Them People O’er There, They Don’t Think Like Us

[Note this is another blast from the past – Oct 2011 to be exact – that is being requested hence resurrected. Enjoy!]

Long, long ago, NextStage's tagline was "Learn How the World Thinks…Now!". We were quite happy with that as a tag line because it exemplifies the basis of what NextStage did then and does now, make human thought marketably actionable. I'll admit we were taken aback when prospects heard our pitch — it hasn't changed much — and responded, "Why would I want to know what my customers think?" A response we heard almost as much was "Why should I care what my customers think?"

Well, it turns out what we offered then we still offer now, then it was free, now it's for pay (just letting you know ahead of time, although we believe it's pretty inexpensive) — You can learn how the world (or select parts of it) thinks now for only US$39.99/run. [Now you have to purchase either an individual membership (still relatively cheap) or a corporate seat (not quite as cheap but when you’re a corporation, a thousand here a thousand there, you probably never notice)]

Ten years ago nobody was interested [that would have been 2001]. Now they are [meaning 2011, when this post originally came out, and definitely now in 2016]. Perhaps there's more interest in learning how the world — or at least different regions of it — think now. Or at least how the world was thinking in the last twenty-four hours (because that’s how often the tool updates).

In any case, you can go to the NextStage SampleMatch World Report and see how people are thinking globally. NextStage's SampleMatch Tool uses data collected by NextStage OnSite and similar “visitor tracking” tools to determine how people are thinking, how they'll behave and what motivates them. [As I update this, we’ve got four of the seven continents covered. Nobody’s sending data from Antarctica, Africa and South America. We’re working on Africa and South America. Antarctica, you’re on your own].

Nice, huh?

One fascinating thing we've discovered so far is that the majority of people around the world use what we call a V14 Personality Style (you can learn more about these designations in these posts) [Here in 2016 about a quarter of the planet is using K22, a change primarily due to the proliferation of mobile devices]. That V14 hasn't changed in the time we've been beta-ing the tool (about three months). What does change fairly regularly are the secondary, tertiary and less used Personality Styles. The secondary and tertiary change at least once a week, and the Personality Styles representing lesser populations shift little.

It is an oddity.

You can also get an idea of how many individual locations NextStage's SampleMatch Tool is analyzing on NextStage SampleMatch's About page [You have to be a NextStage Member to access the tool now]. Right now, for example, we're providing results for Albania through Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong, Viet Nam.

NextStage SampleMatch's function is to provide marketing and creative people actionable design data by region. Imagine yourself sitting in a mall watching people walking past and making highly accurate decisions about how each person shops, decides what to buy, what kinds of things trigger their interest, etc., and you get an idea of how NextStage's SampleMatch works.

And before I forget, the information can also be provided by zip/postal code, gender, age and industry, if desired.

So go take a look and let us know what you think.

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A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 3 – Following No One

[Note: This is a repub of a post originally written in Aug 2012 on the version of this blog that died. We’re getting lots of requests for it so we’re republishing it here. Enjoy!]

This is the third post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms.

These posts will cover

  2. Watches
  3. "You don't follow anybody"
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. "You rarely point to someone else's writing"

This post deals with something people complain about from time to time, the fact that… I Don't Follow Anyone …and therefore I'm antisocial. This is a demonstration of either such wonderfully flawed logic as to itself offer an explanation of same or such a limited world-view as to be saddening.

Twitter et al are becoming more and more marketing platforms and few marketers (in my opinion) understand the psycho-sociology behind them enough to use them properly as a marketing platforms (did you read the take-away in this arc's previous post?). Followers and twits (now do you know why I call them "twits" instead of "tweets"?) are for sale. Lots of companies (and some individuals) routinely purchase them as part of their marketing campaigns when products launch, rebranding occurs, etc. etc.

Let them purchase all they want. Unless that purchase includes recognizably genuine phatic content — mundane chatter from individuals who are psychologically vested in the product, brand, service, offering, … — it's worthless.

Being boring and dull, my needs are equally mundane. I'm not interested in adverts even if they are in 140 or fewer characters.

But I do follow people, simply not on Twitter. I correspond regularly via email, Skype, phone, etc, with a fair number of people. That fair number, regardless of medium, is typically around 70. Why 70? Read They're Following Me! (More on Twitter) for the answer. What am I doing with 375 or so followers? I'm providing them with Watches so that tribe size remains manageable, frustrations (followers and my own) are minimized and people only have to read what they want.

