Let’s meet at Barcamp Bodensee
#bcbs15 this weekend: June 12-14, 2015.

Ineffective workshops can be deadly.
This is the ultimate pre-conference checklist - 10 critical factors for putting a successful meeting together.

Going down history lane… just a bit :-)

A barcamp is a user-generated conference. Some also call it an unconference. The program is put together by participants first thing each day the unconference is held. Each participant introduces themselves and provides three key terms:

Who: I am Urs E. Gattiker from Zurich, Switzerland
Term 1: benchmark metrics
Term 2: minimally invasive surgery / technology
Term 3: hiking

One or two ideas are then presented by the individual. What are they willing to share with other participants? This could be in the form of a presentation, workshop or discussion. If enough people will be interested, the idea gets assigned a time slot.

The first barcamp was organised in a week. It was held in Palo Alto, California, August 19–21, 2005.

Interesting Read: What is a Barcamp?

My first barcamp was a blogcamp in March 2009 in Zurich with the hashtag #bcch4. The next one followed in Rapperswil in October of the same year with the hashtag #bcrappi. Later that month we had Barcamp Liechtenstein with the hashtag #bcli09Soziale Medien für gemeinnützige Einrichtungen: Wie nutzt man diese besser (Making better use of Social Media in the context of any industry – my Slides with checklists). Three barcamps in 2009 alone, what a ride it was…

Barcamps are great places to meet like-minded people with very different brackgrounds, training and interests. From hobby photographer, designer, and coder to top-notch professionals in various disciplines such as medicine, genetics and sociology. Everybody contributes something, including volunteering time at the registration desk or helping with clean up. The opportunities to share and learn seem limitless.

For me, a repeatedly exceptional barcamp over the years has been Barcamp Bodensee (see Twitter hashtag #bcbs15, #bcbs14, #bcbs13, #bcbs12#bcbs10, and so forth). Every time I go, I learn a lot while having a great time (read Barcamp Bodensee #bcbs14: Synergien finden – Finding Synergies).

Do barcamps differ from hackathons?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so if people start copying you, you must be doing something right. Today people use various types of conferences that are different shades of barcamps. Many call themselves unconferences and have copied part of the idea that led to barcamps.

At a hackathon you are likely to meet coders, programmers, software engineers and so forth. The sociologist or tool or die maker are a rare specimen at such an event. Often the focus is on a theme (e.g., wearable and / or mobile technology). Attendees form groups of 2 to 5 people and start on their project. hackZurich attracts about 400 and focuses on a theme, with the objective being to program an App in 40 hours or less.

There are barcamps that use this approach as well, for instance, when a start-up weekend is organized. Few people form a group and then get cracking on their business idea, which may include working on an app.


What makes barcamps and hackathons similar?

The Zurich Hackathon (October 4-6, 2015) is similar to a classic barcamp. Both require volunteers to donate their time and know-how to make it happen. Without them, neither barcamps nor hackathons are possible.

In addition, well organised barcamps or hackathons manage to get sponsors ranging from Zeppelin, to Daimler, Ruppaner, Sonntag morgen, and other local and not-so-local businesses.

Originally, no fees were the norm for such events, but these days some charge, for example using rising fees. Here the first delegate registering pays $20, then $21, and so on, until the last registrant you let in pays $350 or thereabouts. This allows the organizers to make some money or at least recover the costs if few or no sponsors pick up the tab.

Can corporate barcamps work?

Digital Accelerator Allianz took up the idea of a barcamp. For this purpose it organised a hackathon towards the end of May 2015. Its intention was to get new ideas and apps developed in that time.

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The company proudly announced the winners, who got some cash prices, as illustrated here in this Allianz Tweet (image below).

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Another approach is an ideathon. Similar to a hackathon, experts attending the ideathon choose and join groups of 2 to 5 people to brainstorm, generating novel solutions.

These ‘great ideas’ are pitched to the company and the best receive cash awards, such as Novocure ideathon (see image below). So yes, corporate barcamps can work. But unless we follow best practice, they leave a foul aftertaste.

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Below I outline the things I feel are crucial to a successful event.

Best practice checklist for organisers

Based on my experiences with barcamps, worshops, hackathons and conferences, as attendee, co-organizer and program chair / ‘chief’, I have created this checklist to ensure your event works.

Download Checklist – The ultimate guide for conference organizers

[su_box title=”The ultimate checklist for workshop, hackathon and barcamp organisers” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

Best Practice is a superior method or innovative practice that contributes to the improved performance of an organisation or conference organiser, usually recognized as ‘best’ by other peer organizations.

It implies accumulating and applying knowledge about what is and is not working.

10 points for organisers: Ropes to skip

1. Balancing diverse interests is key to success

You have to balance your sponsors’ needs with those of your delegates.

Getting attention from bloggers is not easy. You might offer them a sweepstake to participate in if they mention your sponsor (e.g., Zeppelin flight to be won around Friedrichshafen and Konstanz)… Things have to be attractive enough to get them to blog about something in order to be eligible to win.

If your event gets too commercialised, you turn certain people off. Not enough sponsors to pay the way, you have to charge a fee, upsetting a different group.

As the above suggests, this is a never ending balance act, but you better be good at it and find a middle way! Finding sponsors is an arduous and time-consuming process. Sometimes it is worth it to put one person in charge of delivering just that, with the cash enabling you to put a better event together.

2. Various backgrounds make a difference
2.1 Ideal number of attendees

50 attendees can be enough to have a great event, while going beyond 300 barcampers might make the event too big. The larger the event, the harder it is for a newcomer to get to know others and not feel lost. Again balance is needed and sometimes newcomers need help (e.g., when they arrive in the morning, they are greeted).

With barcamps you have to encourage some people and motivate them to come. Getting people who make money to give speeches may be nice for entertainment purposes, but where’s the added value? Better a researcher who tells the audience about their findings, than someone who studies tea leaves.

What is the ideal number? Probably between about 50 to 250. Big enough for a diverse crowd. Enough people to provide the talent allowing each topic to be discussed in some depth, and so forth.

2.2 Language

In Europe, you can offer some sessions in English. The rest is in the language spoken at the location of the conference. This way you can attract French or Italian speaking Swiss to an event in Zurich.

Another option is to choose English as the conference language, #truZurich, another uncoference for recruiters. The hope is that this makes it easier for people to attend.

Just make sure that the locals do not feel excluded because their English skills are a bit rusty.

2.3 Theme

You can narrow down a conference to a particular theme. Examples are change management, fundraising or social media monitoring.

While you may attract fewer people, at least they share a common interest. However, the theme and its description have to be concise and clear. The headline has to convey the message, only then can you attract the ‘right’ people.

2.4 Scheduling

Business events are usually held on a workday. If your boss approves you have it covered – time spent at the event is paid work time and expenses are taken care of. Great if you can get it, and most importantly your weekend stays free.

For small business owners that may be difficult. Each day you attend means zero revenue. Here, barcamps suit small business owners and students. Generally, they are held during weekends. Incidentally, experienced barcampers feel that the second is the better of the two days. One has gotten to know people (e.g., during the reception last night), making the conference more interesting.

In short, if the event is about learning, weekends may be better. Those not highly interested may not attend. If the event is about building business contacts and finding clients, an event during the week might be more promising – Tuesday through Thursday is best.

Some take the middle road. They schedule workshops and continuous education events on the weekend, while the ‘real’ program begins Monday (e.g., EICAR and most academic conferences).

3. Corporates can organize a barcamp BUT

If you want your own barcamp as a large organization (see Allianz), set the topic with people that know much about the barcamp idea. Choose people that have experience organising conferences and tell them what you want.

Then, put them in charge. Your benefit is two-fold:

– opening the event to outsiders will attract a larger audience of experts than just those from the company, and most importantly,
– this will result in richer and possibly freer discussions and better exchange of ideas… because outsiders raise issues that insiders may not dare to.

To make this possible, try to limit attendance of ‘insiders’ to 30%.

Keep in mind: Some very smart people may not be interested in developing ideas for a pharmaceutical firm. However, they are perfectly willing to do it for a charity or NGO (non-governmental organisation) such as the Red Cross, Caritas, etc.

4. To tweet, or not to tweet…

Research shows that social media can be a detractor. Watching status updates go by on your screen distracts you from focusing on what is happening at the conference.

I saw and experienced the first Twitter wall in 2008. However, I have never felt these things are conducive to a high-quality conference. I prefer focusing on things right here and now, and find tweets distracting.

Nevertheless, make it easy for non-Twitter users to find tweets with the barcamp or workshop hashtag. Offer them a URL to view these in the browser (e.g., #BcBs15), and publish a shortened link (i.e. http://securl.de/BcBs15-tw).

This way, attendees are not challenged by Twitter’s too-difficult link, such as https://twitter.com/search?q=%23bcbs15&src=typd

By the way, using small or capital letters in hashtags does not matter. Typing #BcBs15 or #BCBS15 or #bcbs15 brings the same results when searching Twitter (http://search.Twitter.com).

Interesting read: RESEARCH – Social media results in distraction and higher stress levels

5. Choose your sponsors wisely

It is always a compromise of things like price and how central or fancy the venue is.

An educational institution may be willing to sponsor a barcamp, by providing the venue for free. Most likely you have to get a sponsor to pay for catering and coffee breaks. A soft drink company may let you offer their product for free and so forth. In other cases, the corporate sponsor may offer you a venue including catering, in which case, all power to you!

You can also get a sponsor to offer free flights like Zeppelin did for the Barcamp Bodensee in addition to some cash.

Just make sure that your sponsors do not become overbearing. Your and their aims should match to a large extent.

6. Get help implementing your marketing strategy

Unless we reach people early, they may already be committed elsewhere. In addition, people need to be reminded regularly about upcoming events, but please, not five times in the last five weeks before the event.

Keep those emails relevant and their frequency as low as possible. In turn, recipients are more likely to open and study such mail.

Blog about the event early on. For instance, campaign-summit Switzerland managed to get a small group to register very early. These afficionados were then also included in getting the program together, and they spread the word early on via Twitter and other blog posts.

Getting your marketing right means finding a balance between trying too hard and too little (see image below – too much is annoying to your target audience).

Interesting read: Fachtagung: 10 Tipps für Teilnehmer (Conference: 10 Tips for Attendees)

Download CHECKLIST: The comprehensive guide to successful conferences (pdf file – 70 KB) http://securl.de/en-check-1


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Final note

As a small company, you can get exposure by sponsoring a barcamp or a conference, but even more interesting is the chance you get to exchange ideas and share know-how with others.

For a large company, branding and image-building opportunities are great when sponsoring a barcamp or hackathon. You can sponsor goods in kind, have a booth at the event, or pay the organizer some cash to have your logo prominently placed.

However, if none of your staff attend sessions, you miss a great opportunity to connect with delegates and help build the company’s brand or reputation. The most successful sponsors seem to be those that get a top manager to attend (see Hofrath und Süss). Recently, a car manufacturer had one of its top three managers attend a barcamp for 1.5 days.

I have met incredibly talented and motivated people while attending these events. I was lucky enough to hire several of them or put them on boards of companies we have invested in. I continue finding collaborators for projects that my firm would be unable to take on without their help. Barcamps rock!

What do you like most at conferences you attend?
What do you find most annoying at workshops or meetings?
Have you organised a barcamp or conference? What tip(s) can you pass on?

Ads on mobile platforms are cheaper than ads on desktop platforms.
But the core of Google’s business is still on the desktop.
In this article I offer 3 key take-aways about mobile and desktop advertising trends you want to know about.

I purchased my first mobile in 1997. It was a 2G device from Ericsson and set me back by about 3,500 DKK (about €500). My second mobile phone was much cheaper in 2000 DKK (see photo).

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The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. It changed how users took advantage of 3G technology in a big way (see chart).

Downloading music files became feasible, thereby making the smartphone an increasingly more versatile gadget for entertainment. Voice calls were still made, but listening to music files became popular.

See newspaper clip below and full article here: From 1G to 3G – what a change… People were not downloading MP3 music files in the early 1990s.

You could around 2000, but it was expensive, cumbersome and took about 10 minutes (at least when I did it in Copenhagen). When the iPhone 3 arrived July 11, 2008 it was possible to get the file in 10 seconds. These days it should take just 3 seconds – in theory at least :-)

[su_box title=”With an Apple iPhone 3G, users managed to download MP3 files in 10 seconds.” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

From 1G to 3G on mobile networks.


So if we are using 4G now, what will the future hold? Nobody really knows what 5G will bring.

[su_box title=”5G is 10 x faster than 4G: Do I need it?” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]



What we do know, however, is that all this has changed the advertising business.

Most of Google’s traffic comes from mobile

We may not know how 5G will evolve, but we do have a pretty good idea of how people search for information on the web:

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An interesting tidbit for the above graphic is that tablet searches are growing faster than smartphone searches using Comscore’s data. In the US most Google search traffic comes from people using mobile devices, as pointed out by Google’s Jerry Dischler, VP of Product Management.

In his presentation, he stated that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Canada,” (the slide he showed pictured a US and Japanese flag).

Google puts tablets and PCs in one group.

What could explain the discrepancy between Google and Comscore’s data? Somebody must be wrong. There are four possible explanations:

1. 75% of mobiles in the US are smartphones. 53% are powered by Google Android and 42% by Apple’s iOS.
Android’s default is Google search… (see US Digital Future in Focus March 2015 Q4 2014 data).

2. Mobile search is growing much faster than anticipated. This may be reflected in Google’s numbers for Q1 2015.

3. ComScore’s or Google’s data are incorrect (see point 1).

4. A combination of these explanations.

Google is neither willing to comment on the above discrepancies to me nor the Wall Street Journal, but Mr Dischler did put the 50% number into perspective. He pointed out that roughly 50% search about cars on their mobile… Roughly can mean anything from 45% to 55% :-)

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By the way, if people use smartphone devices in the middle of a task such as shopping or cooking, how much does this annoy others?

I, for one, prefer to look at a cook book to find out information about how to bake on a Sunday afternoon. Why mess with a mobile phone? If I need a recipe for pancakes, I search on my laptop.

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More about Google Mobile Ads – Ad Words Performance Summit

Key take-away #1: Google appears to be scrambling to catch up with Airpush, Facebook and others that appear to deliver great results for advertisers.

Why does Google push mobile?

The quick take-away, assuming these data are accurate, is essentially that Google search revenues may have peaked on the desktop. Google thus either has to acquire market share from rivals on the desktop or boost mobile search revenues to maintain growth.

The ads that Google displays alongside its search results are effective and lucrative in the online marketing world, but Google’s average ad prices have been in decline for several years. Google can try to grow video and display advertising, but the company faces much more competition in those categories.

Dischler said patterns are changing as users hop among devices. “It’s more of a swirl, with people browsing on phones, getting on their desktop at work, then their tablet at home, then purchasing through a store visit or on a phone call,” he said.

To tackle this, Google built a new crop of mobile-friendly ads that rely on data, such as images, product specs and prices, from advertisers, rather than keywords.

When users search for something, Google increasingly

shows a panel or carousel

of listings from advertisers at or near the top of mobile search results. Users can swipe across to see more listings and when they click on them, advertisers pay Google for the traffic.

See more hereMobile ad rates are dropping like a rock

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Of interest is how the Internet giant tries to cope with these changes. For instance, the fact that mobile ads simply don’t command the same rates as traditional search ads.

Key take-away #2: Google is taking away precious mobile screen space to show ads in search results.
Usability for users will be affected by requiring more scrolling to get to the organic search results.

Interesting:  Google and DrKPI: SEO optimization

Will you like it?

Ads that include a mobile ad function consume 48% more of a smartphone’s CPU. Not so wonderful… is it?

Also increasingly popular are short advertising videos. These are between 15 – 20 seconds, instead of 30 to 40 seconds on a desktop. But that increases the amount of network data I require. Apps that serve advertising, including Google search, use a whopping 79% more network or data. How much this slows things down for everyone else is not yet clear.

And if this is not enough, research shows that your battery goes flat faster as well. A recent study of 21 Android apps shows that the use of ads leads to increased energy consumption (on average by 17%), and requires repeated changes to ad related code.

Must read: Gui, Jiaping; McIlroy, Stuart; Nagappan, Meiyappan; Halfond, William, G. J. (May 2015). Truth in advertising: The hidden cost of mobile ads for software developers. In Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). Retrieved May 5, 2015 from http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~halfond/papers/gui15icse.pdf

View larger image – What are the hidden costs of mobile ads for users and developers?

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Key take-away #3: Increasing use of mobile ads results in more complaints about the hidden costs to users' devices.
In turn, it can negatively affect an app's ratings. 
Developers must carefully weigh the trade-offs of incorporating ads into their mobile apps.

What do YOU think?

Do you think mobile ads will increase in price and reach desktop levels?
Have you experienced negative effects on your smartphone due to mobile ads?
What is the BEST mobile ad you have come across?
Do you think Google will succeed with its mobile ads against Facebook?

Watch the full 45-minute video, in which Jerry Dischler explains how these developments will affect mobile advertising, below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/2EV8VC8n24E [/youtube]

Narcissism results in much more broadcasting and VERY little engagement on social networks

Social media recruiting is a cost-effective way to source candidates. Let the big influencers spread the job ad – that takes care of it.
How do we know these claims are true?
Might networking the old-fashioned way work better?

Word-of-mouth is helpful for spreading the word about a position at your organisation. Your employer expects you to post and discuss the job in the communities you are part of.

First you may post on Google+ or LinkedIn. This is quickly followed by posts on Viadeo, Xing and Facebook. Ideally, this type of word-of-mouth marketing lets those interested see the job posting.

But how well does it work?

Do you know these people?

Recently, I read a newspaper article about a guy whom I once was connected with, but is no longer part of my social network. Why?

I sent him an email congratulating him. Did I get an answer? Nope. So how good a connection is this?

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Dunbar, R.I.M. (April 2014). The social brain: Psychological underpinnings and implications for the structure of organizations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, pp. 109-114. doi:10.1177/0963721413517118 Retrieved April 2, 2015 http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/23/2/109.abstract.
===> More publications about the social brain hypothesis.

Good thing I kicked this person off my social network. We all have a hard time managing a network of social connections beyond 125 people. It turns out that is the typical size of both social communities in small-scale societies and personal social networks in the modern world.

This size constraint is partly cognitive and partly temporal. For humans, the group size reflects both emotional closeness in relationships and the frequency of contact.

In short: You need to be close and communicate with each other more than once in a blue moon.

Thus, large networks are not necessarily productive when it comes to finding a job or a person to hire for your non-profit.

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Manage your career smartly

The above suggests being connected to fewer people while staying in touch is a smart thing to do.

[su_box title=”Career management for the second machine age” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]1. Envision yourself seven years from now. What will you want to do at that time… where are you, what impact do you want to have?

2. Who will matter in your life? Identify those five people and know what you want from them and what you can offer them in return. Having regular conversations with these people from now on will affect the outcome of your plans.

3. Who are your ten most important professional connections? Identify them and ensure you talk to them once a month via phone, or better yet, in person.[/su_box]

Social media recruiting is a cost-effective way to source candidates

Gone are the days of having to pay a premium to advertise in a newspaper and hope that a group of candidates will see the job posting. But how do you know that claims such as these are true:

– social media outlets offer ‘reasonable’ pricing for job postings,
– these reach high volumes of job seekers, and
– even passive candidates.

Yes, LinkedIn guarantees I will get ten qualified applicants, but are they really qualified? Not last time we checked.

In addition you have to sort through and respond to all those applications. If you post your job opening to Xing or Google+ groups / communities, you will have to answer questions.

Answering inquiries or writing a polite rejection to an applicant (remember it is about your brand, stay professional, calm and collected) takes time. And what about if you are inactive in your group and nobody reacts to your job post? Happens more than you think…

If you plan your career (see above), it makes sense to participate in discussion groups on social networks. But how many?

[su_box title=”Stay connected and contribute to the community.” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. Membership means you have responsibilities. If you join a group on any network, ensure your visibility by participating in discussions.

2. Put others center stage. Add comments to other people’s posts, thereby helping them shine by keeping the discussion alive.

3. Post content with a question. Broadcasting your latest blog or webpage entry or webinar is fine. However, unless you post a question with it, what are your members supposed to discuss?


Quality trumps quantity

The above shows picking five groups to participate in at least every other week works best. You likely do not have time to be active in more, so why be a member?

I know, some believe that when social media is applied to marketing, it creates activity — and in marketing, activity is a good thing. Nevertheless, activity alone does not create business results. Nor does it lead to connections that:

– help your career, or
– are willing to spread your job posting to qualified candidates.

So what is it good for?

“MBA students do not make this mistake intentionally. In fact, most think they are effectively networking during their time on campus. Many students take the ‘social butterfly’ approach – trying to meet superficially with as many people as possible and then striving to win the LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends ‘competition’. But they are not taking the time to develop deeper relationships with these new contacts.” –Shawn O’Connor (2012).

Focusing on the quality of connections and face-to-face interaction is critical. It is far more effective than having hundreds of contacts that will not even recognise you at an event.

The same applies when recruiting. Send a new position opening to your 30-40 close contacts. They will be happy to share it with some of their close contacts. These close contacts and their 30-40 close connections come in handy for furthering your professional development as well – far more effective than having 100 superficial contacts.

[su_box title=”Job recommendations on Xing: Why am I getting these, if I do not fit the job profile?” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]


Making your recruitment strategy personal, meaningful and successful takes work. But do not think you can just copy big brands like Zappos. Plus, what worked once – Atlassian, 2012 – worked so well the company never tried it again :-(

You have to find your own approach that works for you with 10 or 20 full-time staff!!

Finally, talk is cheap. Show me the numbers that indicate you do it right.

[su_box title=”Offers I get on Xing – USELESS” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

Xing and LinkedIn tend to show you jobs that you may be overqualified for.


What about you?

Where in your network are the 20 or 30 people you can ask for a recommendation when applying for a job?
Who are the people that might give you more business?

I look forward to your answer in the comments!

Curious for more insights? Join 1500 other subscribers to this blog’s newsletter and read on!

