The Complete “Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information” Arc

Note: Another relatively short, three post arc, here in full. You may thank us later. PS) The ET aspect described in this arc is now in NextStage’s Veritas Gauge. PPS) We thought it was short. We didn’t notice all the files at first. This arc is really nine posts long. Typical of J…

Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 1

I mentioned in Stephane Hamel, WASP creator, goes Freelance that I was taking a break from NextStage for a few years to pursue other things.

Of course, one never wonders far from what one loves, in the heart and mind if not with the feet.

Case in point, we’ve known for a while that NextStage’s Evolution Technology (ET) can determine if visitors to websites are behaving…umm…fairly(??) when they fill out forms, et cetera. We didn’t know how it could do it, only that it was in there somewhere.

Well, never give Joseph some spare time, he’ll find a way to fill it. Back on 18 Sept 07 some fellow KMMers emailed me Social networking sites: Almost two thirds of users enter false information to protect identity. This article starts with “London, UK – 18 September 2007 – Nearly two thirds (62%) of networking sites users say they are worried about the safety of their personal data held on these sites, reveals a survey conducted by email research specialists, emedia, using its RapidResearch service. The concern is so high that almost one third of users (31%) have already entered false information about themselves to protect their identity.”

This isn’t news to me or NextStage. One of the first things we told clients way back when was that — in general!!! — people will fabricate information on the web more often than they won’t because the social and cultural cues prohibiting “lying” aren’t available to them.

This same topic reared its head again during the recent XChange conference when we were discussing people in person versus online giving information necessary to receive information. I suggested that people will be more honest when providing health and investment information than, say, vacation information. There’s a higher psychological price (again, in general) assigned to health and investments than to vacations.

Anyway, I had a few days to spend analyzing the problem and finally figured out the math necessary to map online behaviors to which parts of the brain were active when information was being provided online. The rest of this post covers a seven day cycle, 27 Sept – 4 Oct 07, for several industries that NextStage monitors.

In all these images green indicates the number of visitors who respond truthfully to questionnaires, in chat sessions, etc., yellow indicates people who mix truth with non-truth and red indicates people who just make things up. Even when there’s nothing to fill out or form to fill in, these values indicate which parts of the brain are firing most actively. The question probably then becomes, “If there’s nothing to fill in, how can people be telling the truth or making things up?”

Deceitful behavior is both a boundary and defense mechanism. Think of a cat poofing its tale, a dog bristling it’s back, things like that. These mechanisms engage to make the animal appear larger than it is. It is, in a sense, being deceitful, making itself appear larger than it is, to protect itself or its territory. Thus, when there are no forms to fill out, et cetera, and ET is picking up fabricational behavior it is an indication site visitors are uncomfortable with the website they’re navigating. Similarly, truthful behavior is an indication visitors are comfortable with the website they’re navigating.

Let’s start with B2B sites shown above. Practically 2/3s of the people on all B2B sites NextStage monitors are comfortable enough with the site they’re navigating to fill out forms honestly and accurately. Probably a good thing in they’re making business purchases. It wouldn’t be good to order a skiploader one couldn’t pay for or maintain properly.

Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 2

This is the second installment of Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information. Interestingly enough, some of what this arc touches on was part of a conversation Paul Legutko, Semphonic’s VP Analytics, and Judah Phillips, Reed Business Interactive’s Director of Web Analytics, had last week at Bentley College’s Usability Labs with some graduate researchers. Many thanks to Paul and Judah for taking part in that discussion. I’ll be sharing the outcome of that discussion here once the results and finalized and made available to me.

This arc deals with Evolution Technology‘s (ET) ability to determine if visitors to websites are behaving…umm…fairly(??) when they fill out forms, et cetera. Some readers know I’m taking a sabbatical from NextStage and that means I get a chance to finish some projects that have been hanging over my head for months if not years now. One such project was the mathematics of truthtelling versus fabricating and how those two neural patterns are demonstrated when someone interacts with a website.

The rest of this post covers a seven day cycle, 27 Sept – 4 Oct 07, for several industries that NextStage monitors. The above provided a report for a general B2B sampling of sites NextStage monitors for clients. This post deals with B2C sites.

truth%20B2C%20070927-071004-350.jpg

Compare the above image with its B2B cousin in the previous section and you’ll notice that more consumers tell the truth (green) or recognizable portions of it (yellow) than do businesspeople when navigating websites. I’m a little surprised by this finding and with a little thought it makes sense to me.

