
Employee Votes (letting workers decide hours on a rotating basis)

Again, these schedules are based on a “project-based” system where results are more important than clock management. Of course, these options would not work in many industries such service or health.

In truth, other countries are now finding success with experimentation of shorter workweeks. Danish workers average 33 hours per week . Sweden is testing a 6-hour workday. One Swedish executive stated that the change “hasn’t really made a major difference in how people work.”

The key, according to the executive, is to ensure employees work efficiently and without distractions such as social media.

Until you find yourself in the right company or the right labor-shift paradigm, many experts (including Ferriss) contend you should just worry about your own time management. In other words, become a one-person “project-based” employee, if anything to maximize whatever hours lie ahead at work.

As Widrich explains in the Buffer article:

Human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes. (Then it’s time for a small break). Thus, the thinking should not be about what can be accomplished in eight hours, but what can I get done in a 90 min session.

This attitude makes the work hours less impactful and the day more manageable.

Just as important, champion the idea that the mind requires breaks and these breaks reward the mind with more productivity.

As Michael Cho writes in Entrepreneur:

Research discussed in the landmark book Creativity and the Mind showed that regular breaks significantly enhance problem-solving skills, partly by making it easier for you to go through your memories to find clues.

Focusing only on your work for four or five hours straight limits your chances to make new, insightful neural connections, which won’t help you when you need to be creative.”

To wit: tackle projects before you, take breaks, and recycle this schedule throughout the day.

Samuel Beckett by Qsample on Success for WordPress


Oh, and as most experts agree, including Widrich, Ferris and Bradberrry, distractions and multitasking are destroyers of productivity and accumulators of needless work hours. Multitasking may make us feel good, but as we’ve researched, it’s damaging to the mind and results in the U.S. economy losing $650 billion a year.

I hope this humble and brief article sparks the beginning not so much as a movement but a movement to a better work life for you. I hope you haven’t been multitasking while reading it. I hope…

Oh, boss coming around…I better look busy…


The Negative Effects of Multitasking

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Quiz: Are You A Market Research Expert?


There’s no doubt your data surfing and number-grinding have produced stellar results for your company or client. There’s no doubt that your qualitative Sauron-eye has continually mined the deepest shafts of your focus groups’ subconscious.

But are you a Market Research Expert? Do you know the system as well as the history? Do you thrive in the backend of surveys as well as the vanguard of mobile studies?

That may be settled today with qSample’s interactive quiz. I hope the quiz entertains you, for I believe in infusing humor into work to make for a better user experience. When I tell this to my boss, his response is always: “Great. When are you going to start?”


Regardless, please give qSample some feedback on the quiz and share with your peers. We hope it sharpens your already razor-mind.

Oh, and note that you can only take the quiz once (unless you erase cookies or use another browser, that is):


The Father of Market Research

Picture of Edward Bernays before digital numbers and an observing eye


In Freud and the Intriguing History of Focus Groups, I detailed the life and influence of Ernest Dichter—a patriarch of qualitative research and chief father of the focus group. As the title of the article indicated, Dichter was greatly informed by Sigmund Freud; and that shaped many modern notions of market research.

There is another figure who arguably towers over Dichter when it comes to market research. He was more than an acolyte of Freud, but his actual his nephew. He is often called the father of public relations, market psychology, and even propaganda. His ideas not only shaped contemporary marketing and advertising, they were used to topple governments.

His name was Edward Bernays. Life magazine named him one of the most influential Americans of the century. He advised American presidents, magnates like William Randolph Hearst, and lauded corporations on the psychology of consumers and use of mass media to direct them. In fact, many of the (so-called) cutting edge techniques of digital and inbound marketing can be traced to Bernays.

Just as important, as Margherita Giannel wrote in A Bright Mind In The Right Moment, Bernays was the first in history to promote that “market research was fundamental to understand why and how consumers chose to buy a certain good.” Many purists consider Charles Coolidge Parlin the father of market research. But it was Bernays’ who truly combined qualitative and quantitative research in a way that transformed market research forever.


First, a brief history



Bernays was born in Vienna in 1891, moved to the U.S. the following year, received an American education, and eventually entered the journalism field as an adult. His first break came while working for the Woodrow Wilson administration, in the Committee on Public Information. He was a key orchestrator in getting the U.S. into World Word I. His success came by marketing the idea of “bringing democracy” to foreign countries, a notion the government has utilized even recently.

