Category Archives: Blog article

Back in the Hiking Groove

Cromford to Hathersage Runkeeper Map Aug 2015As I type this I am sitting in my room in the George Hotel in Hathersage, tired but happy. The hike from Cromford to Hathersage was 41.7 kilometres, which is almost exactly 25 miles.

It was not a fast walk, with heat, a rucksack, plenty of hills and a stop for food, indeed the walk took me just over 11 hours. But, the key thing is that I feel that I am back in the groove.

There were many highlights during the day but a few of them were:

The millpond in Cromford, where I started today.Cromford 3 Aug 2015

A fountain and nearby a cross and well dressing in Bonsall.

 

 

Wild flowers and beautiful cottage gardens.
Wildflower Derbyhire Aug 2015Derbyshire Cottage Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bridge at Darley DaleDarley Dale Bridge Aug 2015

 

 

 

In Chatsworth park I had a great vew from the top of the waterfall that used to power the fountain (maybe it still does?) and of the Hunting Tower.

 

Derbyshire has many impressive rocks, here are two that could look sinister with the right lighting and music.

 

The Eagle Stone is my favourite rock in Derbyshire and I have been coming back to look at it and sometimes to try and climb it for about years, so far.

A large part of my walk today was on the edges, a series of cliffs overlooking the valley below. Once you climb up to them the walking is quite flat and view stupendous.

And finally I reached the George Hotel in Hathersage, just in time for dinner.

Walking for 11 hours gives one plenty of time for thinking, and sometimes for coming up with definite plans for the future. One plan I have is never to go hiking with a map that is 20 years old! I had several problems when a route I was planning to take, which existed on the map, was now a road, or a street, sometimes with houses. Social researchers are fond of saying the ‘map is not the territory’, but I want my map to at least be up-to-date in the future.

Not all of my photos have uploaded, so I will upload them later in the week.

Getting back to hiking, a trip to the Peak District

I have just come back from four months in Japan and one of the things I did whilst I was there was a couple of nice hikes near Mt Takao. This reminded me that a) I really like hiking and b) I have not done much hiking for years, especially point-to-point hiking with my kit on my back.

So, this weekend I have set out to rediscover hiking and to revisit the area where my love of hiking was honed as a teenager, in the Derbyshire Peak District.

After work today I packed 2 days of clothes, maps, wet weather gear and some essentials such as a computer in my rucksack and set off, helped by a lift from my brother Ian to Nottingham station. In just under an hour the train deposited me at Cromford, on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

 

 

Cromford has many links to the early days of the industrial revolution. For example, Richard Arkwright built his water-powered mill here in 1771, followed by many others, which led to rail and canal links.

 

 

On the walk from the station I was treated to wonderful views of the River Derwent and the terminus of the Cromford Canal.

 

 

 

A short walk, between 1 and 2 kilometres, took me to my stay for the night, the Greyhound Hotel in Cromford. I might also get back to camping, but I decided to break myself back in gently. The Greyhound Hotel was built in 1778 by Richard Arkwright for visitors to his mills.

 

The road sign in the picture was taken on my walk to Cromford and is in feet and inches and warns of the height of a low bridge. However, this sign is not only confusing because it uses feet and inches, but it also uses an old notation for them. The ‘ symbol means feet, and the “ symbol means inches.

 

At the Greyhound hotel I treated myself to a proper Northern dinner of meat and potato pie, followed by apple crumble.

The walk proper starts tomorrow morning. However, since this is not a business hotel, breakfast is served (on Saturdays) from 9 till 10, so it won’t be an early start.

 

The journey to Japan starts

Breakfast at Heathrow

Breakfast at Heathrow

My 24 hour journey (a 13 hour flight to Singapore, a 2 hour layover, a 7 hour flight to Tokyo, and then 2 hours of immigration and travel into Tokyo) starts with breakfast in the Singapore Airlines lounge, a benefit of being a Singapore Airlines regular flyer. Breakfast included a bacon roll, probably my last taste of ‘proper’ bacon until the middle of August – for the next six weeks, when bacon is on offer, it will be in the US style, thin strips without the meat part.