These charts determine truth v fabrication by determining how much territoriality and defense mechanisms become active in a visitor’s neural landscape when they navigate a website. Consumers — at least the vast majority of them in today’s eWorld — no longer fear that websites will steal their soul, hence the defense mechanisms and territoriality that are indications of truth v fabrication don’t become active. This ties well into something I mention in Reading Virtual Minds, that people are becoming more and more comfortable identifying with a projected online persona (doesn’t matter if that persona shows up in Second Life or in a “junk” email address). This ability to be comfortable with a projected persona won’t show up as a fabrication because the individual navigating a site or filling in information won’t differentiate between their real versus cyber self.

Blog Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 3

This section deals with blogs.

how truthful are people when they're reading and commenting on blogs?

The majority of blogs NextStage is monitoring are social in nature, not business or informational and Wow. Who knew the majority of people involved in social blogging were…umm…so good at…uhh…had such strong imaginations? Compare this image with its B2B and B2C cousins above and you’ll notice that consumers — both business and general — tell the truth (green) or recognizable portions of it (yellow) than do bloggers. This finding doesn’t surprise me at all in light of what I wrote in the first section of this post and the findings in Social networking sites: Almost two thirds of users enter false information to protect identity. I guess that shows up on social blogs as well.

General Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 4

How many visitors are being honest on sites in general?Better than half the visitors to sites (in general) are providing honest and truthful information online and feel comfortable interacting with the site their navigating. This is shown by the large green chunk of the pie chart on the above.

It’s always interesting to me to see how truth and honesty demonstrate themselves across a variety of verticals and industries. We learned that B2B visitors are more honest online (in general) than B2C visitors. Social Bloggers, we learned, tend to be less honest and truthful when adding comments.

Online Insurance Vendors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 5

truth%20Insurance%20070927-071004-350.jpg

Just over two-thirds of the visitors to online insurance providers are providing honest and truthful information online and feel comfortable interacting with the site they’re navigating. This is shown by the large green chunk of the pie chart above.

Online Medical and Pharma, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 6

truth%20medical%20research%20070927-071004-350.jpg

This chart shows that an equal number of people are either telling the truth and fabricating OR an equal number of people are comfortable and uncomfortable when navigating online medical and pharma sites.

It’s in situations such as this that a little postulating can be useful. What follows is an opinion.

I find it doubtful that people navigating a site that may help them cure a disease or understand what’s happening to either themselves or a loved one would fabricate information. Doing so only means they won’t get useful information and if getting information is what they came for, the more useful the information they receive the better they off they are, therefore fabricating and getting less useful information defeats the purpose of coming to the site.

Therefore (and without looking at other NextStage reports that would help make this determination with more precision) I’m going to assume (ASSUME) that visitors navigating these sites are uncomfortable, either physically or psychologically. Physically because and unfortunately they may be dealing with an illness. Psychologically because dealing with their own or a loved one’s illness takes a toll psychologically.

Online Vacation Sites, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 7

This section deals with visitor interaction with vacation sites. The vacation sites in our system tend to be high end type vacations (luxury hotels offering safari style expeditions in Kenya, for example) and that’s going to play into my end analysis of what we learned with this tool.

People tend to exagerate when planning for vacations

One of the first things I noticed about these results is that there kind of a polarity mirror of what we saw in Online Medical and Pharma, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 6. Basically more people are exaggerating or outright falsifying information on these sites.

It’s worth noting at this point that these charts and the equations behind them aren’t simply “Truth v Fiction” because the parts of the brain-mind system that register truth and fiction are also the parts that determine if we feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a given situation. I went with a “comfortable v uncomfortable” analysis of online medical and pharma sites because that interpretation made more sense in conjunction with other data we had gathered on those sites. Here, in high-end vacation sites, a “truth v fabrication” analysis makes more sense.

What we told the clients (the numbers varied across the sites so I’m being general here) is that lots of visitors might not be able to take part in their vacations and probably know this viewing the sites. However, these sites, their intense graphics, fluid narratives, videos of people taking part in arctic expeditions, hiking over glaciers, trekking in the Andes, whitewatering in who knows where, allow many visitors to dream and while I won’t debate whether or not dreams are truth or fiction, I will offer that dreams are wonderful ways to escape and seeing yourself in a given situation is necessary when deciding if an extreme vacation is for you.

