Oh, for the Love of Bullshit Content: Speed Vs Accuracy

The rush to “put content out there first” has created bullshit stories. Lots of of which are generated by websites like BuzzFeed, LolWhat?.

In the case of the false story about [Nikki] Haley, for example, Ben Smith, editor of a blog called BuzzFeed, told The New York Times that “the beauty of all this is the speed of self-correction. If it had been a newspaper report, it could have hung out there for a day.”

Is that the new standard? Or a defense for laziness? You publish something without regard for accuracy because if it’s false, surely someone will quickly correct it? I fail to see the beauty in that.

Source: USAToday

It’s the same in marketing — speed trumps accuracy, “SEO-ness” over “writing for humans”, and backlinks always beats insight and Aha!. This conspires to generate bullshit and lazy publishing.

A toast then! To another decade of crap content.

Image source: QuickMeme

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Visualising Data on Maps: Uses & Whys

For the last couple of weeks, I had created maps with  data overlays:

  1. Instagram map of Singapore General Election 2015
    Plots Instagram posts over electoral boundaries (See GE 2015 Instagram Posts Map)
  2. Cluster Map of Customers
    Plots & clusters individual customer locations to show concentration of customers in an area

I thought they were kind of cool. After all, I made those maps! Out of scraped data! With an automated tool (R, a programming language, is great for data scraping and stats work)!

And therein lied the problem: I fell in love with what I was doing without answering the all-important question

“So What?”

(from 3 Important Questions. Easy to give advice, harder to follow it)

I was stumped, indignant, and ashamed. I knew data on maps was useful but I couldn’t articulate it. Now with a cooler head, here’s a rundown of possible purposes behind maps with data overlays.

So What Can I Do With Data on a Map?

  1. Show Concentration & Spread
    The most obvious use – we can show how posts and Likes are clustered on top of an area of interest. Going along these lines, we can do the same for prices, traffic etc.

    Picture1

  2. Track Movement over Time
    Most geo-located posts have time-stamps. We could map a group of people’s postings over a time period. This could be used to identify user flow. Here’s a really creative visualisation of an NBA game on a map (CartoDB Blog: Displaying NBA Data).

    image
  3. Show Before & After
    We can divide time-stamped data into categories to show differences between now and then. Like this spiffy map of travel time in the USA in 1880 and 1900 (CartoDB Blog: realtimeliness).

    Picture2

It occurred to me, as I’m writing this post,  that there’s actually more that we can do with data points on maps than just the usual cluster and spread.

What’s your use for data on maps?

Finding Dots: Getting and Making Sense of Data

Strategy needs information. Unfortunately, much of that information – particularly in Marketing – comprises of hand-me-downs or culled from a wish list. And yet, we live in an age that is choking with information, data, figures and statistics.

Thus it seems incongruous that strategic plans are so ill-informed in such an information age. That’s why I’ve taken up learning how to scrape and transform on- and off-line data into some kind of insight…some kind of evidence that sets a direction.

The Result

It hasn’t helped me with strategy work yet. But it is wow… just wow. I’ve learnt a new programming language (R), brushed up on my statistics, and made maps.

Actually, a map of Instagram posts and likes on the Singapore General Election.
https://skybe077.cartodb.com/viz/f274b25e-5631-11e5-ac83-0e018d66dc29/embed_map

So exciting!

What is a good strategy when researching a topic?

Research isn’t all that tough. But it is time consuming and the information deluge on the web doesn’t make it any easier.

I found this question on Quora: What is a good strategy when researching a topic? And thought it’s a nice segway into how to research.

What do you think?

Answer by Edwin Tam:

I find that there’s general and specific research.

In your case, you seem to be looking for specific information: e.g. did this invention exist? How do I know if my giga-watt-powered Oatmealy gadget can actually grind Oatmeal?

General Research

I usually do the following:

  1. Identify research dimensions: Environment, Competitors, Technology, Own
  2. Write a list of questions for each dimension
  3. Hit up the library/Google/Academic papers/forums to get answers quickly. This helps me winnow out unanswerable questions, specify questions, and develop other questions from the earlier list
  4. Repeat 3 until happy. But now, I look for stats, data, and if necessary, conduct some primary research (e.g. surveys etc).  I’d usually give myself 3 days to do the research. Otherwise, screensuck!
  5. Review info. Develop insights and answers to your (now modified) Questions List.

Quora Question: What is a good strategy when researching a topic?

Severe Optimism Kills

Not by paying the ultimate price (i.e. life) for marketing and business strategies. But by extending the project duration and raising the budget – simply by being optimistic about plans.

Yup.

Optimism sucks.

Haha.

Image from johnnyoptimism.blogspot.sg

Optimism causes us to do Bad Things Like

  1. We don’t look for base rates in similar situations
  2. We think our skills are up to the task
  3. We ignore luck, yet it is far more important than skill
  4. We neglect obstacles

all of that lead to a false sense of control.

It causes over-confidence in a flawed/incomplete plan. That we exaggerate our ability to deliver. That we give overly rosy presentations to prospects as we promise them the ends of the Earth and more.