My regular use of channels alternative to Twitter amounts to following them and in what I believe is a much more intimate, much more personal way than Twitter, and specifically to an earlier point, in a way that greatly approximates how much I value everybody's time. If I don't know you, if I'm not somehow vested in your life, I don't really care to know what you're doing every fifteen minutes of your life. If I do know you and I am vested, I'll be in touch in ways that let you know you are genuinely important to me.

Is this what NextStage suggests to clients regarding social policy? Heck no! What, do you think we're nuts or something?

But can you understand that our (pretty much everyone here at NextStage has the same attitude) thoughts on how, when and where to interrupt people's lives with social information makes us killers at helping clients interrupt consumers lives in ways that stick positively?

No? Then I must ask "How are your social efforts doing, really?"

I rarely refuse interactions, be they phone or Skype. I'm known for not responding quickly to emails yet I am known for definitely responding. One correspondent also wrote that he had to get use to the idea that I actually read everything in an email, not just skimmed and not just certain parts.

My emails often start with

(catching up on emails)
Comments within:

My responses to a specific item come right after that item, much more like a discussion and much easier to follow as no one has to go digging for threads.

I do follow people and do so by occasionally looking up their streams for "interesting to me" items. There are two things happening there: 1) I determine what to look at (like walking down bookstacks in a library) and 2) I determine the schedule (I'm not interrupted).

The majority of Twitter streams don't interest me because they're either irrelevant to my day or embarrassingly unsubstantiated opinion. Some of what's on Twitter is phatic but it's from people I don't know hence, with no investment in them as friends, why do I care about their phatickly boring day? It's just as boring as mine, I'm sure, and sometimes mine is mind-numbing (what we in the NextStage offices call "brainpoo") and if mine is numbing enough why would I want to further subject myself to someone else's insipidities by encouraging theirs?

Or perhaps it's true and I am anti-social.

Sometimes I find something I want to pass on to my followers and do so via a ReadWatch. It doesn't happen often. It happens so seldom, in fact, that one can rightly determine something really has to impress me before I'll intrude on other people's times and spaces. The last time I posted a ReadWatch the author wrote to thank me for recognizably increasing their traffic. I was flattered because the increase was several multiples of my number of followers at the time.

So I do follow people, simply not obviously so, and I follow my friends in a way that allows them to keep their relationship to me private if they so desire.

A Link Does Not a Friend Make

From the above we can conclude that I have a definition of "friendship" different from the current social-marketing norm (see what a friend wrote about my friendship in my About the Author section of Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires (available in print and on Kindle.Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires Someone read that and wrote that they hoped their friends thought as well of them. I offered that it depended on how they valued friends. Go figure).

These concepts of friendship and time also explain my reluctance to refer people through online social networks. Unless NextStage has actually worked with someone or some company or I consider you a friend, I won't perform an introduction or offer a referral. A link does not a friend make and while some I do business with have become friends not everyone I do business with is a friend. Also, I know enough psycho-social behavioral dynamics to know that, for the majority of people, how one treats one in business is how they'll treat you outside of business, ergo there is, to me, a difference between those I count as friends and those I know in business. Sometimes the differences are only revealed over time.

The lesson here is, if you want something from me, don't act as if you're my friend if you don't really know me. Just ask me for what you want. You're much more likely to get it as my BS tolerance is extremely low. Example: a brand management company sent an email to our R&D group asking how to contact me. This impressed the heck out of me as my email address is easy to find with a few minutes search engine work. Eois got the email and wrote back asking what they wanted (nobody here recognized the company or the writer). They were interested in our research and how I do research. Eois wrote back that he could answer their questions, what research were they interested in?

At this point the writer owned up that they wanted to sell me something.

Eois' BS tolerance is higher than mine but that's why he gets paid the big bucks. State your goal up front when contacting us. We really don't want you to be all phaticky if we don't know you.

NextStage's BlueSky (BS) MeterYou know, there might be a market for a BJ Meter, similar to NextStage's BlueSky (BS) Meter except it's more tuned to the types of BS that come from fawning and sycophantery when the goal is to make a sale. Imagine not being sure of someone's intent, passing their blather through a tool and knowing for certain all their praise is in hopes of getting something from you and preferably a dollar!

What'd'you think? Would there be a market for such stuff?

