Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are We Flush With Research

You've all heard the old joke 63.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot. It usually takes a few moments for it to sink in and then you get it. Way back in college we used a textbook by Phillip Kotler that began each chapter with a short quotation. Among may favorites was "Statistics is the art of torturing the data until it says what you want." Whenever reading any reports, findings or conclusions based on numerical data analysis these are usually among the first things that pop into my head.

The social nets are terrific at highlighting stories and odd bits of information. Monitoring Twittter feeds can alert you to news stories as they are breaking (like the rebels victory in Libya or the earthquake on the east coast) while Facebook lets you see what all of your friends think is worth sharing. Google Plus also has a broad spectrum of postings from politics (Ron Paul forgets Rick Perry's name) to pot (weed DNA sequenced) depending on who you have placed in your circles.

Watching my various social nets can provide good information and often inspires or plays a key role in my daily column. For example, some weeks back a close FB connection (my son) shared Spotify with me which lead to some experimentation and a brief report on first impressions. There is so much good content its difficult to choose which links to follow. Music, news, videos, art, science and humor. You're entertained or educated.

The results of so many studies are made available. Smart phone share of market, smart phone user frustrations, social software relevance in business, and the list goes on and on almost endlessly. Most are interesting, important, relevant or at least useful. Many very well done.

Then this story with a pretty catchy headline was shared with me. It read: 35% of Tablet owners use device in the bathroom. and a different thought crossed my mind. Beyond my usual questioning of the validity of the numbers (called in to question by the extremely small size of the sample) this story begs the question; have we gone too far in our efforts to understand our own behavior? Did these subjects actually volunteer this response or was it a choice the researcher put on the  questionnaire? Do we really need to know if you people are using a computer (or any other electronic device) in the bathroom?

I'm all for understanding consumer behavior, technology usage patterns and the never ending quest for knowledge in general. But we should draw the line at the bathroom door.

Let me know what you think. Make sure you wash your hands. You don't know where that keyboard has been.

Captain Joe

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