[su_box title=”Effectively using social networks for talent recruitment: Do not believe everything.” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]
a. Shorten the hiring cycle. WRONG! Even with social media, you will require time to post your job, get applications, evaluate candidates, etc.

b. Lower recruitment costs. Yeah, right! Building and maintaining your 30 important connections to ask for help takes time all year.

c. Address the passive problem. Nice try! Most people who are doing well in their jobs are not interested in shifting employers.

d. Use the employees that are well-connected on social media. As if! This implies that large social networks mean quality connections. But will any of their contacts read their status update about a job opening?


Interesting reads

Jacobs, Emma (March 31, 2015). Career planning: experts’ advice for the second machine age. Financial Times, p. 10. Retrieved on April 2, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5c62a6e4-ce2e-11e4-86fc-00144feab7de.html

Source: LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo: What is the more effective social media recruiting tool?

What do YOU think?

Who are your best social connections for business?
When did you last comment in one of your discussion groups? Why did you write an answer?
How do you network best?
Is your CEO active on LinkedIn or Google+? Why?

Do Dolce & Gabbana’s recent statements about gay adoption strengthen their reputation as fashion’s aging enfants terribles?
Are Madonna and Elton John right to be raising hell or just ignorant of the full statements (made in Italian)?
Will all this help sales, while further building Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabanna’s reputations?
We define the difference between reputation and brand and discuss cases to better illustrate the matter.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is credited with this statement:

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.
Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.58.37

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is credited with this statement:

Build brands not around products, but around reputation.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson?
Should we care about brands, or should we focus on reputation instead? Leave a comment below.

Define or stay confused

Before we can answer the above questions, we need to define what these terms mean. A while back I wrote Brand versus reputation: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, in which I pointed out that first, brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin and closely related, but nevertheless different concepts. I also disagree with people that say “reputation is part of the brand”. They are related, not the same.

Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles (2008) pointed out the typical factors for a company’s top-notch reputation:

The company has integrity and is reliable, accountable, responsible and quality-conscious.

More formally, reputation is the collective representation of multiple constituencies’ perception of the corporation’s behaviour. Accordingly, reputation is about how efforts regarding brand and what the company has done or delivered are seen by its various stakeholders (e.g., investors, costumers, employees and consumer advocates).

Heads or tails, let us define the terms below.

[su_box title=”Brand is a ‘public-centric’ concept” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]
It is about relevance and differentiation (with respect to the customer, public opinion, supplier). Brand focuses on what a product, service or firm has promised to its clients.
Brand is what the corporation tells the public or its investors, the news it shares about itself or the product, and most importantly, what it wants and aspires to be.
A brand helps reduce uncertainty for a client. The customer knows what they get, such as a hotel chain’s rooms offering the same features (make-up mirror, good hair dryer) as standard around the globe.[/su_box]
So, what is reputation, then? Glad you asked.

[su_box title=”Reputation is an attitudinal construct and ‘word of mouth- / experience-centric’ concept” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]
Attitude denotes the subjective, emotional, and cognitive based mindset (see Schwaiger, 2004, p. 49), which implies splitting the construct of reputation into affective and cognitive components.
The cognitive component of the construct can be described as the rational outcomes of high reputation. Examples include high performance, global reach and one’s perception of the company (e.g., great employer).
The affective component of reputation is the emotions that respondents have towards a company. Thus, people talk about these things with friends (word of mouth). Media coverage can also influence how we feel toward a company.[/su_box]
Based on an extensive literature review, Schwaiger (2004) proposed an approach to measure reputation for corporations. He tested this in a preliminary qualitative study. Out if these findings he developed a survey to test his measures with a data set. Findings suggest four indices to explain reputation, namely:

1. quality (e.g., product or service),
2. performance (e.g., has vision, well managed, performs well),
3. responsibility (e.g., sustainability, being a good corporate citizen), and
4. attractiveness (e.g., offices, buildings, as an employer).

The above can be used to explain reputation as measured with performance and sympathy toward the company. Your reputation precedes you. It significantly influences your chances of doing business with somebody.

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Does company size matter?

Size definitely matters when it comes to brand. You might have a brand in your part of the woods, but Coca-Cola or Nespresso are still in a different league; they are global. What about your brand? If your company employs less than 250 tull-time employees (what the European Commission calls a small- and mid-size enterprise or SME), you are unlikely to have a global brand.

Your resources will surely not allow you to splash your logo all over the place, so spending money on brand is hard to justify. However, spending resources on keeping your clients happy, while maintaining a good reputation is a no-brainer (i.e. go for it). However, as Emil Heinrich points out, even a SME has a brand in the region where it does business. Hence, this might help recruitment up to about a 100 km radius.


Small shopkeepers do have a local brand.

Are consumer brands becoming less important?

That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, here are two industries with interesting trends.

Food: Craft versus Kraft

In a recent Financial Times article (March 17, 2015 – Craft versus Kraft), Gary Silverman discusses food business trends, in particular how Kraft or Campbell’s Soup are losing market share to small food producers (retrieved March 18, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/2a238422-c7e0-11e4-8210-00144feab7de.html).

There is a general disinterest in brands.

The millennial generation wants products that are low in salt, sugar or fat. As well, these must be free of artificial flavors and rich in protein or anti-oxidants. This is the result of older American consumers being more prone to obesity, heart disease and other maladies. In turn, the article insinuates that millennials do not want to follow the same path.

The article also points out:

“…how important it has become for food companies to tell consumers an interesting story, replete with details about their products’ ingredients and health benefits. Such narratives give brands the coveted — and elusive — quality of ‘authenticity’.”

[su_box title=”YES – food brands are becoming less important.” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”] In the US, the companies that are winning the game for natural, organic, protein-rich and unprocessed food are quite small.