Next up, Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …

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Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation Now Available on Amazon

First, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we got this volume out.
And now, from Holly Buchanan‘s Foreword to the book…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and ExpectationAfter inhaling Reading Virtual Minds Volume I I was like an antsy 3-year old waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II. It did not disappoint.
I love the way Joseph Carrabis thinks. He has a unique ability to share broad rich theory with actionable specifics. Unlike many technical writers, he has a unique voice that is both approachable and humorous. It makes for an enjoyable read.
But what’s the main reason why you should read Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experiences and Expectations? Because where most companies and designers fail is on the expectation front.

Humans are designed as expectation engines.

This is, perhaps, the most important sentence in this book. One of the main points Joseph makes in this volume is this – Understand your audiences’ whys and you’ll design near perfect whats.
Design failures come from getting the whys wrong. That can lead to failures on the experience side, but also on the expectation side. And that can be the bigger problem.

Expectation is a top-down process. Higher-level information informs lower-level processing. Experience is a bottom-up process. Sensory information goes into higher-level processing for evaluation. Humans are designed as expectation engines. Topdown connections out number bottom-up connections by about 10:1.

Why is this so important?

In language, more than anywhere else, we see or hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what is said or written. Across all cultures and languages, neurophysiologists and psychologists estimate that what we experience is as much as 85% what we expect to experience, not necessarily what is real or ‘environmentally available’.


When people expect A and get B they go through a few moments of fugue. External reality is not synching up with internal reality and the mind and brain will, if allowed, burn themselves out making the two mesh.

Get your consumer/visitor/user experience AND expectation right, get their why right, and you’ll be exponentially more successful.

Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find in this book:

  • Privacy vs. value exchange and when to ask for what information. Joseph has some actionable specifics on this that will surprise you.
  • Why we design for false attractors rather than the real problem.
  • The importance of understanding convincer strategies. Convincer strategies are the internal processes people go through in order to convince themselves they should or should not do something.
  • Companies spend a lot of time trying to convince consumers to trust them. But what may be even more important is understanding how to let consumers you know you trust them. This book has ideas on how to show your customers/users/visitors, “I believe in you”.
  • How often our own experience influence our designs. Unless you’re able to throw all your experience out, and let the user’s experience in, get out of the usability and design business.
  • How to allow your visitors easy Anonymous-Expressive Identity and make them yours forever.
  • Regarding new material, design, interface, the importance of making sure your suggestions provide a clear path to the past (thus being risk averse while providing marketable innovation).

As always, Reading Virtual Minds provides specific actionable ideas. But it will also make you think and approach your work in a new way. And I think that’s the best reason to treat yourself to this book and the inner workings of NextStage and Joseph Carrabis.

(and we never argue with Holly Buchanan…)

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Rocks, Hammers, Competition and How People Get Left Behind

Note: this post is from Jun ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I’ve been talking with lots of people about what NextStage does, about our Evolution Technology, and about how I never wanted people to lose their jobs because of it. Ever since I made the first announcement about being awarded our patent, people have been walking up to me and saying things like “Well, there’s goes A/B and Multivariate testing” or “There goes web analytics as we know it” or “There goes marketing”.

It was never my intention to have people lose jobs or have industries go away. I am (at my core, probably) a tool maker. I recognize challenges and create tools to address those challenges.

I also make the tools I create available to anyone who wants to use them (and often at a sliding scale based on their ability to pay). Nobody gets it for free, though. That’s pretty well understood by anyone who asks me.

I also often talk about the history of technology, how tools change culture and, in environmental time, how tools change tool users.

Consider rocks, hammers and those who lost their jobs versus those who didn’t when this technology — a mass accelerated through a torque arc. That’s what both hammers and rocks are — changed.

You can think that the hammer put the rock out of the business of being a striking tool in flint based societies (“stone age”). The hammer’s advantage was it took less effort to do the same amount of work as a rock. Rocks had to be accelerated through the torque arc of the arm and lacked the ability to deliver constant impact strength to small areas (you usually had to swing your whole arm and you couldn’t do fine work).

The hammer could be accelerated by the whole arm. It could also be accelerated by the wrist and deliver close to the same impact strength. Also, because it was controlled by the finer muscles of the wrist, it could do finer work.

So the hammer put the rock out of business, yes?

The hammer put the rock out of business, no!

The hammer put people who refused to learn how to use the hammer out of business. People who learned how to use the hammer could also learn how to use the rock. The aboriginal people I’ve been with often start people with rocks when teaching them how to knap, then progress them up to primitive hammers as the student’s skills develop.