After the war, Bernays honed the skill of public relations, opening his firm in New York in 1919. He perfected the idea of the private sector press release, among many other innovations. He worked for various major entities like Lucky Strike, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, and the Aluminum Company of America (he is the reason American water contains fluoride).

Like Dichter, Bernays employed Freud’s psychology theories (even asking his uncle for advice), in effect establishing the basis for qualitative research. Unlike Dichter, though, he saw people not as oceans of unconscious desires needing to be tapped, but as chaotic beasts that ought to be manipulated for the greater good (offered by governments and businesses, of course). He called this notion “engineering of consent.”

Before shrugging all of this as outdated history, here are some of the ideas of Bernays that are still relevant today (even if they wear new terminology):


Influencers or Thought Leaders



Modern marketing demands an expert in the field not only to promote a product but grant gravitas to a company. Every CEO or department head seems to have a blog or active social media account or webinar appearance. Their ideas are curated for different agendas, even by competitors in the industry. This is almost standard today.

This phenomena originated with Bernays, and one could add the celebrity or expert endorsement as well. He called this marketing tactic “third party authorities” that promoted his clients’ causes.

“If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway,” he once said.

The greatest example of this is how Bernays was able to increase the sales of bacon . While researching for the Beech-Nut Packing Company, he found an empty space in American’s diets: their light breakfasts, which in those days was not much more than a roll and juice.

Bernays’ was able to obtain the opinions of more than 4,500 physicians endorsing the idea that a heavier breakfast awarded more energy for the day. Not trusting the public to accept these findings, Bernays flooded the market with manipulated press releases, articles, and advertisements—with the message that doctors personally ate large breakfasts or that bacon and eggs were part of that “nutritious breakfast.”

Sales of bacon went through the roof, and Bernays confessed later in life he was surprised consumers fell for such a stunt.





This marketing practice still very prevalent, especially on the internet and its A/B testing frenzy—where colors, graphics, and even fonts are tested and used to tie a brand to a desired emotion. Bernays actually called this idea the “tie in.” He (and the rest of us marketers) owe this as much to Pavlov and his dogs as to Freud (and Bernays admitted this).

His most notorious campaign on Association was his ability to make smoking popular with women, during a campaign for the American Tobacco Association in the 1920s. In those days, women smoking was taboo, even illegal in some parts of the country. Bernays, through public events and media exploitation, was able to connect the distasteful idea of women smoking with the nascent feminist movement. Put simply: the “tie in” was that being against women smoking was being against women’s rights. By the 1930s, women smoking wasn’t just accepted but became a symbol of American freedom.

(It should be noted that, like Dichter, who also worked for cigarettes companies, Bernays would repent later in life and join antismoking lobbyists).


Content Marketing/Inbound Marketing



Any company today assumes that marketing must be conducted in as many mediums as possible, regardless of the size of the company. Even just a few decades ago, large companies were judicious about the amount of media channels they delved in.

Bernays was the first to advocate multi-channel marketing of any brand he worked for, and with a content that was tailored to each medium (as he did with the bacon campaign). As one marketing psychologist wrote: before Bernays, marketing and advertising were a direct one-on-one affair. Bernays maintained that a product needed to be ubiquitous in some avatar or another, whether it was a promotional newspaper article, billboard, press release, or radio commercial.

Today’s much lauded “sales funnel” and “buyer’s journey” were a normal part of Bernays’ strategies almost 80 years ago.


The Dark Side of His Marketing



Bernays led a successful career, but his ideas were considered incendiary to many in the industry, especially his attitude that the masses were chattel with little free will. One biographer  even explains that Bernays (a Jew) was dismayed when he discovered that Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s most esteemed butchers, leveraged one of his books as a resource on how to manipulate the German population.

Furthermore, his uncle was reported to have been disappointed in Bernays tactics. Freud believed in psychoanalysis for the betterment of the individual, not psychoanalysis for the betterment of government and businesses.

Bernays is also directly cited as the reason the Guatemala government was overthrown in 1954, while he worked for the CIA and Chiquita (and we get the term “banana republic”). This was all part of Bernays prepackaged “communism is bad” public relations campaign that the U.S. government had used before and certainly after the Guatemala incident.

Yet Bernays certainly laid the major foundation for marketing psychology. Like I said with Dichter, his qualitative approach is going through a renaissance as more information on consumers is more available than ever. Bernays died in 1995, just missing the Internet Age with its vast domains of consumer and business psychology—all meeting in a cyber banana republic he would enjoy biasing.

Article originally appeared in the American Marketing Association

Infographic: The Mental Dangers of Being Online (too much…)

Not a month goes by without some study on the hazards of surfing the stormy online seas. The warnings go that being online may be as damaging as the abuse of alcohol, sugar or Netflix.

But is it true, or as with caffeine the pendulum will swing in scientific studies?

Neither. The internet is a medium, and thus it’s intrinsically neutral. It all depends on how it is approached or utilized. As our findings relate, the internet is more of an amplifier of present emotions and less of a slaughterhouse of future emotions.

One thing is for certain: the internet is also a hurricane of information continually blasting the shores of our brains that were never meant to handle such force. As an illustration, 100,500 words or 34 gigabytes is the amount of information we consume outside of work on an average day.

It gets even more startling in our infographic, based on qSample’s primary and secondary research found in Why Being Continually Online is Like A Bad Acid Trip.

There are academics that feel that the only solution to coexisting with the internet is the notion of inserting electronics into our skulls. This is contended as basically the next evolutionary step for humanity (also known as transhumanism).

qSample doesn’t go that far, not ready to jump on yet the bandwagon of the Borg, the Dalek or Johhny Depp in Transcendence. But we do offer some solutions to the negative effects of continually being online in our infographic.

We hope the information makes for a pleasant cyber-sailing in the future instead of navigating those stormy online seas:


The Mental Dangers of Being Online Too Much

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What Are The Odds Of Randomly Meeting Someone You Know?

I live in Chicago, along with close to three million other meat machines, 11 million if you include the proverbial Chicagoland area. I go through periods where it’s not uncommon to run into people I know, downtown and beyond. We meet at varied places like a bus stop on State Street or walking down La Salle Avenue near the Daley Center.

Usually, I don’t owe them money.

As someone in market research, I tend to chalk these encounters as synchronicity or destiny or some other esoteric fancy.

But is it really that statistically rare to randomly meet someone you know by just walking down the street?

Research experts have already weighed in on these odds. They might seem startling, at first glance, but they make sense. Casually running into someone you know today is not that improbable.

In a Huffington Post article, Red Cup Agency founder Lee Schneider delves into statistical probabilities of meeting someone you know while on a stroll. He cites the work of Psychologist Richard Wiseman that posits we all know around 300 people by first name (and hopefully one of them isn’t Leonidas).

Schneider crunches some numbers, using New York as his walkabout basecamp:

Assume that all 300 of my friends were in New York at the same time and assume 26,402.9 persons per square mile, as per US Census data. But since I am walking, you have to calculate how many people I’d meet not per square foot, but while moving in a straight line as I walked. That would be a whopping 733.4139 people per linear mile. Since I know 300 of them, divided by the 8.2 million of New York’s population, it would follow that I’d encounter .0268 friends per mile. The chance of seeing at least one of them was about 12.7%.

For Chicago, my calculations with some variables hover a bit over five percent (and living in Chicago for more than 15 years, I certainly know much more than 300 people by first name).

I agree with Schneider when he says, “Wow.”

meeting someone you know3

Essentially, walk around enough in any medium to large city, and after some miles there is a reasonable chance you will encounter a familiar face.

A statistician employing more complex formulas, this time using San Francisco, states that the chance of meeting someone you know by walking for an hour is approximately 10%!

For you math geeks, here is the Byzantine formula (or just skip it if you are not):

The population of San Francisco is about 800,000. Let’s call it 10^6. I know perhaps 100 people in the city at any given time. There are maybe 20-50 people on any given stretch of city block. Say I walk for an hour at 3 mph and that the average block is 100m long, so I walk for 50 blocks in that time and pass on the order of 10^{3} people. If we assume people are randomly distributed (this is probably pessimistic, since I know that I spend most of my time in SF in a few places and I assume my friends tend to be somewhat similar) then I have a .9999 chance of not knowing any given person I run into. If we assume that these are independent events then I have a .9999^{1000} chance of not knowing any of those people [technical note: this is really (999900/1000000) * (9998999/999999) * …, but these numbers are large enough and we’ve made enough other approximations that we can ignore this.] .9999^1000 = .90 so if I walk around the city for an hour, I have about a 1/10 chance of meeting someone I know.

