The coolest thing about data

Perhaps the really really coolest thing about data is when it starts talking to you. Well, not literally, but as a figure of speech. When you’ve been working on a set of raw data, spent hours cleaning it, twisting it around and getting to know it. Tried some things, not found anything, tried something else. And then suddenly it’s there. The story the data wants to tell. It’s fascinating and I know that I, at least, can get very excited about unraveling the secrets of the data at hand.

And it really doesn’t need to be that much analysis behind it either, sometimes it’s just plain simple data that you haven’t looked at like that before. Like this past week when we’ve had both the icehockey world championships and the Eurovision Song Contest going on. Both of them events that are covered by our newspaper and both of them with potential to attract lots of readers. Which they have done. But the thing that has surprised me this week is how different the two audiences behave. Where the ESC-fans find our articles on social media and end up on our site mainly via Facebook, the hockey fans come directly to our site. This is very interesting and definitely needs to be looked into more in depth. It raises a million questions, the first and foremost: How have I not seen this before? Is this the normal behaviour of these two groups of readers? Why do they behave like this? And how can we leverage on this information?

Most of the times, however, the exciting feeling of a discovery and of data really talking to you, happens when you have a more complex analysis at hand. When you really start seeing patterns emerge from the data and feel the connection between the data and your daily business activities.  I’m currently working on a bigger analysis of our online readers that I’m sure will reveal it’s inner self  given some more time. Already I’ve found some interesting things, like a large group of people never visiting the front page. And by never, I really do mean never, not “a few times” or “seldom”, I truly mean never. But more on that later, after I finish with the analysis. (I know, I too hate these teasers – I’m sorry.)

I hope your data is speaking to you too, because that really is the coolest thing! :nerd_face:


Analysing the wording of the NPS question

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a popular way to measure customer satisfaction. The NPS score is supposed to correlate with growth and as such of course appeals to management teams.

The idea is simple, you ask the customer how likely he or she is to recommend your product/service to others on a scale from 0 to 10. Then you calculate the score by subtracting the sum of zeros to sixes from the sum of nines and tens. If the score is positive it is supposed to indicate growth, if it is negative it is supposed to indicate decline.

My employer is a news company publishing newspapers and sites mainly in swedish (some finnish too). Therefore we mainly use the key question in swedish, i.e. Hur sannolikt skulle du rekommendera X till dina vänner? This wording, although an exact mach to the original (How likely is it that you would recommend X to a friend?) seems a little bit clumsy in swedish. We would prefer to use a more direct wording, i.e. Skulle du rekommentera X till dina vänner? which would translate into Would you recommend X to a friend? However, we were a bit hesitant to change the wordin without solid proof that it would not affect the answers.

So we decided to test it. We randomely asked our readers either the original key question or the modified one. The total amount of answers was 1521. Then, using R and the wilcox.test() function, I analysed the answers and could conclude that there is no difference in the results whichever way we are asking the question.

There is some criticism out there about using the NPS and I catch myself wondering every now and again if people are getting too used to the scale for it to be accurate any more. Also, here in Finland there is a small risk that people mix the scale with the scale 4-10 which is commonly used in schools and therefore apply their opinions to their years old impression about what is considered good and what is considered bad. I’d very much like to see some research about it.

Nevertheless, we are nowaday happily using the shorter version of the NPS key question. And have not found any reason why not to. Perhaps it could be altered in other languages too?



Autorefreshing and paginating remote Data Studio dashboards

I’d like to share with you a very nice and handy extension to Chrome, i.e. the Data Studio Auto Refresh extension. With this, you can have your Google Data Studio dashboards autorefreshing and auto paginating on a (remote) screen.

At my workplace we have one screen situated at the news desk. The screen previously showed a Data Studio dashboard with only one page. On this one page we showed the amount of registered users on our site, the NPS for our sites and the most recent comments on a feedback form on the site.

Following Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement last week about prioritising posts from family and friends over posts from pages, we realised we need to have a closer follow up for our Facebook posts as well. So I added a second page to the dashboard that shows Facebook reach and amount of engaged users:


Now the original page alternates with this page every couple of minutes. Thus the news desk can monitor the reach and user engagement of our Facebook posts and hopefully learn what makes Facebook’s algorithms tick. Over time we will of course need to conduct some proper analysis on the performance of the posts but for now this will give us some insight into the performance.

