Pew Study – new web stuff is catching on *fast*, not slow!

Matthew Ingram has got it right when he suggests that the recent Pew study results are an indication that many, not few people are engaged in Web 2.0. Several headlines about the study suggest, oddly, that there is some sort of tech elite who participates in web stuff when in fact the study is a powerful indication that the social internet is thriving and getting adopted by a broad spectrum of society rather than an elite group.

Click here for the Pew study with these key findings:

8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications.

23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work.

10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment.

10% use information gadgets, but find it a hassle.

49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others bristle at electronic connectivity.

MORE:  Wow – I don’t think I’ve ever seen research so hopelessly misinterpreted as these findings.  Perhaps those writing about this like the idea of being a “tech elite” so they interpret accordingly?

The significant finding was that only 15% are “offline”.     Hmmm – compare this to 10 years ago when only about 15% were “online”.   This is called “rapid adoption” rather than “tech elitism”.

Off the network (15 percent)
People in this group, tending to be 65 or older, do not have a cell phone or Internet access. Some have computers or digital cameras.

Dead at 88

I just took this interesting life expectancy Quiz and got 88.    I’m OK with that I guess, but the quiz suggested that if I cut out fast food (which I eat a lot), I could add as many as 8 years to my life expectancy.

Hmmmm – More burgers and fries or more life, that is the question.

Stock Spam Messages: SEC study suggests you should follow their bogus advice for profit?

The SEC is cracking down on stock price manipulations where spammers send out millions of email messages implying a stock is going to rise. Presumably the spammers have bought calls on the stock or own shares and then reap benefits if the price goes up from the fake interest created by the bogus emails.

But this raises a darn interesting question. If these manipulations really are working to inflate the price of certain stocks artificially – and they appear to be working – then the best course of action for Joe average investor may be to…wait for it…. BUY those darn spam STOCKS!

Some caveats would obviously apply here – you’d want to make sure you are 1) Not doing anything illegal yourself, so you’d never send out the spams or hype the stock yourself. 2) Buy early in the process before the price spike happens. Heavy internet users probably are the first to get the spam, though you can also check this interesting site, Spamnation, for details about the latest spam scams.

I’m testing this hypothesis without buying anything by following some of the stocks listed at Spamnation. Heres the COB.F chart which suggests the spam may have worked wonders on the price.

However CAU, with less spam and more recent activity, is up only a penny today and appears to have been falling recently, suggesting the spam did not work or didn’t work yet.

If, as the SEC crackdown suggests, stock spam scams are artificially inflating the prices of stocks, it may actually be to your advantage to *follow* the bogus advice even though it’s a bunch of illegal lies and deceptions.

Isn’t that … funny?

Alexa – Beware the Satanic Statistics?

Peter Norvig over at Google has published a quick little study indicating how unreliable the Alexa Metrics are if you want to know about website traffic. Thank you Matt for pointing out this Peter paper, which is very intriguing as it demonstrates that Alexa is off by a factor of 50x (ie an error of five thousand percent!) when comparing Matt Cutts’ and Peter’s site traffic.

I’ve realized the problems with Alexa for some time based on Alexa comparisons to sites where I knew the real traffic, but 50x is a rather spectacular level of error. So great in fact, given that these sites are both read mostly by technology sector folks, it suggests that Alexa is effectively worthless as a comparison tool unless there is abundant other data to support the comparison, in which case you don’t need Alexa anyway.

Of course the very expensive statistics services don’t fare all that well either. A recent, larger, and simply superb comparison study by Rand over at SEOMOZ collected data from several prominent sites in technology, including Matt Cutts’ blog, and concluded that no metrics were reasonably in line with the actual log files. Rand notes that he examined only about 25 blogs so the sample was somewhat small and targeted, but he concludes:

Based on the evidence we’ve gathered here, it’s safe to say that no external metric, traffic prediction service or ranking system available on the web today provides any accuracy when compared with real numbers.

It’s interesting how problematic it’s been to accurately compare what is arguably the most important aspect of internet traffic – simple site visits and pageviews. Hopefully as data becomes more widely circulated and more studies like these are done we may be able to create some tools that allow quick comparisons. Google Analytics is coming into widespread use but Rand told me at a conference that even that “internal metrics” tool seemed to have several problems when compared with log files. My experience with Analytics has been superficial but seems to line up with my log stats well.

Wired buys votes on Digg, Arrington calls for lawsuit?!

This story at Wired Magazine is a fascinating glimpse into manipulating social media.    Mike Arrington isn’t impressed though, and suggests Digg should sue Wired because Wired owns Digg competitor

I don’t agree, and frankly would love to see hundreds more of these “sting” operations which help everybody understand the challenges facing social media and hopefully will pressure sites to clean up the fraudulent stuff going on.

Mike’s right to point out the conflict of interest issue and everybody in this biz could use a transparency injection, but overall we need *hundreds* of times more investigative “sting operations” to show how problematic things have become with payola of various kinds, PPC, and other online scams like Ringtones.