If you want another but more generic formula on “randomly” meeting someone you know, this physicist provides one. It certainly can be useful if you owe money.

Sure, more variables can be applied as well as qualitative features. If you’re not looking at people at all—like looking down at your smartphone as most do in Chicago and miraculously don’t get run over—the odds will surely decline. Furthermore, if you’re actively looking for familiar faces, the odds can increase by subconscious or conscious drives.

As an example of raising the probabilities by being aware, a statistician coldly claimed that the odds of a person meeting a future girlfriend or boyfriend were 1 in 285,000. With those numbers, it would seem everyone would be single. However, the odds mercifully increase when someone is actually on the lookout or adjusting lifestyles.

Try not to find love online only, though, as convenient as it may seem. Some scientists put it at about one percent.

These probabilities may not exactly be all good news, beyond just owing money. Take, for example, an article in BBC News that found that the odds of meeting your boss on vacation are around 1 in 1000. That may not sound bad—until you’re in Miami trying to take a needed break from work life and your CEO strolls by you on the beach in a speedo.

I’m sure many of you are asking what this has to do with market research. Simple: market research is not immune to those esoteric fancies I mentioned. We get bogged down on accepted axioms. At qSample, we have spent energy and resources providing sound data that might go against the proverbial grain. Some examples:

Trap questions are reliable for surveys
Sex sells for advertising and marketing
Long questionnaires will provide good data

In the end, we feel these insights provide better research for clients. So consider this a reminder to keep following the data (or at least stop looking at your phone while crossing Wacker Drive).

I fully understand different statistics influence variables, especially when it comes to meeting or avoiding certain people in this world. Nonetheless, entertaining this too much can lead you down a Google labyrinth or open manhole if you’re on your phone. The gods invented baseball to get obsessive over statistics.

The point is maybe it’s better to look up from your WhatsApp while heading to the train, enjoy the exercise, and don’t be that surprised to meet someone you know today.

Even if it’s your boss in a speedo.

Car sharing case study

From Russia with Sample: Interview with Maryana Stepanova, qSample Business Development Executive

Maryana Stepanova is the Business Development Executive of qSample. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and has been working in market research for the past three years.

In this qSample Q&A, Maryana discusses the challenges and trends for market research in 2015 and beyond, as well as some of the most unusual and rewarding aspects of being an online sample provider.

Q1: How did you come to this country and end up as the Business Development Executive for qSample?

Sometimes I joke by saying I am straight off the boat from Russia with Love. It’s a great ice breaker. But in a way it’s the truth. We might need a separate article just to cover my life novel. My journey started with me deciding to study abroad and learn English. Long story short, I ended up living in 3 different countries and was very fortunate to travel to 15 more countries along the way.

I joined qSample almost two years ago and slowly worked my way up. Thanks to upper management’s grooming, I am now to the point I can wear different hats, from Business Development to Operations. Dr. Dewey once said that the deepest urge in a human nature is “the desire to be important.” For the first time in my life, I felt like qSample was more than just a job. My team became my work-family. Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you. I am forever thankful that my boss and mentor, Rudly Raphael, saw my untapped potential.

Q2: What are some of the greatest challenges you see in your role, as well as rewards?

Every day is different and things move really fast. You constantly have to adapt. I had to learn how to keep eyes on the prize, embrace the chaos, have an immeasurable amount of drive, and have thick skin to take the rough days. I’ve learned how to have balance and stop sweating the small stuff. The reward is seeing this company prosper and grow, knowing you have an impact. Data is power. I truly belive that we help our clients to shape their products, services and organization goals.

Q3: What is the most unusual/difficult project you ever had to tackle, and since you’re answering this, how did you manage?

It would have to be a research we did for a pharmaceutical company that was developing an improved drug formulation. The focus of the study was to hear the views of various oncologist leaders on the factors contributing to or inhibiting clinical use for lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. We were able to successfully conduct a study that covered only 1% of the population. That speaks volumes. I am very passionate about medical research because it is fascinating and challenging at the same time. It felt like we were making a difference, and there is no better feeling.

Q4: In your view, what are some the mistakes companies make when conducting surveys or market research in general?

