Fixing a polling system that’s out of sync

Latest Voting Intention

Reading the various reports, narratives and commentaries this weekend about the results of the UK general election that took place on May 7, the overall perspective I’ve formed on all of that is how could the expert commentators, opinion-formers and outcome-predictors have got it all so wrong?

The election result produced a clear win for the Conservatives with a slender majority in the House of Commons (12 seats), and the virtual annihilation of the primary opposition political parties – the leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip have all quit – that confounded every single opinion poll in the months, weeks and days leading up to May 7, which had all predicted a hung Parliament as the best outcome anyone could expect.

So another coalition government looked a likely election outcome according to those polls – followed perhaps by another election in six months or so – and many column inches and pixels have been spent in offering what-if? scenarios of who might be able to form a government with whom, etc (the BBC’s interactive tool was especially good), much of it based on those opinion poll results.

About the only thing the pollsters did get right was the surging Scottish Nationalist Party which triumphed in Scotland in almost a clean sweep, winning 56 of 59 Scottish seats at Westminster.

Having been in America since May 3 with hardly a moment spare to look at the TV never mind online news, I had been shielded from any mainstream reporting and commentary back home in the run-up to election day last Thursday (our election was unquestionably not a big news item in the US mainstream media). What I did see, though, was plenty of comment and opinion on social media channels, notably Twitter, that presented a view of Labour being well ahead as the likely voting preference of a majority, and reinforced much of the mainstream feeling about a close-run election and a hung Parliament.

Socialist Media - Economist.com

And so I flew back to the UK on Thursday night US time arriving here on Friday morning UK time to the news that took me by surprise as much as it apparently did all those experts I mentioned – not a close-run thing at all but a pretty decisive Conservative victory, nothing like a hung Parliament, and a political landscape that no longer looked familiar with the downfall of the traditional political opposition.

With the nationalists rampant in Scotland and the Conservatives resurgent just about everywhere else outside the large urban centres in England, the former looks alarmingly like a one-party state with the latter arguably close to that territory. Indeed, it doesn’t look like a very United Kingdom at the moment.

But analysis on comment like that is for more knowledgeable subject-matter experts to ponder over.

What interests me mostly now is those opinion polls I mentioned earlier – how could they have got it so wrong?

You can choose from a great deal of opinion on that question, to which I add my two-pence-worth to suggest a combination of factors such as:

1. Reliance on an opinion-polling system that, largely, behaves the same as 50 years ago when few-to-many was the only communication model: the few controlled the news and methods of communication (the mainstream media companies); the many (the great British public) formed opinion based on what they read in the newspapers or heard on the radio (TV was still in its infancy) – their only reliable sources of news and information; and the pollsters formed their predictions based on what the public told them in answer to narrow questions where you read what the newspapers said to help you form opinions.

That’s totally not the picture today where the mainstream media is but one element in an immersive crowded information and communication landscape that enables anyone with an opinion and an internet connection to become a content-creator, news broadcaster and opinion-former.

Anyone with an opinion...

2. Lack of trust in, and engagement by, the political process and politicians themselves: let’s start with the Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 published in January that shows a continuing trend line for lack of trust in governments and politicians on a worldwide level, not only in the UK.

3. Public tiredness and disenchantment with politics in general and this election process in particular: so much partisan opinion and commentary – yes, I do call it propaganda – where it has been tough to filter signal from relentless noise and focus on what you think is credible and trustworthy to warrant your attention and your willingness to believe.

A case in point for me was the Leaders’ Debate on BBC’s Question Time programme on April 30. Debate? Hardly. Prepared sound-bite responses by each leader individually to questions from a carefully-controlled audience. The inauthenticity of it was breath-taking.

(Of course, I should point out that some analysts are saying that this TV event was instrumental in helping many voters decide who to vote for. If that’s true, then I’ll stick to my day job.)

4. The remoteness of much of it: so much stuff by people you don’t know, with hashtags on social media like #GE2015 that are tsunamis of opinions you don’t trust because much of it is so clearly partisan; and politicians who sound so patronising with their so-sincere-sounding and constant over-use of phrases like “hard-working families” and “working people” that you eventually tune it all out.

