Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Brainjuicer: market research but only on respondents that "fit in"

I was invited by someone from company with a name that sounds like something out of a horror film, Brainjuicer, to join a market research study.

The study took place in what was supposed to be a "community environment", but very definitely was not. I guess I cannot go into specific detail of what was being researched for fear of being prosecuted.Suffice to say the web site I was forced to use was clunky and totally unsuitable for the free and easy interpersonal interactions that were supposedly one of the objectives of the study. Our instructions on what to do were supplied by Minion No. 1.

In addition to the interaction problems, our supposed "community" proved to be a highly toxic environment to anyone who did not fit the presuppositions of the moderator (Minion No. 2). People were encouraged to view themselves as negatively as possible, to wallow in feelings of hopelessness and despair. Statements reflecting confidence and optimism were ignored, but if a long upbeat posting had one tiny phrase that might reflect fleeting doubts or fears, the poster was immediately pushed to expand on this ad nauseam.

Minion 2 submitted a question to one of my posts. I provided a highly detailed (nearly 700 words) reply. She took umbrance at about 12 words in which I had challenged a phrase she used. I guess I can cite this as it does not refer directly to the subject of the study. She asked me whether a certain event had changed my "attitude to work", implying that it needed changing. I replied that this was the sort of speak used by bosses, managers and petty bureaucrats who do not value people with imagination and initiative, and thus, it was not terminology with which I wished to engage as a FREElance. She took this as a personal insult. Well, my dear Minion 2, as far as I am concerned it is your choice whether or not to engage in the issue I raise. If you are only capable of dealing with it as a personal insult, that is your problem not mine.

With respect to the major deficiencies on the site, I sent a message to Minion No. 1 outlining what I considered to be the deficits from a user point of view. Now, you would think she would be grateful to hear of problems/annoyances encountered by one of the community she was supposedly nurturing. Actually, such companies pay a lot of money for usability studies in this respect, and I was saving them a big fee by offering my comments for free.

Oh no. First of all, Minion 1 patronised me with a message implying I did not understand how to navigate the site, despite the fact my comments on usability made it perfectly clear that I did, When I requested her to stop patronising, she accused me in best School Mar'm style of having a "rude and inappropriate tone". She then expelled me from school the site.

LOL! I've now received a formal expulsion notice from the headmistress Minion 3, who actually gave her full name. I looked her up on the Net and have now realised that this survey is being run from the US, as further confirmed by the times at which communications from Minions 1 and 2 used to appear. This explains it all. US corporate culture is even more up itself than UK corporate culture, and I have also often heard it said  that the direct manner of speaking much favoured in the UK does not go down well over the pond. I despise corporate culture and always say exactly what I think, both of which traits presumably caused much distress to the sensitive souls of the minions.

So, clients of Brainjuicer, do not think that the results you receive are universally valid and fully representative of your target population group. Be aware that any respondent who strays from the norms of US corporate culture will be excluded (even if the survey targets people in another country), as will anyone who dares criticise the survey site.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Death of Helium: Rejoice!

Normally, I would not be happy that a revenue-share site has given up the ghost. Nevertheless, the death of the obnoxious Helium site has caused much rejoicing. You might be asking why:

1. Helium placed numerous obstacles in the way of its contributors. Firstly, it was not possible to write freely to a topic of one's choice. Instead, writers had to select from the pre-defined titles. For the most part, the titles were unimaginably tedious and tended to sound like essay topics assigned by teachers, who had long ago lost the slightest interest in their subject.

2. Secondly, authors were encouraged to write to titles that were already populated by one, more and sometimes many articles. Not only did this dilute views, it must surely have been suicidal in terms of SEO. I certainly know that whenever I did a Google search on a Helium article, it never appeared in the first several pages of search results, the only exception being if I searched on the exact title in quotation marks.

3. Thirdly, it was only possible to earn from page views if you engaged in the idiotic rating system. You were asked to compare two articles written to the same title and presented side by side. You had to say which one was better. This was not enough though! Your ratings had to match the average ratings for that article pair. The closer the match, the more rating stars you received. No stars meant no earnings from your articles. Similarly, your articles received stars on the basis of their ratings. The more stars, the higher your earnings for a given article. The joke was that the ratings did not actually reflect the quality of the content. I perfected a system whereby I was able to rate article pairs in about 10 seconds while maintaining a rating score of over 95%, My rating system did not require me to read the articles at all apart from glancing briefly at the first paragraph. I simply looked at several formatting parameters plus the presence or absence of spelling and punctuation errors in the first paragraph. After a while, even with this rapid rating system, I became bored out of my mind ploughing through the tedious school essays churned out by the average Heliumite.

4. The main factor that led me to abandon Helium very rapidly was the unpleasantness of the forums. These were dominated by sanctimonious clergymen and brown-nosers, who found they could gain petty power as topic managers. No criticism of the status quo was tolerated by these poor excuses for humanity.

5. Helium kept a tight leash on all submitted articles. Those who had their accounts deleted (I know one person who suffered this) were not able to delete their contributions. Helium retained their articles and any income derived from them. Likewise, anyone who chose to leave the site was unable to delete their articles.

Helium started dying a long time back. It was bought out by a large corporation, which introduced some changes into the structure, creating topic-related microsites. It seems though that this could not bring back to life the foul monster that was Helium.

Helium's motto used to be "Quality rises". As far as I am concerned, the reality of Helium was that shit rises. Finally though, the shit has hit the fan. Rest in peace Helium and may you never rise again.

I have recovered a number of articles I submitted to Helium in my naive days. Some of these will eventually find their way to my new web site: