Friday, January 30, 2015

Tiny Differences that Matter

Two examples jumped out at me yesterday where tiny differences can make or break something really important. 

A man in Canada purchased two lottery tickets for the weekly multi-million lottery jackpot.  The tickets were purchased at 8:59pm, which was just in time for the May 23 drawing.  The first ticket printed out at 8:59pm.  The second one printed at 9:00 and 7 seconds.   9pm is when the computer switched from the May 23 drawing to the May 30 drawing.  So the second ticket was tagged as an entry in the May 30 lottery drawing.  The buyer clearly intended it to be for the May 23rd drawing.  The vendor knew it was for the May 23rd drawing.  The ticket was purchased in time for the May 23rd drawing.  But because of slow processing, the second ticket had a late time stamp on it.  And then wouldn’t you know it, the second ticket hit all seven numbers – worth $10 Million.  Except that the lottery company wouldn’t pay out because the ticket said May 30.  They wouldn’t budge.  The Canada Supreme Court refused to hear the case so the guy is out of luck.  And out $10 million.  

Question:  Which should be the decision point? 
  • The date the buyer intended the ticket to be for?
  • The time the vendor entered the purchase?  
  • The time the computer registered the sale?
  • The time the computer printed out the ticket?
The second one is a touchy subject because it involves the Patriots and deflation-gate.  But I am not going to talk about the controversy or cheating or anything like that.  This post is about small differences.  How much of a difference does a football at 12.5 psi and a football at 10.5 psi behave on a rainy, cold day in New England?  These two psi do not weigh two pounds, which would obviously be a huge difference.  Scientific American reports that inside an NFL football, this would be about the weight of a dollar bill.  Football experts cited in the article say that it would be easier to grip and catch, but would not fly as far.  It is a mixed message there, but what I can’t get over is “the weight of a dollar bill.”  That just seems so miniscule.  Tiny differences matter.

But we do know that the footballs had a 2 psi lower pressure at halftime than they did at game time. 

Question: What should be the decision point?
  • The footballs were different by an amount that could only be explained by extreme natural causes which don’t seem to have been present or if someone tampered with them. If someone tampered, it must be the Patriots.  Regardless of any lack of physical evidence or testimony evidence, we will assume that the Patriots are guilty.  Not a poorly managed ball boy.  Not a third party of any kind.  Because our assumptions are never wrong. The justice system requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases or a preponderance of the evidence in civil cases.  The NFL is not the law, so instinct and assumption are fine.  
  • The NFL may not need to rise up to the level of criminal or even the civil justice system.  But they should at least have a halfway decent amount of evidence.  
  • The NFL should try to overcome the reputation caused by its recent lack-of-evidence based behavior (see Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, et al) and use the same criteria as the civil justice system.

This Week in EID - Episode 39

I am frequently surprised by the articles that get the most comments and whether they are largely positive or skeptical.  This week, I really expected the post on priming mindsets would be get a lot of comments.  It is one of those rare occurrences where we have a powerful tool to help education at all levels preschool to old age) with very little cost.  All it takes is for the teacher/trainer/tutor/coach to have a little sense of how to frame their messages.  But not many comments.  Perhaps I didn’t do a good job of cross posting to the right places.  I am mostly connected to UX groups and perhaps they aren’t as passionate about education as I am .  And then I got a lot of “thank you” comments about the self-promotion article.  Most people agreed with that one.

And then I was also surprised on the other side.  The posts on believing your own self-delusion and automated steering in cars received bursts of activity, mixed about 50/50 between positive and skeptical.  On self-delusion, many people commented that this is no different from bragging at the water cooler, which has been around for decades.  But the supporters reinforced my point that on social media it is different because the comments come at irregular frequencies over the course of a day or two.  This increases the self-elaboration and the amount of reconsolidation, so it magnifies how much it affects the original author’s own memory.  But it turns out a lot of folks on the UX groups don’t have backgrounds in psychology so they didn’t see the link.

On driver steering, the skeptics suggested that this is no different from anti-lock brakes, which have adjusted our braking experience for years without complaint.  I agreed that this would be true of all the steering did was mute overcorrections or nudge us around hazards.  But when our cars “take control” out of our hands, which anti-lock brakes don’t do, the pushback will be much stronger.  Emotions often trump performance when it comes to human behavior.

And because of the snow, I never circulated the article on Fitbits for multiple sclerosis. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Innovations in Superbowl Marketing

Innovation in Superbowl marketing has taken a few new and interesting paths this year.  With a 30-second TV commercial costing $4.5 million this year, you certainly can’t blame companies for trying something else. It is too tempting not to target the huge audience that the Superbowl generates.  Only a few companies can afford the price tag of the standard 30-second spot.  Even Coke is reducing its ad buy to just one.  Go Daddy and P&G are down to one also.  Anheuser Busch InBev is still going all out with seven 30-second ads but they are the only company with more than two. 