Some or all of this probably contributed to the huge number of “Don’t know” responses when people were asked by pollsters for their voting intentions – 25 percent of voters said they didn’t know who they’d vote for on the day, according to one report I saw.

That meant that the polling organizations, pundits and others were left to predict outcomes based on incomplete data from which to glean credible insights, along with that imperfect methodology for a contemporary society – are those the major factors that let it all be so wrong?

I read of one poll where the organizers predicted the actual election outcome with some clarity (and accuracy as it turned out) but who said they didn’t publish it for fear of being ridiculed: their poll was so totally different to all the others that were predicting a neck-and-neck close race, hung Parliament, etc.

And what was their methodology? Actually talking to voters: ringing them up on the phone and directly asking them relevant questions that they would want to answer.

YouGov’s Antony Wells summarized what he thought of the polling debacle:

[…] there is something genuinely wrong here. For several months before the election the polls were consistently showing Labour and Conservative roughly neck-and-neck. Individual polls exist that showed larger Conservative or Labour leads and some companies tended to show a small Labour lead or small Conservative lead, but no company consistently showed anything even approaching a seven point Conservative lead. The difference between the polls and the result was not just random sample error, something was wrong.

It’s worth taking a look at the 700+ comments to Well’s blog post.

So the current polling system used in this kind of significant national event has suffered a severe setback in how it is regarded from accuracy, trust and credibility perspectives. This has clearly rung a loud alarm bell as the British Polling Council, the trade body for the polling industry, has announced with some understatement that it’s setting up a public enquiry into what went wrong:

The final opinion polls before the election were clearly not as accurate as we would like, and the fact that all the pollsters underestimated the Conservative lead over Labour suggests that the methods that were used should be subject to careful, independent investigation.

The British Polling Council, supported by the Market Research Society, is therefore setting up an independent enquiry to look into the possible causes of this apparent bias, and to make recommendations for future polling.

The focus of the enquiry will be on polling methodology, according to the announcement.

Looking forward to learning what those recommendations are.

Scotland referendum results via WhatsApp and more

Yes / No

Tomorrow, the United Kingdom will not be the same no matter what happens in Scotland today as citizens there cast their votes in a referendum to decide whether Scotland will separate from the UK and become an independent country, or not.

The campaigning is done; now it’s up to the voters of Scotland to decide what they want for their country and the union with England that’s been in place since 1707.

Obviously media of all types – mainstream, social – and from all over the world are devoting huge time and resources to coverage of an event that has got the world’s attention especially in countries where the flames of separatism may be further fanned on the outcome in Scotland.

I’ll be following events as time permits during the day on TV and online. It’s once the polls close at 10pm tonight that interest will be most strong as the votes are counted with the first results to be declared expected sometime around 3am on Friday morning.

What appeals to me is the idea of key news as it breaks coming to me in a way that lets me focus just on that and gives me just the facts. I can choose whether to look for more detail, if I want, whether that’s online or via more traditional news channels.

So an idea from Channel 4 News in the UK is most interesting – broadcast breaking news on the results as it happens, directly to your smartphone via WhatsApp and Snapchat:

[…] We’re going to publish all of our best content, as well as live updates, via Snapchat and Whatsapp, from the moment the polls close on Thursday night right up to when the results are announced on Friday morning – ahead of publishing it anywhere else.

That last sentence is most interesting: “ahead of publishing it anywhere else.” Before TV?

My interest is WhatsApp; here’s how to set it up:

WhatsApp the message INDYREF to 07768555671 and add us to your contacts list to sign up for all of our best overnight news and analysis, pictures and video, delivered to you ahead of all the other social networks.
If you change your mind, WhatsApp STOP to the same number.

I’d added C4News to my WhatsApp and can’t wait to see how this plays out.

C4News

It’s great to see such innovation from mainstream broadcasters, especially communication methods that clearly show the broadcaster not only gets audience preferences by demographic according to social medium but also is able to execute an idea well.

