Category Archives: web research

CNET: At Least They Warn You It’s Going to be Horrible?

15-20 minutes? Even I probably won’t click to take this one.

Oh, all right, I did. Got about three minutes in (it’s about reward programs), hit my first matrix, and decided I wasn’t going any further:

Sorry, CNET, I’m out. Not only does this show every sign of making me miserable, it also doesn’t appear to have anything to do with your business, since I can’t imagine a product review site launching its own rewards program. If the research looked like it was directly connected to improving the site I actually was interested in viewing when I went to this morning, I might have been willing to go further with this, but not for this.


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Filed under bad user experiences, Market Research, matrixes make me cry, web research

Just Say No Already.

Annie Pettit this morning tweeted from the Net Gain 4.0 Conference in Toronto:

Clients still want 1 hour surveys and we can’t do anything about it : I say turn it down!!

I’ll go further than that: I say turn it down and make it clear to the client that they are the cancer that is killing market research. What in the world can you learn from a sixty minute survey that you can’t learn from a 5-minute one? (I’m not talking about an in-depth qualitative research project, or something where you hook someone up to an EEG and have them watch an episode of CSI: Miami to see what their brain has to say. I’m talking about asking questions, on the phone or on a screen. 60 minutes is 55 minutes too long!

Do we really think the respondents still on the phone (or on the web) at the one-minute mark, the ten-minute mark, and the 60-minute mark are identical?


Filed under bad user experiences, data quality, Market Research, matrixes make me cry, The cancer that is killing market research, web research

How Many Yards Do You Commute To Work, And Other Badly-Measured Intervals.

I’m really sorry I’ve been so dormant lately.  I don’t really have an excuse, other than that I’ve been busy enough with other things that I haven’t been taking many online surveys, and as a result, I haven’t had anything to post.

Today, though, that changes. Hopefully for good? We’ll see.

So I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother at just now, and following it, they gave me a survey from Magid about my use of streaming video, peer-to-peer sharing, and so on. I’ve actually been getting a lot of TV via the internet lately — there’s just too much on at the same time on Thursdays, and I’ve been forced to torrent or use Hulu to watch at least some of it, since my DVR can only do two things at a time, and there seem to be THREE things on simultaneously from 8:00 to 10:00 those nights. Some weeks I grab torrents, others I use Hulu — it mostly depends on when I’ll be watching, because I have kids, and I find it much easier to watch TV with closed captions when they’re around, since they’re noisy little things. If I’ll be watching when they’re home, I often use Hulu; if they’re out or asleep, I’ll often get the torrents, which are usually better quality, and are usually able to be streamed to my TV, too.

Anyway, the point here is to share this incredibly ill-conceived question, which was the one really badly thought-out item in an otherwise pretty solid survey:

quarter hour

Really? You want me to think about how much TV I watch in 15-minute increments? Why on earth would you think this was the right way to ask this question? I had to do MATH to answer the question, counting up the number of hours of TV I watch and multiplying by 4, which might not even be an obvious option to every respondent. The strangest thing is, the 15-minute increment makes no sense in either context. Online versions of TV shows aren’t ever in 15 minute formats — half hour sitcoms run around 22 minutes, and hour dramas are around 44 — and the other things people watch online, like movie trailers and clips of people being idiots on YouTube are much shorter.

I don’t get it. Which I suppose isn’t unusual.


Filed under answer choices, bad user experiences, Market Research, quality of responses, web research

Straightlining vs. Answering Your Stupid Question Honestly

OK, this is something I hadn’t thought of before.

When I’m staring at a bad survey question — asking me to compare two absolutely identical companies in a matrix, for instance — my tendency is to do this:

They’re equal. There’s no difference between Visa and MasterCard in my mind. Discover and American Express, those are different, both from one another and from these two brands, but Visa and MasterCard might as well just merge, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, there’s no way to provide that answer in the framework provided here, so I decided to simply give each company a score of “5” for each item. That seemed to get the message across, as far as I was concerned. Of course, as soon as I clicked the button, I got booted, with the same generic non-qualified message you get when you tell them you don’t have kids or haven’t seen a movie in the past two months or whatever it is. We all know the truth: they booted me for straightlining.

Which I wasn’t.

At the very least, wouldn’t it be smarter to keep me in and see what the rest of my answers looked like? With the amount of amply-documented badly designed questionnaires out there, shouldn’t we maybe consider that a respondent will occasionally need to do something to get around a poorly framed question, or an item that simply doesn’t apply to them?