In so many ways Singapore are my favourite airline, so I hope everything lives up to my expectations. The bad news is that the plane sounds like it is going to be very full. I have aisle seats on both legs (seat 59D on both legs – I often try to choose the same seat number, but for no real reason, just seems right), but it sounds like I won’t have the luxury of an empty seat next to me.

I need to make sure that over the next 3-4 days I do plenty of work on the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana scripts – I have promised my tutor, Yamamoto-san, that I will know them by Thursday. There are 48 basic Kana (i.e. 48 Hiragana and 48 Katakana), but then there are also 25 diacritics (such as? and?) and 21 digraphs (such as??) – so there are about 100 Katakana and 100 Hiragana items to learn – wish me luck!

Although I travel a lot for work, this will be my first extended trip of exploration since about 1981 – so it will be interesting to see how well I cope with an extended visit – at the moment I am experiencing both excitement and some trepidation. When I bought some Japanese Yen at the counter the teller asked my if it was for business or leisure. When I told him I was off to study Japanese he said it was good to see somebody my age still keen to study – we need to change expectations, IMHO.

Here are the Hiragana characters, from a chart on the Textfugu site – I am hoping some of you will visit their site, clicking the image below takes you to the version on their site.

Hiragana Chart

Off to study Japanese

Yotel Cabin

I am on my way to Tokyo to spend a month studying Japanese. I have an apartment booked for one month and I meet my tutor on Thursday. How will it go? Well, my optimism is high, but over the last 57 years I have not shown any aptitude for languages, so my optimism has to be tempered with some realism/concern.

Tonight I am stopping at the Yotel at Heathrow, as I am flying Sunday morning, and getting from Nottingham to Heathrow on a Sunday morning is quite a problem. The Yotel is probably quite a nice foretaste of Japan as it is a capsule hotel, something we often associate with Japan. My room is about 2 metres by three metres and has a bed, a desk, an area to get changed, a toilet, shower, and sink. The internet is free as are coffee and tea. The bed is interesting, the good news is that it is comfortable, but the interesting thing is that my bed is over the bed in next cabin (in the picture you can see I step up to my bed, so the bed in the next Cabin will effectively be underneath me. As well as meeting my needs really well, the Yotel is great value (by UK standards), tonight is costing me £71.

Tomorrow I am flying Singapore Airlines to Singapore, where I change planes and fly on another Singapore Airlines to Tokyo. The slightly off route is because I am spending a week in Singapore on my way back to the UK, for the Singapore MRS Conference, and this route is bar far the cheapest, and anyway I really enjoy Singapore Airlines.

Boxing Day Pie, one of my joys at Christmas

Lasagna dish

For the last decade or more, Christmas Day at the Poynter household has had a special treat to follow it, Boxing Day Pie. Our pie is a combination of family bonding, tradition, and yummy eating.

So, what is Boxing Day Pie? We take everything, well almost everything, left unserved from Christmas Day dinner and we put it in a pie! This year the pie had a short-crust base and a puff pastry top. Inside the pie we had, turkey, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), carrots, brussel sprouts, roasted parsnips, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and probably some things I can’t recall.

Why is the pie so great? Well firstly, the things going into the pie all taste good. They taste good for two reasons, a) they were good enough to serve on the plate of what for us is the most important meal of the year; b) they are loaded with all the fat, salt, and flavour used to cook the Christmas Dinner – remember, I didn’t say it was healthy, just really tasty.

However, the pie is more than just a taste experience, it is a family experience. When we are buying the food for Christmas Day we know that we can buy a little bit more than we need, without as much temptation to serve too much on the day – there is no temptation to try an eat everything on Christmas Day as we now that not eating things leads to a great pie. As we are tidying away the Christmas Dinner we are discussing which items will go in the pie (stuffing yes, cranberry jelly no, mashed potatoes no, roast potatoes yes).

On Boxing Day (or this year the 28th) we share up the tasks, making the crust, chopping things, making some more gravy, talking about the pie, cooking the pie, and then as a family sitting down again to eat a great pie, and being a family. This ritual probably makes the pie taste even better, there is plenty of evidence that rituals can make the taste of food even better, see Psychology Today post here.