Accordingly, one’s reputation for being quality-conscious and accountable is increasingly important (remember the neighborhood shopkeeper).[/su_box]

Clothing: #DolceGabbana or #BrandyMelville

The Dolce & Gabbana label came under fire in 2007 for an ad that many felt depicted the gang rape of a woman. The ad was ultimately pulled soon after, but unfortunately, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were accused of referring to people who were offended as ‘a bit backward’. Of course, belittling those who took offense is neither acceptable nor in good taste.


Dolce & Gabbana do it wrong – AGAIN!

The above image is from Kelly Cutrone’s tweet about the ad, which she tweeted on March 15, 2015. It got a lot of attention in the US, Canadian, UK and German media, partly because of an interview the two fashion icons given Panorama, an Italian magazine.

According to Dolce & Gabbana, and as stated in the printed interview, “la famiglia tradizionale, fatto di mama papa e figli, (a traditional family, comprised of a mother, father, and children). Of course, if one reads the interview more closely, it is clear that the guys are referencing their own upbringing and Sicilian traditions in general. There, this family model is paramount.

What got people like Elton John and Madonna upset was that the fashion designers dared to raise some scepticism about in vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers, mentioning their personal opinions about this. Whilst we may disagree, a democracy thrives on allowing people to state their opinions; castigating them thereafter on social media is an increasing – but worrisome – trend.

Of course we have to forgive Madonna. She is pushing her latest album Rebel Heart, which debuted earlier this month. Sales were lagging until Madonna posted this on Instagram.


Did Madonna “think before she wrote this Instagram post”? SURE – helping her latest album Rebel Heart to push up its lagging sales….

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are also the guys who drew applause for sending a pregnant model down the runway as part of their tribute to mothers.

Similarly, some people got rather miffed earlier this year about Brandy Melville, a clothing brand that offers only size small. It clearly discriminates against people of different size. Of course, it is unlikely you will fit in a small size dress if you are over forty. I do not :-) Again, some social media backlash happened. Questions about the viability of the brand continue (see DrKPI and #BrandyMelville). Can such a brand survive or will it simply die, as Abercrombie & Fitch seems to be?


Size Small does not fit all of us, does it?

[su_box title=”Dolce & Gabbana: Social media talk is cheap” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]Social media poses a substantial risk that opinions communicated by company officials (e.g., as spelled out in documents or stated during interviews) is taken out of context and spread widely.

Using Twitter and Facebook to share news is fine. But please Madonna and Elton John, check the facts before you share.

(Mr. Dolce: “I am gay. I cannot have a child… I am not convinced by what I call children of chemistry, or synthetic children. Uteruses for rent, sperm chosen from a catalogue.” – see Fashion’s ageing enfants terribles).

Finally, talk is cheap. As consumers, let our actions speak louder than words: Don’t buy!

By the way, negative press and social media coverage is better than none… see Benetton below. And here’s a sucker’s bet: I would bet you most of those people who feel outraged or miffed today will likely continue shopping Dolce & Gabbana and Brandy Melville stuff as early as next month! It is so bla bla, superficial…[/su_box]


More brands than Dolce & Gabbana or Brandy Melville have raised controversy: in 1994, Benetton took a fallen Bosnian soldier’s uniform, using its red blood and bullet holes for an ad campaign.

Interesting read: Henry A. Giroux (2014). Benetton’s “World without Borders”: Buying Social Change

Source: Dolce & Gabbana: When reputation damages brand

Bottom Line

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The above examples offer two insights as spelled out below.
[su_box title=”Brand versus Reputation” box_color=”#ff9900″ title_color=”#ffffff”]1 —Corporate brand – reflects what the corporation aspires to be while the me brand reflects what I as an individual aspire to.
Reputation – the other side of the coin – is how people feel about the company or the person.
SMEs should focus on reputation, spending little on building a brand beyond their geographical territory.
Unfortunately, in practice brand and reputation are rarely if ever treated as separate BUT related constructs. This is a dangerous mistake to make.

2 — Corporate reputation is based almost exclusively on perceptions, not real knowledge. Hence, while managing corporate reputation is primarily a corporate communications task, that is not where it ends. Yes, doing good things and talking about them is great, but remember the goal.
To illustrate, companies sometimes appear to spend more money on advertising their good deed than providing money to the cause itself. Not really conducive to a good reputation…
Finally, if you don’t like a brand, its reputation or the owners’ behaviour, don’t just tweet about it, stop buying the product![/su_box]

What is your opinion?
Do you trust your clothing label’s reputation?
Do you care about your brand’s reputation when you shop?

Summary: How can David Cameron trust ex-HSBC boss Stephen Green enough to appoint him trade minister?
Why should I trust your recommendation and read this book?

The above are all situations in which we as consumers, co-workers, citizens or purchasing officers have to decide, can I trust this information?
Discover four tips right here, plus see our handy checklist – with slides!
How do you do it? Leave a comment, I am curious to know.

Can I trust you?

Every day we tweet and share information, but how much can we trust these things?

Can you trust Dominique Strauss-Kahn? The French former politician and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief recently gave evidence at his trial on pimping charges, which threatens to expose his double life. Stating that he rarely attended sex parties because he was “saving the world” and had “other things to do”, he probably knows what it means to lose one’s reputation and wife’s trust and respect.


Once tipped to be the next president of France, Strauss-Kahn does not deny having had group sex. But he refutes the charges of “aggravated pimping”, described as aiding and abetting prostitution. He denies knowing that women at the orgies were prostitutes, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Similarly, the UK government was in possession of detailed evidence about wrongdoing at HSBC’s Swiss bank. That did not stop David Cameron from appointing former HSBC boss Lord Green as trade minister. But Swissleaks and other HSBC leaks haunt the ordained Church of England minister. The alleged money laundering activities happened during his watch (see below).