Simply ending the survey as soon as someone gives all items on a page the same value seems both too simplistic and too drastic a solution to me.


Filed under answer choices, bad user experiences, data quality, Greenfield, Market Research, matrixes make me cry, web research

Another Fine Matrix

First, look at this full-size. See how there are 14 brands of cat food going across the top? I already told it I’d never heard of five of them, and yet here they all are again. It’s one thing to ask me if I’ve ever heard of a brand and to then, even if I haven’t, show me an ad for the brand and ask if I’ve seen that ad — I very well could have forgotten about it, or misremembered what brand it was for.

This is just stupid…

matrix from hell big

Worse, though, it’s endless. Here’s a reduced-size capture so you can see how long it is:

matrix from hell

This is what I’m referring to in the comments on Gary Langer’ post here — what the hell sort of non-representative person is going to sit through this? This kind of garbage really is the cancer that is killing market research. Stop pulling this crap, and then go and worry some more about probability samples.


Filed under bad user experiences, Greenfield, Market Research, matrixes make me cry, The cancer that is killing market research, web research

Needs Moar Choices.


Seriously? Shouldn’t they also have broken out high school by year, or something? Maybe included a radio button for each individual year from kindergarten through law school? No, really, I just can’t imagine how such fine distinctions are useful to anyone. Is someone really looking at this and saying, “Wow, the 7 respondents with some advanced degree work are slightly more likely to say x than the 11 respondents who are currently in advanced degree work! Fascinating! Oh, wait, the margin of error is +/- 37.8%.”

I get that there’s value in collecting more, not less data; I’m a firm believer in asking respondents for their actual ages, actually, instead of for a range — because when you have the actual data, you can put it back together in whatever groupings you want, which may not be the groupings you think make sense before you see the results — but this here is just a mess.

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Filed under answer choices, bad user experiences, Market Research, The cancer that is killing market research, web research

Is the panel research business model creating a gold farming problem?

Greenfield must be having trouble getting panelists to complete research these days. Maybe it’s the summer blahs, with respondents too hot, too sweaty, or just too on vacation to be bothered.

Then again, maybe it’s something to do with people just getting sick of trying to imagine their orange juice has come to life and is displaying personality traits.

In any case, I’m sure this is the answer:

50 cents

50 cents per survey! At 20 minutes per survey, that’s like, $1.50 an hour! This will totally solve all of Greenfield’s problems, and can only lead to amazing data quality.


But let’s turn this repetitive Greenfield mockery into a real question:  what are the odds that this sort of incentive (and incentives in general, really) has already led to or soon will lead to the market research version of “gold farming?”

Gold farming, if you don’t want to bother reading the Wikipedia entry, is an exploit carried out within massive online role-playing games, like World of Warcraft. I’m no expert in it, but as I understand it, people hire low-wage workers (this has apparently been an issue in China) to sit in front of multiple computer terminals logged into the online game. The workers don’t actually play the game as it’s intended to be used, but they instead perform repetitive actions, generally using automated scripts, to earn (or, colloquially, to farm for) in-game cash — virtual money, essentially, that can be spent on in-game items like better weapons and the like. The folks behind the operation then sell the virtual currency online, to actual players of the game who want to buy a really cool sword or whatever but who can’t be bothered spending weeks building up the in-game cash to buy it.

So, since Greenfield is paying 50 cents for 20 minutes worth of human labor here, it occurs to me that someone has probably already figured out that they write some scripts to blast through these things in (let’s say) five minutes each — 12 per hour, as opposed to 3 per hour. And that’s per computer. So you sit a guy in front of five screens, each logged in on a different Greenfield account, each earning $6 an hour — so $30 an hour across those five screens — you know, if your labor only needs to make around $3 an hour, that’s $216 a day in pure profit for the guy in charge. And that’s assuming he’s only got one guy doing this on only five accounts at once.

Now, I’m sure I can’t be the first person this sort of thing has occurred to, and I’m sure Greenfield and the other panel outfits are trying their hardest to make this impossible, limiting the number of surveys one respondent can complete in a day, maybe checking for a total elapsed time and invalidating surveys that move too quickly — but, I don’t know, that strikes me as sort of being similar to making the roads near the bars really wide and straight instead of outlawing 24-hour happy hours, or some similarly goofy comparison.

If we want honest answers from real people, maybe we should rethink this entire insulting “we’ll pay you fifty cents to answer 120 repetitive questions about the minute differences between four brands of orange juice” business model.


Filed under Greenfield, incentives/compensation, Market Research, quality of responses, The cancer that is killing market research, web research