The best response for Digg is to do an insider investigation and root out the abuses and publish it themselves, not pretend it doesn’t go on as they and Mike appear to be suggesting.   Violation of the DIGG TOS by Wired reporter does NOT mean the study isn’t valid.  These are almost entirely separate issues.

Soon I’m hoping to publish my own expose of PPC scams –  I’m trying to get‘s attention right now about the bogus traffic I’ve been paying for and will soon publish the list of the sites from my logs over the past year. If enough of us did that it would go a long way to help clean things up.

Industry sponsored research? Leave it on the shelf!

Over at Marketing Pilgrim, an excellent resource from Andy Beal and friends, I’ve been giving Jordan a hard time about citing a radio industry study that (surprise!) shows that radio is awesomely effective. I see a ton of this in the travel sector and these bogus studies that “prove” economic or advertising effectiveness are really starting to piss me off, because this is an abuse of the correct notion that research is a great way to measure the effectiveness of things. Ironically you don’t even need any “cheating” on these industry sponsored studies to get bad results for the reasons I discuss with Jordan below:

Joe Duck Says:
Supported with fundingprovided from Radio industry companies
Studies by agencies like this generally *will not* publish anything but favorable things about radio. All such industry sponsored research is therefore suspect.

Jordan McCollum Says:
Well, yes and no. They might not publish their studies that don’t have favorable results, but (I hope) they’re not screwing with their methodologies to produce results skewed in their favor in the experiments that they do publish.

And while increasing unaided recall 450% is a pretty nice stat, it’s the only concrete, conclusive, across-the-board improvement found in the study. The other positives were significant for some brands studied and not others, with aggregate totals of almost no change. That’s why I said that it can influence them, but “well-established brands” might not be as effective.

Thank you for the comment, though. You’re right–you gotta follow the money.

Joe Duck Says:
Jordan it’s a very slippery slope to use industry studies due to the selectivity, though it is really common. Interestingly studies like this don’t have to screw with anything at all to create problems for people who want unvarnished truth. Assume for example that they did 3 excellent, methodologically sound studies on this topic and 2 of them indicated “zero increase in unaided recall”. The logical research conclusion is to be skeptical of the recall claim, but if we only see the positive study we’ll draw wrong conclusions. It’s rarely this cut and dried and you rarely see industry studies with good sets of assumptions, so all I’m also suggesting that studies like this are better left on the shelf if you are building a quality marketing strategy. One should stick to research done by people or groups who will still be around regardless of the outcome of the research.

Where did that $14,000,000,000,000.00 go again?

It struck me how great it would be to have a website to track government spending, which even to the most enthusiastic tax and spender often falls short of the mark.   One of the reasons federal spending is so wildly inefficient and out of control  (even while under the hypocritical watch of those who claimed they were not huge spenders), is that it’s almost totally non-transparent.    Few Americans, me included, bother to follow up on where our hard earned tax dollars go.

How much could we cut out and get about the same performance from government?    I’d guess about half if it was very deliberately allocated to local agencies with more direct accountability to those they serve.    A good example was something like $60,000,000,000 spent during Katrina which probably has yielded the service equivalent perhaps a tenth that amount would have given the affected areas if it had been placed directly in the hands of the people and volunteer groups on the ground right after the disaster.

The site is called and it’s right here 

Powerset or Power Hype?

Powerset is one of the few new search offerings that actually may threaten the status quo, where Google picks up the lion’s share of internet searches (and internet search revenues) simply because they are the best of the mediocre. I’m not knocking Google’s brilliance here, but people are not realizing how great search would be if you could, for example, carry on a conversation with the computer rather than try to constrain the dialog in ways that meet the needs of the search algorithms. Powerset probably won’t be a conversation with the machine, but if they can crack the nut of natural language search even Google may tremble, as they are currently weak in that regard and it appears they have not been spending the time and money in that direction.

TechCrunch and VentureBeat on Powerset potential.

Natural language search is basically the idea that you’ll tell the computer exactly what you need, and probably refine the query as you would if you were speaking to a person. This may not do much for advanced “power users” who know how to use boolean expressions and advanced query refinements to get at the info they want, but it could be a wondrous thing for the other 99% of searchers out there who struggle every day trying to get Google Yahoo, or MSN to deliver the great specific results they need.

I still predict that eventually it’ll be Artificial Intelligence applications that bring us “near perfect” results as they’ll be able to screen spam and process good stuff at light speed, but great AI search is probably at least a decade away.

The search game has just begun and it’ll be fun to see how Powerset fits in.

Kirkland’s Shareware Coffeehouse. Order what you want, pay whatever you like.

This social and economic cafe experiment by a Seattle Googler is fascinating, especially because it’s actual appears to be working so far to generate enough to keep the business going.  There are no prices and people’s contributions are not monitored.   Thus even the normal social pressure you’d have with, for example, a church collection plate are largely absent here in the Kirkland Cafe.

I’m totally skeptical of this model as a scalable type of business, but it’s sure interesting.   Burning man sensibilities come to mind.