Having unrealistic expectations. Some believe we have a magic wand to control people during the research process. A girl can only dream [laughs]. Then you have your typical mistakes. For example, creating long and complex surveys that create respondent fatigue or cause a high drop out rate along with poor quality of data. And my personal favorite: “open-ends.” People just don’t like them. My advice is have no more than one.

Q5: What advice/guidelines do you have for companies seeking to conduct online surveys when it comes to gathering the best data possible?

Keep it short and to the point. Just think about it this way: a goldfish has longer attention span than humans, which is 9 seconds, I believe. It’s insane. We live in the world with so many distractions; therefore, you have to find a way to to collect the most valuable input in the shortest amount of time. One more thing, time is money and you get what you pay for.

Q6: Using your crystal ball, what are some of the trends you see happening in 2016 for market research or online surveys?

Honestly, I believe online research is here to stay for a long time. I have also noticed a trend towards online focus groups and qualitative research for hard to reach audiences (C-Level executives, Physicians and so on).

Q7: What sets you or qSample (or both) apart from other online providers/executives?

I would be the first to say that we are not trying to be everything to everybody and have a unique focus. We focus on developing and managing specialty panels within niche audiences. With that being said, we have developed and nurtured more than 10 specialty panels, giving us access to millions of respondents that are pre-qualified, heavily vetted, and continuously engaged. We are also a boutique company whose entire staff  primarily serve as consultants, from the first contact to the execution of surveys. We focus on developing long lasting relationships and nurturing our clients.

Q8: Do you have a motto or philosophy that as aided you in your career?

As my boss told me very early on: “If you don’t have the little things covered, you are not ready for the big leagues. Work hard, close deals and play later. Most of all don’t take anything for granted.” I also believe that working hard will take us places we never dreamed of going. I don’t believe in luck and thankful I don’t have to live my life hoping for good luck.

Connect with Maryana on LinkedIn.

Case Study Why Consumers Buy Green

8 Honest Truths About Spotting Liars and Lying

Woman with a growing nose as she lied in front of a picture of wonder woman

As a provider of online focus groups, our team occasionally has the pleasure of observing market researchers perform qualitative mining on respondents. These sage researchers may not have a truth serum, but they come close in deciphering the intimate intentions of people during studies.

To be honest, it’s crucial these days that all of us take measures to separate truth from dishonesty in our daily lives. After all, it’s estimated that on any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times. Furthermore, according University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman, 60% of people lie during a standard 10-minute conversation and average two to three lies during that time frame.

You heard it right. We are swimming upstream in lies during the flow of the day! Is there anything to do about it?

Machines are already doing it and doing it well. As qSample reported in our eye-tracking article, based on a University of Buffalo’s Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors:

In their study of 40 videotaped conversations, an automated system analyzing eye movements correctly identified whether subjects were lying or telling the truth 82.5 percent of the time. That’s a better accuracy rate than expert human interrogators typically achieve in lie-detection judgment experiments. (Experienced interrogators average closer to 65 percent.)

The study employed an automated system that focused wholly on eye movement.

You don’t have to wait for the rise of the machines, though, or winning the lottery to afford eye-tracking technology. You can begin training yourself to pierce falsehoods by simply beginning to understand certain foundational truths about spotting liars and lying.

In a recent Business Insider article on how to detect liars, Paul Ekman provides these insights on truth-telling. Ekman’s is renowned for his scientific work on lying. His research was the basis for the television series Lie to Me. He was also a consultant for the Pixar hit Inside Out and worked for Homeland Security.


The 8 Truths About Liars and Lying


1. Everyone lies – Not surprising. In fact, studies have shown that even babies learn to lie at an early age, using such tactics such as “fake crying and pretend laughing” to win attention from parents. When it comes to adults, Ekman states that most humans are involved in what is called “low stake lies.” These include politeness, flattery or simply avoiding verbal injury upon others. Low stake lies essentially keep society together.

2. Not everyone lies, though – That’s hard to believe, and many will say Ekman is lying. However, there are individuals who—when it comes to serious financial, personal or moral issues —will always “err” on the side of honesty. According to Ekman, those who are deceitful when it comes to serious issues are engaging in “high stake” Some people mercifully never employ high stake lies.