You are what you tweet

Remember last time you saw a tweet or got a newsletter in your inbox? You shared it on Twitter and Facebook, but did you first ask yourself, “Can I trust the information that I just passed on?” Was the study well done or based on a convenience sample (i.e. we asked our friends and know what people want based on that)?

Remember the last time you saw a blog entry like this:

Top 10 social media agencies in the world

So, the world consists only of the UK and US? I don’t think so!

11 power tips to increase your Facebook engagement

More like power trips, not tips!

These things are often based on people’s personal experience and opinions, but people still eat this stuff up and share it like candy.

Just reflect a moment, would you trust your banker to invest your pension savings based on personal beliefs? I prefer facts. I surely hope that our pension’s fund managers analyze data more carefully than just following such blog entries’ advice.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to check trust levels for a blogger => DrKPI Trust Index

Garbage in, garbage out? Nope!

Corporate blogs are often simply about the product. In other words, they all just push products, some openly, and others in more subtle ways. The SAS blogs do better than most, that is for sure. For instance, whenever possible the authors refer to other material that is beyond reproach.

Erwan Granger blogged about cloud computing (see below). Smartly, he refers to the definitions of cloud computing as put forward by NIST (Peter Mell and Timothy Grance), a well-respected agency.


While the above blog entry tries to push product, it still provides content that is valuable, helping the reader better understand what cloud computing is. By linking to other material it provides me with useful links where I can learn more, thus saving me time. Well done! If you have to push product, this is a good way of doing it (please note, we do not do business with SAS, directly or indirectly).

PS. How independent these SAS users are we do not know. But some do a very nice job blogging !

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Join the 3,000+ organizations using the DrKPI Blog Benchmark to double reader comments in a few months while increasing social shares by 50 percent – CHECK US OUT NOW!

Bottom line

There are four things to abide by before you trust your banker, corporate blogger, client or dentist:

1. Take five minutes to check the facts. Before you believe your banker or a tweet you saw, do a check. Is the eMarketer study or Jeff Bullas’ tip based on sound facts and research, or just the author’s gut feelings?

Is the research or opinion good enough to bet your money on? Probably not, unless it is personal investment advice from the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet, or maybe well-done survey research from PEW.


2. How did you come to trust this person? Think about your family physician: they are a non-nonsense person you trust based on their experience. They check a few things to avoid making a hasty, and possibly wrong, diagnosis.

Online content from a corporate blogger is similar. Have you followed them and read their material for some time; is their material trustworthy? Just like building trust, writing great blog content is time consuming and requires more than writing what you believe – show me the numbers.

3. Will your behaviour decrease the other person’s trust in you? Last week you agreed to have dinner with a business partner this Tuesday. Now you have to cancel.

It goes without saying that appointments should be kept whenever possible, but if you must cancel, do it personally and start with an apology. Make sure the other person does not feel offended or let down. Finally, agree on another time and place right then.


4. Lead by example and don’t preach, just do it right. Lord Green, the ex-HSBC boss published a book in 2009 (see above image) that preached at leaders to not only behave legally but ethically, going beyond “what you can get away with”.

In 2005, Green became chair of the supervisory company of HSBC’s Geneva unit, HSBC Private Banking Holdings (Suisse) SA. In this capacity, he was responsible for compliance and oversight when the alleged money laundering activity took place at HSBC’s Geneva branch.

The trust people put in you, the reputation you had and how good you made people feel is what you will be remembered by.

Looking at the above suggestions, before you re-tweet something next time, check it first. For instance, can you trust the study’s data? Otherwise follow Harper Lee’s 2007 advice, “Well, it’s better to be silent than to be a fool.

Sounds like a good motto for corporate bloggers: Check and re-check the facts, otherwise do not publish. Especially if somebody wants to quote you, make sure you read the book first before making a fool of yourself.

More Information
Download PDF file with additional graphics and 20 slides (317 kb) – Can I trust my banker, blogger and this book review?

Check out the SLIDES here, they’re definitely worth your time!

[slideshare id=44382283&doc=check-1st-or-loose-reputation-and-trust-150207080226-conversion-gate02]

Benchmark and test your blog – for free – right now

You can view more presentation slides from DrKPI here.

What is your opinion?

This blog entry was recently referred to and summarised here:

Gregory, Goth (2017-08-31) ACM News. Enhancing disease modelling. Communications of the ACM.

See also: Analytics and big data: Security, web, diseases, etc.

Big data can help with rescue efforts after natural disasters. The challenge is to use data smartly to gain insight. This then improves the ability of institutions to respond effectively to future health emergencies.

This entry discusses three challenges that will help manage unprecedented health emergencies better:

1. Detecting an outbreak of a deadly disease sometimes beats predicting when and how it might happen (e.g., ebola outbreak versus this winter’s flu spread);
2. Getting regulators to collaborate across borders quickly – instead of possibly chiding each other – requires them to take action; and
3. Guiding interventions effectively necessitates that resources arrive promptly at the right place – logistics.

Ebola already drains weak health systems in West African countries, such as:

  • Liberia, population 4.2 million: 51 doctors; 978 nurses and midwives; 269 pharmacists; AND
  • Sierra Leone, population 6 million: 136 doctors; 1,017 nurses and midwives; 114 pharmacists.

By the way, some claim that the UK’s NHS (National Health System) employs 10 percent or more of Sierra Leone’s trained doctors.

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So how does this relate to KPIs (key performance indicators), big data, measurement and benchmarking? Glad you asked – I explain below.
Ebola Outbreak in West Africa illuminated the significant threat posed by infectious diseases to human lives and society.

West Africa’s ebola outbreak illuminated the significant threat posed by infectious diseases to human lives and society.

Is the answer predicting an outbreak?

Google Flu Trends (GFT), which tries to predict likely flu outbreaks based on how often people use key search terms, has been shown to be inaccurate. Other methods that make use of a much wider range of data sets are enjoying more success.