We tend to make our pie in a very large lasagne dish, with pastry base and top, but try it, make yours the way you want to.

Running 100K and hoping to raise £1000 for charity

On May 25th I am aiming to raise money for a great breast cancer awareness charity called CoppaFeel by running 100KM (about 62.5 miles) from London to Brighton, in under 15 hours, as part of the London to Brighton Challenge.

I’d really appreciate it if you consider sponsoring me via my just giving page.

Each year I do one sponsored challenge and I try to reach out to everybody only once per channel – however, that does mean if you are a Facebook friend, a contact of mine on LinkedIn, work in the same office etc, you still may get several requests – sorry about that 🙂

CoppaFeel is run by a couple of amazing twins, one of whom, Kris developed breast cancer at 23 and had to battle to be tested as younger people do not often get breast cancer. You can read about Kris’s story on the website – my daughter met Kris and her twin Maren a couple of years ago and my family have been supporters of CoppaFeel ever since.

Do we need another market research association?

The Merlien Qual360 Conference in Milan last week saw the launch of a new research association, the MMRA (Mobile Marketing Research Association). You can visit their website and you can read more about them at Research-Live.

I wish the association well, and I hold its two founders (Jasper Lim and Mark Michelson) in high regard. However, (could you hear the however coming?) I am not sure that research needs another association – indeed I wonder if there are already too many associations?

In these social and collaborative times, what is the role of a trade association? LinkedIn Groups, the initiatives of NewMR and GreenBook, impromptu events such as Research Club all seem to prosper without having the status of being ‘associations’.

My feeling is that the research industry needs a national or international body to ‘officially’ represent the profession to legislators and to liaise with other bodies of a similar status. But I doubt that research needs new ‘associations’ to tackle specific niches and topics. Do we need committees, membership categories and fees, a board elected by members, and its own view on standards and ethics?

My feeling is that the traditional association structure is too slow, too concerned with its own processes, and is typically too slow at realising that it is no longer necessary. My suggestion for the future is one based on a) informal and ad hoc groupings of researchers organised via social media and b) commercial organisations who attract subscribers on the basis of what they offer, without feeling the need to create an apparatus of committees, elections etc.

Ray Poynter, EVP Vision Critical

Free Online Course on Information Theory from Stanford University

Stanford University has a number of free online courses on offer, including one on Information Theory, which begins in March 2012. The course has been broken down into 8-12 minute chunks – amounting to about 2 hours per week. There will be quizzes and a QA forum.

The other courses available include Entrepreneurship, Natural Language Processing, and Game Theory – scroll to the bottom of the Information Theory page to see the other courses.

What can the trial of Italian Scientists teach market researchers?

The Economist has an interesting report about seven scientists in Italy who are on trial on charges of manslaughter. The prosecution follows their recommendation, on 31 March 2009, that the tremors felt around the Italian city of L’Aquila posed ‘no danger’. Six days later there was a series of geological events that resulted in 308 deaths.

The scientists say that when they said there was no danger, they meant that the danger was at its normal level for a city in an earthquake zone, not that there was NO danger. They are suggesting that the prosecution is invalid because people who live in an earthquake zone understand risk.

A second point that is being made is that the scientists were probably (or is that possibly) wrong in their comments. The Economist reports that other scientists have suggested that the background risk of a major earthquake in L’Aquila is about 1-in-200,000, but that after the minor tremors the risk had increased to 1-in-1000. Which raises the question whether a city should be evacuated every time it has a 1-in-1000 risk? If yes, then there will be losses, wasted time, and road deaths. If no, then 1-in-1000 times there will be a disaster.

Although this affair is more important and more tragic than market research, there are, nevertheless, two useful lessons for market researchers that arise from it.

1) People tend not to understand statistics. When I say people, I mean both experts and the public. Do not assume that your client has grasped the statistical interferences in your findings, make them tangible and test whether you have communicated the important knowledge (not just the facts).