We could tone down and admit that we don’t know. But in this need-answer-now/I-pay-you-for-answers day, it’s quite possible that admitting ignorance will equate to getting laughed out of the room.

Solution to Optimism: Pre-mortem Your Plan

It’s similar to the post-version. But in reverse:

Imagine the plan 1 year from now and failed miserably. What’s the history of its failure?

This helps to uncover obstacles, point out the elephant in the room, and minimise risk.

At least, as much as it humanly can.

Source: Engine of Capitalism, Chapter 24. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Get it! It’s a great read!

Quickie Strategy: One (Strategic) Direction

Yep. Like the boy band.

But seriously, anything closely resembling a strategic plan needs direction – otherwise anything and any action will do. And when I say direction, it’s not “get more fucking people or Likes or whatever that’s the flavour of the moment.”

A direction is simply an answer to a problem. A clear, unambiguous and quite specific answer that states both the what and the how.

Compare these direction statements

“Never quit until you win” vs “We will win the hearts of our clients by being the fastest in turning around their requests”

No prizes for the direction that works for you.

Making it work

Your One Direction needs to have a what (will you do) and a how (will you do it) to answer the underlying problem within the current environment.

If not, find out what’s going on – and think harder on your direction.

Resources for the curious

  1. http://www.steverrobbins.com/articles/vision-strategy-tactics/
  2. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/strategic-planning-kit-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html
4 steps to finding out your target audience

Quickie Strategy: Who The F*** are your Target Audiences?

4 steps

Ask, Question, Find out, and Cut out

1: Ask your client

If they say “everyone”, give them a Brian o’Conan.

Otherwise, you have a list of people types to deal with…and that’s a good thing.

Source: World of Tanks

2: Question if this List is really your target audience?

With any luck, this list should at least segment “everyone” into discrete categories. E.g. Parents, Employees, Tradespeople, Media.

More likely not. So… that leaves you with the enviable task of creating categories that describe groups of people.

Why? Catering to more than 12 audience types will fry your brain like it’s on drugs. It’s just too much to handle!

Source: Elite Women

3: Find Out What the hell do these categories want?

Do the research – Google, ask people, use experiences etc. It might be difficult because it’s a pain in the ass to get info to describe these categories or it might just be that you’re not typing in the right keyword.

E.g. Category: tradespeople. Googled: “trades fair”, “What trades participants want”, “purpose of trade shows”, “trade show benefits” etc

Instead of hoping and praying to Page that there’s a webpage that describes tradespeople’s characteristics, I looked for things around it – what they did, the reasons why they go to tradeshows and why tradeshows exist.

From that little bit of research (2 to 3 hours?), tada… I now know what tradespeople want.

Source: Nerds of Colour (the connection with Step 3 — John Constantine’s been to Hell and back Open-mouthed smile)

4: Cut Out irrelevant wants

Now every category will probably have a list of wants as long as Cuthulu’s tentacles.

Pick the top 5 wants that your client can answer.

And now you know Who the F** are Your Target Audience

Source: Blastr

Before making a Plan, Ask these questions…

  1. What…?
  2. So What…?
  3. Do What…?

What…?

E.g.: What is this?

Why: Define and clarify the situation so that everyone understands the same thing. Without a shared vocabulary, it’ll be quite like the workers in the Tower of Babel, and we know what happened to it.

So What…?

E.g. So What does it mean?

Why: We are looking for implications, subtext, hidden stakeholders, and consequences. No one really lays it all out  — dig deeper and uncover the real problem; otherwise, this planning is an exercise in futility.

Do What…?

E.g. What can we do with this?

Why: Clarity and Research is great. But without action, it’s just hot air – like so much fluff. All plans must contain actions that help to fulfil it. Otherwise, it’s just a thinking exercise.

#24: Listen, Eavesdrop: A Wellspring of Ideas

Most of us live in a world of tick-tocks, drunken love-dovey nothings, tired screeches, ding-goes-the-ovens, bad singing from American Idol wannabes, and gems of ideas.

If you listen closely, you’d hear much to fuel any creative projects.

Here are a few tips to get started with listening and eavesdropping well.

  1. Carry a little notebook and a pen. Even better if you have a sound recorder (most mp3 players double up as recorders) to take down whatever you hear and notice. Always export them to your idea bank.
  2. Talk to everyone. Everyone has a story to tell. They’re just waiting for someone to tell it.
  3. Listen. Really listening to what’s out there is a skill that not many have. Listen to what people are really saying. Listen without prejudice. Just listen without saying stuff.
  4. Living Life Fully suggests that we can be creative listeners if we…

    Listen critically. Mentally challenge assertions, ideas, and philosophies.  Seek the truth with an open mind.

    Listen with patience. Do not hurry the other person.  Show them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, no matter how much you may disagree.  You may learn something.

    Listen with your heart. Practice empathy when you listen.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

    Listen for growth. Be an inquisitive listener.  Ask questions.  Everyone has something to say which will help you to grow.

    Listen creatively. Listen for ideas or the germs of ideas.  Listen for hints or clues that may spark creative projects.

That’s it. Good ol’ common sense, really.

So open your ears and listen up.

Who knows, you might even learn something useful.

 


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Credits: Featured image from empopempo