(This screen actually runs on a Raspberry Pi which I manage remotely as I sit on a another floor. Feels like playing with toys but is actually a very good and cheap solution to this simple need.)

The Road to Nowhere

I was just told that students who multitask during lectures perform up to a whole letter grade poorer than their fellow students. Whether this is true or not, I’m pretty sure humans cannot concentrate fully on two things at the same time, our focus is split and our attention jumps back and forth.

In certain situations it certainly is worth while devoting your full attention to whatever you are doing. The students who want to perform well should preferably pay attention to the lecturer rather than their laptops or mobiles. The same is true for our jobs, the result is often better if the person doing the job is paying attention to it. Whether it be writing, cooking or taking care of sick people.

An interesting question is how the multitasking affects our media consumption. There are studies on this as well. The consumption certainly is becoming more and more fragmented which puts pressure on the media companies to produce content that succeeds in keeping the attention of the audience.

I have to admit that almost every time I sit down on the sofa I bring my iPad along. Because most of the TV shows are boring. So why not Facebook or read emails at the same time? At least I fool myself into believing I am more efficient this way. Still I was shocked when a TV strategist told me that the attention span of the TV audience of today is six minutes. Six minutes! Every six minutes something really interesting should happen on the screen or people zap away (or turn to their iPads). It is just crazy. How can we expect to relax or to learn something if our attention span is that short? At least I know I most often feel more stressed than relaxed after an hour of simultaneous usage of TV and FB. It’s a bit like eating a large bag of candy – it feels like a good idea at the beginning, but when it’s done you swear never to do it again. Until next time.

But there is at least one upside to surfing the web while watching TV. When you watch a TV show, you can easily enrich the experience by reading more on the topic at hand online. And this has become so much easier with the iPad. If I watch an old movie on TV I tend to look up the actors and the reception the movie got when it was released, who composed the music, which other films the actors have been involved in etc etc. You learn a lot! Take Vanilla Sky as an example, I had no idea that the name referred to the skies depicted by Monet until I read about it on Wikipedia.

I especially love enriching documentaries. The Finnish broadcasting company YLE just showed the four-part documentary Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World. A fantastic scenery and interesting people! I watched this together with my iPad, looked up the places Connolly visited on Google Maps, read about the inuits and about Pond Inlet, a place I didn’t know existed.

Pond Inlet by Michael Saunders

Simultaneous usage of media in a way that enriches the experience gives you so much more than only watching the documentary. At the same time you have to be careful not to overdo it. It is quite easy to get carried away and forget all about the documentary or film you thought you were watching. Maybe we do need some twist to the story telling every six minutes to stay focused?

Oh yes, I almost forgot, The Road to Nowhere:
Road to Nowhere by janers.sweeter

Whom are we designing tablet apps for?

The tablets buyers of today are still early adopters, I’m sure we all agree on that. And at least in the US they are more often than not young affluent men. But appart from that, what do we know about the users? What do we know about our media consumers in general?

It’s easy to treat all users as one entity, as one homogeneous group of people who all use their tablets in the same way. The recent Mintel study on tablets and eReaders, tells us what tablet and eReader users do with their devices:

This is interesting reading as such but how about different user profiles? Means and averages aren’t a very good basis for development actions. We need to know more about the tablet user behaviour before starting our design process.Not all users use their tablet in the same way. This can be seen in the above diagrams. But the diagrams don’t tell us whether those who read RSS feeds also read blogs or whether those who watch movies also read news. And so on.

We need to identify the different user groups and design for each group separately, or at least keep them all in mind when designing.

Just like we know from the print media business that some read their papers from cover to cover and others only skim through the newspapers reading what they find interesting, we need to be aware that not all tablet users behave in the same way. Even though the market is still young I’m sure that there are different behavioural groups emerging. Some persons want breaking news fast whereas others like to read thoroughly about the subject at hand. Some want news about politics others about celebrities.

The technology now provides us with the tools to customise the experience. Using the same backend platform we can produce multiple experiences which can cater to the needs of different user groups. Why not do it?