2) Don’t appear more certain than you are. Clients do not want debriefs that just regurgitate statistics, they want insight and they want recommendations. But they do not want to be told they are safe when they are not! Rather than say “the data show”, tell the truth, such as “I believe this means …”, “We think it is likely that ….”, or “The most likely explanation is …”

This is not a new problem for market researchers. Back in 1987, Yankelovich Clancy was sued by Beecham because it forecast sales growth that did not materialise. Market research needs to convey its findings in a way that allows the client to make a better decisions, the research should not seek to replace the client’s responsibility for the decision. Without resorting to statistical devices, such as error margins and distributions, researchers need to ensure clients understand the degree of trust that they should put in the information they are being presented with.

It’s time for market research to join 21st Century

There are a large number of discussions and consultations going on at the moment about initiatives from ESOMAR, CASRO, the MRS and others to try to regulate how social media research should be conducted, especially social media monitoring. The general thrust of the new guidelines is to try and fit the new world into the traditional values and ideas of market research. I think this is the wrong way to go about the change.
I think we need to change the whole of commercial market research to match the 21st Century, rather than try to keep shoehorning the new world into the old constructs.
My feeling is that there will soon be a schism in market research, between those trying to hang onto the past and those embracing the new.
The benefits of traditional market research ethics were that they allowed some exemptions to laws (e.g. data protections laws, laws about multiple contacts, laws about phoning people who were on ‘no call’ lists), increased public trust, and allowed market research to get close to a scientific model – for example to use concepts such as random probability sampling and statistical significance. Complying with codes of ethics incurred extra costs, but they also brought commercial benefits. The ‘proper’ market research companies could do things the non-research companies could not- so there was a commercial argument in favour of self-regulation, codes of conduct, and professional conduct bodies.
However, in several areas, ‘new’ market research is at odds with the traditional guidelines. Examples of where NewMR is at odds with the traditional ethics includes: the brand-related incentives for members of communities, the brand advocacy of community members, the changes wrought by deliberative research, and most of social media monitoring research. Other areas where research is drifting away from the classic model of anonymity include a growing amount of customer satisfaction and most of enterprise feedback systems.
Traditional market research is based on a) anonymity and b) informed consent. Large parts of new market research cannot deliver anonymity and in the area of social media research (and behavioural data integration) informed consent cannot be reliably assumed either.
If market research companies abide by the old ethics, in particular anonymity and informed consent, they will not be able to compete for business in most areas where market research is growing. This is because there will be no commercial benefits that will accrue to sticking to rules and ideas that nobody else does. To stick to out-dated rules simply provides a worse service for clients. Rules have costs, they only work when they also confer benefits.
The view of people like the UK’s MRS is that all of the ‘stuff’ that does not match the traditional view of market research should be done as “NOT market research”. The problem with this solution is that it will soon classify the majority of market research as “NOT market research” which is clearly nonsense.
My remedy is that commercial market research should be split from genuine social research (by social research I mean the stuff that is not done principally for commercial reasons, such as some of the research by Governments, academics, and NGOs). Social research should keep the traditional values of ethics and commercial market research should fully embrace the new world. The ethics of NewMR should be based on:
  1. The law
  2. Not doing things likely to outrage the public
  3. Creating high standards (and that can include charter marks and ISOs for those interested)
  4. Emphasising the need to be open and honest
Note the case for charter marks and ISOs should not be based on theoretical arguments, but simply on whether they confer commercial benefits. If signing up to an ISO means that market research companies are able to win more work, then the ISO is s a good thing. If the ISO simply makes the industry feel better about itself, the ISO is a bad thing.
These four principles would, for example, mean that if a company told respondents that the study was anonymous and that they would not be contacted, then it would have to be anonymous and there would have to be no follow-up contact – that would be the law in many countries (because a contract has been entered into) and failing to stick to a promise would outrage the public.
Similarly, the four principles would outlaw using a false identity to access a closed community (for example PatientsLikeMe) and surreptitiously scraping comments to be sold to a third party – i.e. the Nielsen scrape-gate case. I suspect that not only would this outrage the public and damage the value of the company, but it could easily fall foul of civil suits, where members of the community could sue for damages.
This model of market research ethics changes the balance of who determines what can and should be done. In the traditional market research model the rules were set by the wise market researchers, to protect respondents and brands. My suggestion is that respondents should determine what can and should be done with their data, and that citizens should set the framework.
What do you think?