3. It’s not hard to spot lying from behavior – Ekman always looks for “hot spots,” those signs that people aren’t divulging the whole story. He claims there are 30. The two most important ones are micro facial expressions and gestural slips. One illustration of a gestural slip is a slight shrug, usually of one shoulder, coinciding with a verbal declaration of confidence; another one is a small head shake no, only very slight, when saying “yes.”

4. Women are not better are spotting lies – Everyone has trouble spotting high stake In many cases, people simply would rather go into denial than accept someone close to them is being deceitful. That certainly affects mothers and wives as much as it affects fathers and husbands. Facing the truth is painful when it comes to liars who are close to us.

5. Psychopaths are not the best liars – We can thank Hollywood for the trope of the silky sicko spinning a web of lies. Psychopaths follow the same rules are everyone else. The difference, in most instances, is that they tend to blind others with their charm.

6. Looking up and to the left is not a sign of lying – We discussed this in our article on eye-tracking, and Ekman supports the fact that sight direction is unrelated to honesty (unless you’re employing expensive video and algorithms on your side, as with the University of Buffalo). Guess we can dismiss any notions of spotting lies in David Caruso…

7. Micro facial expressions are not proof of dishonesty – Individuals often aren’t concealing the truth but simply concealing underlying emotions (like an innocent person being fearful because he or she is suspected of lying). According to Ekman, the key is to find out why a person is concealing their emotions in the first place, as to assess whether it’s a sign of guilt of the offense being investigated.

8. The polygraph is not reliable – That is common knowledge, but many cling stubbornly to this chestnut. Ekman explains there is no silver bullet when it comes to lying. That would have to include eye-tracking technology. The polygraph is slightly better at lie-detecting than mere chance and it has its uses in criminal investigations (as in giving investigators a starting point on whom to investigate).

For the perfect lie detector tool, we’ll have to wait until someone creates the Lasso of Truth used by Wonder Woman (in fact, the creator of this superhero, William Mouton Marston, was the inventor of the first machine-powered lie detector).


Actionable Tips for Spotting Liars and Lying


This list will not land you in one of the focus group research teams qSample works with…or a job with the FBI for that matter. They are simply sensible starting to points to at least dispel stubborn myths on lying. As the Business Insider article proffers, if you want to go further in recognizing lies you can take some of Ekman’s self-training courses on reading facial expressions.

For assistance, you can furthermore watch this outstanding TED Talk with Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting.

As a complement of Meyer’s research, Feldman offers some bodily signs indicating you’re being lied to:

Covering of the mouth
Too much repetition or too much detail
Body preparing for an escape (feet pointing to the nearest exit is a classic one)
Words and body language don’t match
Change in breathing during a conversation
Eye movement changes from normal pattern
Aggressive behavior appearing during a conversation for no apparent reason

It’s important to note that these bodily signs, alone or in combination, are by no means concrete proof of dishonesty. Feldman, Meyer and Ekman all agree it’s a matter of awareness and practice in detecting clusters of these bodily signs that point to a lie.

In the end, these researchers contend lying is a two-way street, a cooperative act—whether it’s seeing advertisements on the television or talking to a silver-tongued coworker. Someone who is lying wants something from you (even if it’s not having his or her feelings hurt). How much power you will give them is a matter of how aware you want to be in the relationship. Unfortunately, too many individuals want to descend into denial simply to go about their busy days.

And perhaps hoping eye-tracking technology or Wonder Woman will appear at their doorsteps.

Case Study Why Consumers Buy Green


lying article3


Why Ant-Man Content Can Be Heroic For High Traffic

Picture of ant-man representing sorter content for marketing

Like many progressive tech companies, qSample has embraced a content marketing philosophy for branding and assistance to clients in the market research industry. Our work was even showcased recently in Piktochart—highlighting how leveraging the power of infographics has enabled us to thrive in a competitive field.

Content marketing truly relates to qSample’s philosophy of taking creative risks in order to continually engage an increasingly educated yet cynical culture (or convincing the “dinosaur in the boardroom,” as President Rudly Raphael calls the challenges of B2B initiatives in the 21st century).

Yet it seems content marketing might be in danger of becoming a dinosaur itself, stressed by recent and pack-like trends. Namely, I’m referring to the sought-after formula of article-length.