In other words, people fabricating, imagining, dreaming, is probably a good thing on these kinds of sites. Fortunately and as mentioned before, it’s possible (with other NextStage tools) to zero-in a bit more and know if visitors are purely fabricating or merely allowing their imaginations to run wild.

Wiki Contributors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information, Part 8

This section deals with contributors to wikis. The wikis monitored in our system are mostly internal and corporate, in many cases the companies asking NextStage to monitor their inhouse wikis are exploring the use of wikis along with other new media methods of B2E interactions.

Do wiki contributors really know what they're writing about

I think an appropriate subtitle — at least something businesses wanted to know — is whether or not wiki contributors really knew what they were writing about when entering information into a corporate wiki.

I need to clarify at this point that NextStage’s tools don’t know if someone is telling objective truth or not. Our tools can only identify if the person entering the information believes the information is true or not. This is subjective truth. In other words, this tool can determine is someone is intentionally fabricating information. This is a similar problem that criminal investigators and forensics experts deal with routinely; the witness believes what they’re redacting is accurate even if there’s massive contrary information available.

Subjective truth is a valuable tool in a lot of instances. For example, one of the greatest problems facing lots of industries today has to do with whether or not their knowledge-base will be maintained as workers retire, move on, etc. This concern is one reason many corporations are studying wikis as tools for collecting, categorizing and distributing knowledge before it walks out the door and is lost forever.

This NextStage tool allows wiki monitors to note that a given individual strongly believes the information they’re providing is accurate and actionable (a good combination in most instances).

All that offered, this chart indicates that across all wiki sites NextStage is monitoring contributors believe they are either telling the complete truth with their entries or are unsure. Nobody is fabricating information (also a very good thing to know when dealing with a corporate knowledge-base).

Truth, False Information and Personal Information Finale

I thought it might be useful to close out this arc with a review of NextStage’s findings across several verticals. Let’s start back with visitors to B2B sites. Across all general B2B sites in the NextStage system visitors are more truthful when entering information into the site and comfortable navigating the site than not.

Next up is visitors to B2C sites. As above, across all general B2C sites in the NextStage system visitors are not only more truthful than their B2B cousins, visitors are convinced they’re not fabricating information and are largely comfortable with the sites they’re navigating.

People seem to be either uncomfortable when commenting on blogs or fabricating information outright. I’m shocked, aren’t you?

We also considered a “glom”, meaning it covers all sites in our system. We analyze information from several sectors, verticals and markets, some with only one client and others with several, therefore this glom truly is a glom, an amalgam, of visitors. Think of a delicious stew that has great subtlety and is wonderfully filling and you have the idea.

Visitors to online insurers are incredibly truthful in filling out forms and navigating insurance sites. Good job and nicely done, online insurers (at least those in our system), you’ve managed to build rapport and create relationships with your online visitors that insures comfort and honest dealings. Hooray for you!

Online medical and pharma sites is where we recognize that these reports show more than just visitor truth and fabrication, they also display comfort and discomfort with the information presented on a site. Here we learn that many visitors to these sites are telling the truth when filling out forms and also uncomfortable, perhaps in a state of physical or emotional distress, with their need to be on such sites.

High-end vacation sites demonstrate one of my more fun findings to share with NextStage clients; those who offer high-end vacations. Why is this fun? Because while it might look as if most visitors to these sites are either uncomfortable or making something up, it’s more likely the case that they are imagining themselves taking part is some stimulating adventure scenario (I know I could use one right about now…) and that active imagination would be registered as fabricated information.

Our last chart dealt with people entering information into corporate wikis. The large majority of people entering data into corporate wikis believe they’re offering accurate information. More importantly, nobody entering information into the corporate wikis NextStage is monitoring believes they’re making up information.

This report is offered as NextStage Veritas Gauge. Hate to think I spent a month calibrating and verifying data from various sources, perfecting the math, so on and so forth, for nothing.


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One thought on “The Complete “Visitors, Truth, False Information and Personal Information” Arc

  1. […] it, Semphonic’s Paul Legutko makes mention of me being a “big brain” in a recent Bentley College interview, Susan Bratton says it in a recent interview she did with me and I keep hearing it at eMetrics and […]

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