Ray Poynter, author of The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research, this week presented his fourth annual Festival of NewMR, a global series of webinars staggered around the clock to make sure that participants from all over the world could participate. This annual event really broadens conference participation, being free to attendees, thanks to the sponsors, and accessible from anywhere in the world.

If you missed the Festival, or any part of it, the Festival sessions are online in bite-sized chunks, one speaker at a time. You can watch the webcast or download the presentation slides. Here are some of my highlights:

  • Five-star rating for films” – Jon Puleston of GMI Interactive pointed out that only 10% of IMDB film ratings use 1 or 2 stars. Meanwhile, 4 and 5 stars make up 60% of the ratings. Nor is this limited to films; this problem occurs in the distribution of answers to most 5-point Likert scale questions. Jon shares the results of his ongoing experiments into improving such ratings.
  • “Angels and Demons: Do you know who your data quality questions are penalizing?” – Annie Pettit of Peanut Labs provided a sneak peak at her research into what separates good respondents from cheaters. She tortured over 8,000 respondents with a survey instrument designed to catch 30 different errors. Don’t let their suffering be in vain! Find out which questions most trip up those respondents who are only completing the survey for the incentive.
  • Adventures in Text Analytics” – Sue York walks us down the Yellow Brick Road of using text analytics for qualitative research, taking us from the Wicked Witch of word clouds to the Wizard of concept maps. (Click your heels three times to guess the text she analyzed.)
  • “Does the ‘uncanny valley’ signal the point that Big Data ends and market research starts?” – Colin Strong of GfK UK talked about how consumers regard personal data usage. While they are generally aware that much of their activity is tracked and even traded between firms, they don’t understand what information is tracked or why it is tracked. Moreover, 69% of consumers surveyed “consider it creepy the way brands use their personal data.” This is evocative of the uncanny valley, which occurs when simulated human features so closely approximate natural behavior that humans find them revolting. Colin hopes that this gap creates an opportunity for MR to compete and differentiate itself from Big Data.
  • Better Questionnaire Design” – Pete Cape of Survey Sampling International taught a Training Day session emphasizing best practices for writing survey instruments. He continued his crusade against matrix questions, which he emphasized are “tedious, mentally exhausting” and produce “over-fast processing”. He also shared side-by-side comparisons of many of the experiments he’s run.


Make sure to check out the many great resources on the NewMR website, including their recently amped-up NewMR blog.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.