You might remember some previous innovations.  Fox invented the alternative Halftime show with an episode of In Living Color during the halftime show in 1992, timed specifically to start exactly when the first half ended and ending when the second half started.  But of course on their own channel so they didn’t have to pay for it.  There are also the (in)famous Lingerie Bowl (started in 2004 on pay per view) and the Puppy Bowl (started in 2005 on Animal Planet). 

So what is drawing my attention this year?  There are two.  One is by Newcastle.  The British brewer is crowdsourcing a commercial with 37 different companies all featured in a single ad.  I am a fan of crowdsourcing in general (for example here in EID and here on this blog) but I also like the way they are trying to weave a single story that includes all of the brands in one couple’s home.

The second one is by YouTube.  Instead of their usual halftime show, this year they are featuring their emerging cadre of stars.  It will stream live during halftime.  In the old days, they would have the official Superbowl halftime show available after the fact.  But their stars are making serious waves in the entertainment broadcasting sector and they decided to leverage this new influence. 

Your Turn

OK, so imagine you have a company that can’t afford a 30-second Superbowl ad but wants to target their audience.  What would you do?  Any other innovative ideas out there?  Please share.  Maybe we can all get together and crowdfund it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

This week in EID - Episode 38

OK, I was wrong.  One more short week.  I didn’t recognize that we would not be publishing on MLK Day.  I personally consider it just as important a holiday as most of the others we take off.  And it is a banking holiday.  And the garbage and recycling collections skip the day.  But I didn’t get the day off, so it slipped my mind.  Great example of lack of attention trumping the presence of memory.  Wow – that would make a good article title! 

The three posts this week cover the three basic dimensions that we cover at EID.  Tuesday was on innovation.  Wednesday was on psychology, and Thursday was on design.  Of course we have a lot of flavors of each of these topics – motor coordination, attention, learning, consumer electronics, workplace ergonomics, etc etc etc.  We have a wide variety of constituencies, which is why we cover so many topics.  And I try to write the articles so that they are interesting to everyone.  Comments suggest I do a reasonable job of this.  You can let me know if I am not.  The more feedback the better.

So Tuesday was about this really cool innovation I learned about how Mercedes and Brabus have collaborated to fight the Moscow rush hour traffic.  Apparently, the typical Moscow commute time is 3-4 hours. So half of your day’s productivity is wasted.  For what they refer to as mini-garchs, it is worth a company’s investment to customize one of the these.  Full oligarchs don’t actually go to the office, they work from their dachas.  And the bottom level just deal with the traffic.  I guess there are some socio-economic messages in there, but we focused on the innovation.  They have instrumented a commuting vehicle that is better than 95% of most offices.  Definitely better than mine. 

Wednesday was, as usual, my favorite topic of self-delusion.  In this case it was the example that when we embellish our stories, we start believing them ourselves – to the point where we don’t even notice the deception.  This happens will all self-delusion because of the neurochemical processes involved in reconsolidation (for example here).  But with social media posts it is more powerful because it is just words, so the images are not dissonant.  And every time someone comments, the embellished story hits us again by reappearing in our news feeds.

So then Thursday was a rant against the poor design of many classrooms.  Higher ed, but especially K-6.  General class topics, but especially STEM.  For all students, but especially minorities and women.  And even worse, there are some really low cost interventions that we are not using nearly enough.  Read the post and see what you can do, either as a teacher or as a parent.  Grassroots solutions work too.  You don’t need a school board vote.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Business Podcasting

I just listened to a fantastic podcast that I would strongly recommend to anyone who either runs a business, is involved in social media, or wants to add a powerful new tool to the company they work for.  The show is only about 45 minutes long and it is a conversation between three incredibly smart business pros on using podcasting for business.  They come from different places and didn’t start out as podcasting experts.  So neither do you.  But you might want to start one by the time you finish listening.  They have a wide ranging discussion of podcasting and how to leverage it for your business.  The strategy works for tech and non-tech businesses, large and small. 

Michael Stelzner, whose podcast the show is on, comes from a social media marketing background and is the Founder of Social Media Examiner.  He is also one of the originals at leveraging podcasts for business.  The two guests are:

Joe Pulizzi is one of the premier experts at content marketing and runs the Content Marketing Institute (full disclosure – I am a huge fan of CMI).  He came late to the podcasting world but has clearly mastered it. CMI just launched a whole network of podcasts.  I just bought his 2013 book “Epic Content Marketing” and plan to read his new one soon.

Jay Baer runs Convince & Convert and runs the biggest search site for marketing podcasts.  He hosts the Social Pros podcast and launched a really cool series of 3-minute videos that he cross markets in some really brilliant ways on Facebook, YouTube, his blog, and other channels.