Those who contend longer is better


Leading the way are such luminaries as the SEO company Moz and content marketing guru Neil Patel. As examples, Moz declared that longer posts on their blog get linked more often, while Patel, in his How Long Should Each Blog Post Be? A Data Driven Answer, advocated length when it comes to content:

Once the word count exceeds 1,500 words, it’s in the golden share zone. In my own research on Quick Sprout confirms this. All of my posts that are more than 1,500 words receive 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than the articles with fewer than 1,500 words.

…I’ve shown you the data that proves that longer content gets better ranking, higher indexing, and more sharing.

So longer is better? Titan word counts make readers and Google happy?

It’s possible, considering the sterling data provided by those I just mentioned. However, that formula-driven attitude is a reason content marketing came into being: to eliminate the cut-and-paste, key word-stuffed, and mechanical content that plagued the internet before the arrival of the savior-algorithms of Panda and Hummingbird. We simply live in a more organic internet.


Those who contend shorter is better


Why go full circle if suddenly dry formulas begin to enslave content again? Why not look beyond to see the future belongs to those who takes creative risks?

Or we can look at some examples in the past where Ant-Man content created unforgettable classics—from individuals who took those creative risks but were recognized as savvy content marketers in their respective fields:

Shortest Poem: Adam by unknown author, although some credit famed poet Odgen Nash. It simply goes:

Had ’em.

Shortest Short Story: Baby Shoes, Never Been Worn by Earnest Hemingway.

That’s the whole narrative. The title is the story.

This short story conjures many evocative notions to different readers. It’s as poignant as any long Greek epic because our imagination and experience sit on the front row of this story. Hemingway allegedly wrote it as a wager against someone who claimed he couldn’t write a story in six words or less. You really can’t get better copywriting than this in any agency.

Shortest Novel: The Dinosaur by Italian Augusto Monterroso. The entire story goes:

When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.

This mention can be debated or even negated. Novels are generally classified as being at least 40,000 words in length. But in a summer where Jurassic World devoured movie records, let’s go with this.

Shortest Music Lyrics: I admit this is almost folly to tackle. There are countless instrumentals with brief voice insertions or background (e.g.: Why don’t we do it on the road? by The Beatles, where Paul just reiterates the title).

For the sake of argument (and maybe my word count!), a leading contender would be Five Years by Sugar Hiccup. The song goes

And he will never be back.

These lyrics repeat for a good five minutes.

Shortest film: Video is regarded as content, and a booming content marketing tool on the internet. It’s almost an impossible title to have, as there are whole film festivals dedicated to extremely short movies.

One would have to mention Fresh Guacamole. It’s considered the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar. Thus, it’s noteworthy and it runs exactly 100 seconds.

Shortest sentence: There isn’t one. All written mediums have one-word sentences in many memorable works. On a side note, it’s notable that the longest sentence in all literature is in Ulysses by James Joyce. The bloody sentence is 4,391 words long.

(That might make Moz and Patel happy, though).

Yes, you may say, but what does that have to do with the hallowed present and the digital worlds?

One of the most renowned marketers today is Seth Godin. His blog draws incredible traffic. Guess how long his posts typically are?

Patel himself answers this question in the article, mentioning one post by Godin:

66 words.

The rest of Godin’s posts are a few words longer or shorter. He might as well write about a dinosaur wearing baby shoes…

In this spirit, our primary research reveals that when it comes to surveys, shorter questionnaires, shorter questions and shorter sentences just promote better online research.


Those of us in between longer and shorter


All of this, of course, does not mean that shorter is better in the overall internet scheme of things. Again, content marketing (and online research) should be about taking creative risks to continually engage an increasingly educated yet cynical culture (and the boardroom dinosaur, with or without baby shoes). It goes without saying that spreadsheets and data should lead the way in any market research; but again, the point is not to have unimaginative numbers dominate the internet as in the past.

Search engines are more intuitive than ever, so qualitative entertainment now balances quantitative presentation. Internet audiences have basically become protagonists in a Nirvana song, always clamoring: Here we are, entertain us.

In essence, content should be as long or short as content needs to be. As an example, Upworthy found little association between length and attention. Here we are, entertain us.

Gandalf famously said in Lord of the Rings:

A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.

As wizards of marketing and research warlocks, our content in various mediums should be as long as it’s meant to be. Somewhere in between the genius of Godin and Patel, we will find the voice to make clients and customers not just like our brand but experience our brand.

Here we are…

Hard to reach audience button