However, people who stop their education with the rock? It might be impressive to watch (it is. I’ve seen it) and the amount of time required to do the same amount of work with hammer or rock? Much longer with a rock. Much more expensive.

I won’t stop people from using rocks. I just think hammers are much more effective.

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The Complete “Nothing New Under the Sun: Designing for the Small Screen” Arc

Note: this was a two part post and so apropos that we’re reposting now, on the eve of our releasing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation, don’t you think?

Nothing New Under the Sun: Designing for the Small Screen, Part 1

I read an interesting post on Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim blog. The post, by Janet Driscoll Miller, was iPhone May Present New Mobile Design Challenges. It was interesting because it was yet another example of Nothing New Under the Sun.

I commented on the blog, “This reminds me of an early consulting project I was on. We saw from the client’s web data that people were browsing their site using these odd sized, small screens. It was their browsing patterns that explained what was going on. We decided to create an all-text site to accommodate them and business went up. This was years ago, though. Nothing new under the sun, yes?”

Here I’ll share a little more on this. It’s a fond memory and, at the time, it was a nice piece of research.

NextStage’s first client was a B2B specializing in warehousing technologies. They noticed a decrease in online sales even though their web traffic was increasing and asked me to figure it out. Their focus was on bandwidth, page load times, things like that, and were ready to do a major overhaul of their website to make it “friendlier”.

Okay, I thought. But friendlier to whom?

We attached our tracking tools to their website and noticed two fascinating features of the increased traffic; the browser window sizes were small and oddly shaped. That was interesting and the kicker was something (and I’ll admit to some vanity here) that (I think) only NextStage’s Evolution Technology could determine; the patterns in the page navigations.

It was the patterns which revealed the mystery of increased traffic and decreased sales. Visitors would navigate busily then stop for a period, navigate busily then stop for a period, navigate busily then stop for a period. They never closed the browser window. They might keep it open for hours at a time. But during these hour long visits they would navigate busily then stop, navigate busily then stop.

These odd navigation patterns did end up with online orders but only of specific items. Usually items located at the top of the client’s webpages.


Nothing New Under the Sun: Designing for the Small Screen, part 2

This is part 2 in a two-part arc trigged by reading Janet Driscoll Miller‘s interesting post, iPhone May Present New Mobile Design Challenges, on Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim blog.

I commented on the blog, “This reminds me of an early consulting project I was on. We saw from the client’s web data that people were browsing their site using these odd sized, small screens. It was their browsing patterns that explained what was going on. We decided to create an all-text site to accommodate them and business went up. This was years ago, though. Nothing new under the sun, yes?” and am sharing more of this story in this arc. Part 1 described the problem and provided pointers to the solution. Here I share the solution itself.

As I wrote in the previous post, it’s a fond memory and, at the time, it was a nice piece of research.

This was a case of listening to the silences rather than the sounds. The pauses in navigation were extremely regular, too regular and over too long a period of time, to be un-noteworthy. Also, the pauses had different periods depending on the visitor but were consistent time-wise by visitor; a visitor might have consistent pauses of three seconds and another perhaps of five, but the three-second visitor always had three second pauses, the five-second visitor always had pauses of five seconds.

Was there variance? Yes, a little. That was a clue. The variance was organic (by which I mean “biologic”) in nature, not inorganic (by which I mean “machine-based”). More correctly, the variance was biomechanical, not automated.

I thought about biomechanical mechanisms that follow pause-activity, pause-activity natures and realized I was observing cursorial tracking behavior. Humans, like wolves, are cursorial hunters. We use to jog after our prey and follow them. These evolutionary roots remain with us and even manifest themselves in screen navigation patterns.

Here I was witnessing people following prey, stopping to gather their kill, following prey, stopping to gather their kill, … But I also knew nobody was navigating a website while killing that night’s dinner.

What could my client’s clients be doing that mimicked that behavior?

Because I worked in warehouses to support myself in high school and college I quickly came up with the answer; my client’s clients were walking through their warehouse, stopping at each rack and checking inventory. The small and oddly shaped screen sizes were due to the end clients’ realizing they needed to reorder something and coming to my client’s website while the end client was checking inventory, carrying a handheld.

Why were only the top items on a given webpage being ordered? Because navigating a regular webpage much further was too much trouble.

Easy solution; offer a text only page for customers coming in through handhelds.

Yes, NextStage’s client was thrilled. Their online sales increased dramatically, all the good stuff.

For me, though, it was the detective work, the research, that made it worthwhile.

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