Repealing Reg's law
The death of MR postponed

#Twittersurvey: You knew this was coming

It’s been a big week for Twitter.  First came the announcement of the Nielsen deal and this item that seems to say Coke is embracing Twitter surveys in a big way.  Expect a stampede to follow.

This was inevitable but the timing is curious.  Pew tells us that as of May 15% of US adult Internet user say they use Twitter and just about half of those do so every day.  And those folks are disproportionately Afro-American, under 15 and live in urban areas.

You could look at this as one more reason for MR to work the worry beads, or you could see it as an opportunity.  What me worryAfter all, we’re supposed to be good at sampling, right?  And the basic principles of sampling are really useful for looking at a dataset, understanding its biases, and explaining who the data represent, what it means for the client’s target market, and therefore what actions the client should take. 

 But alas, the last 15 years of online research  has demonstrated pretty clearly that we don’t understand sampling much at all.  If we did, we would have recognized panels for what they are and either labeled the work appropriately or developed the techniques to overcome its shortcomings.  The later issue has finally moved to the top of the agenda for some, but sadly not for all.

So here we go again, ready or not.  Twitter, Facebook, Google, Mobile, Big Data – we are going to have to deal with all of it.  Will we dig into all of it in a systematic way to figure out what’s really there and what it can tell us or we will just accept it all at face value?  I’d like to think that one way for us to morph as these new data streams go mainstream is by leveraging our experience in research design and especially in the basic principles of sampling, not so we become samplers (God forbid) but so that we can evaluate the validity of the data in front of us.

It's hard to feel encouraged.  And if one more person tells me that it’s going to be ok because of the law of large numbers I surely will scream.