Channel 4 is not alone in this. BBC News, for instance, announced this week that its content will be available on smartphone instant messaging platform LINE. Earlier this year, the BBC experimented with WhatsApp and WeChat in English and Hindi.

And Sky News launched its Stand Up Be Counted initiative, described as “a place for 16 – 25 year olds to safely upload and share the videos, pictures or blogs they make on the issues that matter most to them.” It’s been a very active place in relation to the Scottish referendum.

Innovation really is thriving.

(Via Journalism.co.uk; picture at top via The Guardian.)

Valuable insights in 2014 #InternetTrends report by Mary Meeker

netflix-chromecast.jpg

Last week, US venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst Mary Meeker published her 2014 Internet Trends report that offers a deep-dive look into the trends, possibilities, probabilities, scope and scale of what the global connected world will look like in the coming few years.

It highlights trends to pay attention to, offering keen insights into what’s shaping this connected world:

  1. Key internet trends showing slowing internet user growth but strong smartphone, tablet and mobile data traffic growth as well as rapid growth in mobile advertising.
  2. Emerging positive efficiency trends in education and healthcare.
  3. High-level trends in messaging, communications, apps and services.
  4. Data behind the rapid growth in sensors, uploadable / findable / shareable data, data mining tools and pattern recognition.
  5. Context on the evolution of online video.
  6. Observations about online innovation in China.

At 164 pages, the slide deck is huge in its scope, and a challenge to decipher detailed meaning from just a deck without the benefit of hearing its creator talk you through it (she did that at the event last week for which she had prepared the deck).

Many others are filling the vacuum to do that. I have some thoughts, too, on a few areas from the 164 slides. I expand on that below, but if you want to just feast on all of Meeker’s data right now, here’s the deck:

Last year’s 2013 Internet Trends report was 117 pages, a slim volume by comparison. Indeed, I found it it a relatively simple matter to quickly glean and absorb insights from her deck to come up with what I saw in May 2013 as fifteen big trends for the evolving digital age.

A year later, how does the landscape look?

Here are three elements from the 2014 report that caught my attention (and imagination).

1. The rise of the mobile internet and the mobile devices that people want to use on the web are irresistible

The first aspect is the steady increase in shipments of smartphones (Wikipedia definition) worldwide since 2009 …

mm2014slide06

…  and, in tandem, the rocketing growth in tablet (Wikipedia definition) shipments which overtook shipments of desktop and notebook PCs at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

And notice the massive uptick in tablet shipments that started at the end of the first quarter in 2013 …

mm2014slide07

… which makes it easy to understand in the context of the increasing numbers of people accessing content on the web via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in May 2014 compared to the same time in 2013. While there isn’t a slide to show how connectivity – whether wired, wireless or cellular – is growing everywhere, these figures surely provide convincing evidence that that is what’s happening.

And global mobile usage average has almost doubled year on year, broadly reflecting the detail in each of the regions measured.

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What these metrics say to me is this: if your presence on the web isn’t attuned to mobile – meaning, your site delivers the content people want and a great experience they expect when they come to you on their mobile devices – you’re in serious trouble.

2. The evolution of mobile apps

If using the web on a mobile device is increasing at a rapid pace as smartphones and tablets eclipse desktops and laptops, the requirement for mobile tools – apps – to let you do what you want on your mobile connected device is equally increasing at a rapid pace …

mm2014slide40

… where those apps are evolving into tools of genuine utility for the user, that let you do certain things very well.

So instead of being all things to all men, so to speak, many apps are shifting into specific use formats …

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… that offer you context-aware interactions that, as TechCrunch notes, are purpose-built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors to interact with you in far more compelling ways than at present to maximize their usefulness to you.

3. Game changers for mobile TV and video consumption

Meeker’s slide deck has a great deal of content about the rise of personalized television where you the user define what the content is that you will watch and where you get it from (think of custom user preferencing in Netflix and Chromecast, as examples of this), and how you control it.

Consumers increasingly expect to watch TV content on their own terms.

I have a good example: watching a film that’s delivered from Netflix where I control its output with my smartphone or tablet to play on my digital smart television via wifi connection to the Chromecast dongle plugged in to the HDMI port on the TV. No traditional TV broadcaster in this transmission/consumption equation at all.

mm2014slide124

For me, this text slide summarizes very well the key aspects of all this, the “televisual game changers.”

mm2014slide126

And so, a small subset of the compelling content in Mary Meeker’s 164 pages of metrics and insights that make up her Internet Trends 2014 report. My focus has very much been on mobile. That’s by accident and by design – I didn’t plan this post to be like that, yet all the things that grabbed my attention that I’ve written about here are all to do with mobile.

Well, maybe not everything. Big data trends, for instance.

mm2014slide60

Do review the full deck and see what strikes you as compelling. And some of the other reporting on it is pretty good, adding to the ways in understanding what the report is about:

Download the PDF report here: 2014 Internet Trends By Mary Meeker or view the deck on Slideshare.

Smartphones preferred device for news among affluent consumers says BBC

bbcnewsinfographsnip

The results of a new survey for BBC World News shows a surge in smartphone use for consuming news among affluent consumers compared to the general population. The BBC defines “affluent consumers” as the highest 20 percent income earners in each country surveyed.

What the BBC describes as the world’s first study into the use of mobile by affluent consumers – over 6,000 such people were surveyed in Australia, Germany, Sweden, India, Hong Kong and the US – shows a 15 percent yearly increase in the amount of people who would prefer to use a phone to read the news compared to a 17 percent decline for desktop computers.

In terms of how those surveyed prefer to read the news on their smartphones, the results make that quite clear:

News apps are the most commonly used apps on affluent consumers’ mobile phones, whilst social network apps are favoured by the general population.

BBC News Android appBBC News Android app

Speaking as a smartphone user of the BBC News app for Android devices, my view is that the app must present the user with a compelling experience to not only read the news but also be able to easily share it across the social web. You’d also want to be able to customise the app to your preferences and have it automatically update the news for you even when it’s not open.

And you’d prefer such an app for news consumption and social sharing over other high-use apps such as social networking apps, and have the opportunity to use it for contributing news to the BBC if you want to.

The BBC’s News app does all that and more.

The survey presents more rich metrics on mobile usage by affluent consumers:

  • 51 per cent of affluent consumers use their mobile phone for business, compared to 40 per cent of the general population.
  • Affluent consumers are 18 per cent more likely to share their location to get relevant services than the general population.
  • A third of affluent consumers agree that, if a brand wants to be modern and dynamic, it needs to be on mobile – 15 per cent higher than the general population.
  • Mobile advertising is twice as effective as the proven desktop in driving key brand metrics such as awareness, favourability and purchase intent amongst the total population. This figure rises to four times as effective for affluent consumers.
  • High-income earners are as positive towards advertising on mobile (19 per cent) as desktop (18 per cent). The percentage who are happy to see ads on mobile websites rises to 41 per cent for sites where the content is free.

The BBC says that the results reveal the increasing importance of smartphones to affluent consumers and demonstrate the extent to which mobile devices are integrated into both their personal and their business lives, as improved technology enables greater engagement with content.

The study also provides evidence that affluent consumers – a large proportion of the BBC World News and BBC.com/news audience – are significantly more receptive to mobile advertising than the general population.

(The focus on and talk about mobile advertising reflects the BBC’s commercial activity in markets outside the UK. Within the UK, we don’t see ads on any BBC property: the BBC gets its revenue from the annual license fee everyone has to pay – widely seen as a tax – plus a government grant.)

Earlier last year, the BBC released the results of a survey that, for the first time, measured news consumption habits across multiple devices – the so-called “second-screen experience.”

That survey offered some credible insights into the growing impact of TV, smartphones, tablets and laptops on the news consumption habits of more than 3,600 people surveyed in nine representative markets.

This latest survey reinforces key messages from that previous survey about the importance of mobile and smartphone usage to news organizations, advertisers and brand owners alike.

According to Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News:

This new research reveals significant change in mobile consumption – people are delving deeper into stories on their mobiles, consuming more video and, significantly, growing accustomed to advertising on their mobiles. This large study provides compelling evidence that mobile advertising works with affluent mobile consumers in particular and that has big implications for publishers and advertisers alike.

