Pew Research’s Web IQ Quiz Suggests Need for Higher Questionnaire Design IQ

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What makes a survey good? It needs to be correct (i.e., to have correct answers that are representative of the populations being surveyed) and actionable (i.e., to have conclusions that are useful and can be implemented). Unfortunately the recent Pew Research Center’s Web IQ Quiz fails on the second criterion. Most of its questions would be more appropriate to a game of Trivial Pursuit than to a proof that U.S. adults are clueless about using the Web. Being able to identify Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg from their pictures is meaningless. Ditto the name of the first browser or the date of introduction of the iPhone. Moore’s Law is important as a predictor of computer speed and storage size, but has nothing to do with how people should use the Web. Etc. Interestingly, two of the most useful questions—on privacy policy and net neutrality—were answered as well (or even better) by older (50+) people than younger ones.

Black Friday: Brainwashed Beatification

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Black Friday is becoming a more important day than Thanksgiving. The name has two origins. First came the traffic chaos of the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Then came the recognition of another tradition–retailers’ switch from operating at a loss (“in the red”) to operating at a profit (“in the black”). While it is important for retailers to make a profit (otherwise there would be no retailers), and to be happy about that profit, it seems strange to see them advertising it. And even more strange to see consumers viewing it as a good thing … unless there is substantial price elasticity of demand, so that retailers truly will sell enough more at the lower prices so they can garner greater profits. Unfortunately, the commercialism of shopping is trumping an important American tradition, as people argue that they can buy more, or better, gifts thanks to the “special” prices than they could otherwise have done. Maybe they should re-think their list of giftees and quantity or price of their gifts.

But there seems to be a huge social aspect to “Black Friday”. Or at least there was when it was limited to Friday itself. Like a new product from Apple, when people camp out overnight to be sure to be among the first to have the latest iPhone or other gadget.