No doubt among the topics being discussed in Barcelona, Spain, this week at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.

Get an overview of the survey findings in this BBC infographic:

(Click for large infographic PDF)

Broadcasting the wow factor

The Graham Norton Show

TV chat shows can be great platforms to introduce a new product, create interest in going to the cinema and see a hot movie, or any manner of things celebrity guests talk about and likely to attract a big audience.

In today’s sharing society, you also want to extend the reach of a topic and its wow factor by building buzz online.

A cool product that played a big part in the latest The Graham Norton Show last night – undoubtedly the preeminent TV chat show in the UK, broadcast every Friday night on BBC1 – was a little robot that wowed Graham Norton, his three guests – Gary Oldman, Toni Collette and Nick Frost – and the studio audience.

Check out the video of the four-and-a-half-minutes segment in the show that featured the robot: I bet you go ‘Wow!”

(If you’re in the US and not able to see the video, possibly for copyright reasons, check out the copy uploaded to YouTube by BBC America.)

Norton said the robot is called “Nao,” which made it an easy matter to Google it and come up with details about it:

NAO is a programmable, 58cm tall humanoid robot with the following key components:

  • Body with 25 degrees of freedom (DOF) whose key elements are electric motors and actuators
  • Sensor network, including 2 cameras, 4 microphones, sonar rangefinder, 2 IR emitters and receivers, 1 inertial board, 9 tactile sensors, and 8 pressure sensors
  • Various communication devices, including voice synthesizer, LED lights, and 2 high-fidelity speakers
  • Intel ATOM 1,6ghz CPU (located in the head) that runs a Linux kernel and supports Aldebaran’s proprietary middleware (NAOqi)
  • Second CPU (located in the torso)
  • 27,6-watt-hour battery that provides NAO with 1.5 or more hours of autonomy, depending on usage

    NAO

If that’s all a bit dry, there is a video:

The company behind NAO is Aldebaran Robotics, whose website says it’s the first French company focusing on humanoid robotics. Its founder and chairman is Bruno Maisonnier whose LinkedIn profile starts simply with, “I’m interested in everything linked with robotics.”

I noticed that the video showcasing NAO was made in 2008, indicating that this humanoid robot has been around for at least five years.

Maybe mainstream focus such as The Graham Norton Show will help propel NAO into mainstream interest. Incidentally, nice work by the PR firm who got the BBC’s interest in NAO leading to its being the star of The Graham Norton Show.

It certainly knows how to dance Gangnam Style.

And it (he) has a Twitter handle: @NaoRobot.

But as Aldebaran Robotics says themselves, “There remain major challenges to overcome before robots become true personal assistants.”

So, some work to do to evolve on from a robot dancing Gangnam Style to getting closer to the concept of Sonny from I, Robot, never mind David from A.I.

Still, wow!

More possibilities with extended-time live video from Google+

Live Hangouts On Air

Wow – now you can do a Google Hangout On Air (a live video broadcast) for up to 8 hours!

That’s a huge amount of additional time from the previous 1-hour-maximum you had. And remember: up to 8 hours means just that – you don’t have to do 8 whole hours.

Oh what possibilities! Here are just 4:

  1. A live idea-a-thon to flesh out thinking and ideas for brand engagement via live participation with brand owners, customers and fans on the social web.
  2. Live segments over a set period with different people talking about different aspects of a topic.
  3. Live broadcast everything in a one-day conference or other event.
  4. Be very creative and experiment with your movie idea via “live TV over the web”.

Plus you get a recording of everything you do that gets published on your YouTube channel, and which you can edit.

How can you see opportunities?

Reshared post from +Tom Batkin

8 hours Rolled out!

You will see a Notification box above the start broadcast button in the green room

Hopefully you will not look as serious as I do in this selfie…..Note to self , smile next time

Big thanks to +Dawn R Nocera for letting me know where the notification was located

#hangouts   #hangoutsonair   #TheYearOfThePlus

cc +Ronnie Bincer ?

(Via Krishna De)