For example, business consultancy Accenture, big data specialist SAS and the University of North Carolina say they predicted the US 2012-13 flu season three months before the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its official warning. That is impressive.

Analyzing social media including blog posts and tweets may give an indication of where people worry about a disease. Unfortunately, this method is far from accurate. More often than not, the number of tweets in a region are the result of news coverage (i.e. similar to Google Flu Trends using search data).

We still do not know if such warning signs (i.e. more tweets or Facebook comments about the flu) are accurate reflections of what is actually happening. We do know, however, that posts to services like Flickr is not that helpful for learning more about the people affected by the disaster (e.g., pictures of Hurricane Sandy posted on Flickr or tweets during the LAX airport incident).

As Facebook (see Facebook mood study: Why we should be worried!) has taught us, online users can be significantly influenced. For instance, more positive items in someone’s newsstream results in more positive posts by that user, though the effect is small.

Given the above, it seems more useful to focus on how we can detect an outbreak faster. In turn, we can put the necessary resources in place faster and more intelligently, thereby saving more lives.

Step 1: Detect the outbreak

Besides prediction, one can also use big data to try and detect an outbreak. Healthmap is a website founded in 2006. It crawls news articles, social media, and other online sources for indications of public health threats. For instance, a timeline published by Healthmap in early March, found evidence of an unusual febrile illness in Guinea, before the World Health Organization announced the outbreak.

Without a system like Healthmap, epidemiologists must rely on hospitals, clinicians, or schools to identify and report outbreaks. This means we need more systems and databases that are built and tested to provide us with such data. Researchers can then access this and provide valuable insights about things like natural disasters and health epidemics.

Rivers, Caitlin M. (October 24, 2014). We could’ve stopped ebola if we’d listened to the data. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from http://qz.com/283206/we-couldve-stopped-ebola-if-wed-listened-to-the-data/

Rivers, Caitlin M., Lofgren, E.T., Marathe, M., Eubank, S., Lewis, B.L. Modeling the Impact of Interventions on an Epidemic of Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia. PLOS Currents Outbreaks. 2014 Oct 16. Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.fd38dd85078565450b0be3fcd78f5ccf Retrieved October 26, 2014 from http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/obk-14-0043-modeling-the-impact-of-interventions-on-an-epidemic-of-ebola-in-sierra-leone-and-liberia/

Step 2: Regulators must move their buds

Putting various systems such as Healthmap and others in place will give us more time to identify public health threats. In turn, possible epidemics can be fought faster than was the case with ebola. It will also allow rescue services to respond quicker. The unprecedented ebola crisis has exposed failings in the ability of international and local institutions to respond swiftly.

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a research team analysed calling data from two million mobile phones on the Digicel Haiti network (see below).

Figure 2. Estimated distribution of persons who were in PaP on the day of the earthquake but outside PaP 19 days after the earthquake. Circles are shown for communes that received at least 500 persons.

Figure 2. Estimated distribution of persons who were in PaP on the day of the earthquake but outside PaP 19 days after the earthquake.
Circles are shown for communes that received at least 500 persons.

This work enabled the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies to understand population movements during relief operations. It also helped improve our understanding of how people moved during the subsequent cholera outbreak. In turn, these agencies were able to allocate resources more efficiently, and they were now empowered to identify areas at increased risk of new outbreaks.

The crux of the matter is, one must get access to these data rather quickly, or preferably in real-time, and regulators must move quickly. One challenge is that researchers are often elsewhere, so regulators need to find a way to give them access. Of course, neither violating local regulation nor mobile phone users’ rights, such as privacy, is an option. This is further discussed below.

The health emergency in Western Africa has revealed weaknesses, particularly how such things are addressed by the UN, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and in particular, local regulators.

Most helpful is if these agencies and regulators, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) develop a template quickly. The template or checklist should address the steps that must be taken next time, so that necessary approvals are more promptly forthcoming, data is made available for analysis sooner.

A template can make it easier for people to follow an accepted path. It also helps those averse to risk make decisions that help saving lives. This helps move things along, contrary to what we have experienced with the ebola disaster.

Bengtsson, Linus; Lu, Xin; Thorson, Anna; Garfield, Richard; von Schreeb, Johan (August 30, 2011). Improved Response to Disasters and Outbreaks by Tracking Population Movements with Mobile Phone Network Data: A Post-Earthquake Geospatial Study in Haiti. PLoS Med 8(8): e1001083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001083 Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001083

No author (October 25, 2014). Ebola and big data. Waiting on hold. The Economist, p. 73-74. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from http://www.economist.com/comment/2547851#comment-2547851

Step 3: Guide interventions fast

As previously suggested, regulators need to work with a template for giving researchers access to data, such as that collected by mobile networks, which helps access important data quickly. In turn, insights gained from these data can be passed on faster to guide interventions accordingly. However, we also need better ways to coordinate the fight internationally, meaning that researchers and rescue staff need to use big data records to coordinate efforts.

For instance, the level of activity at each mobile phone mast also gives a kind of heatmap of where people are. It also reveals where and how far they are moving from the epicenter of a quake, for instance.

Telecom operators use call-data-records (CDRS) to manage their networks and bill their clients. The records include:

– caller identity,
– call timestamp,
– phone tower location, and
– number dialed.

Of course, as long as the mobile phone is turned on, phone operators can identify where the phone is, even though the user may not be on the line. The reason is that mobile phones, if turned on, constantly send out signals, which are picked up by the closest tower. This information is needed to allow the person to receive a phone call (e.g., think roaming abroad).

Figure 5. (Top) Number of individuals that visited the university campus during the second alert period (in blue) and its baseline (in red) aggregated daily. (Bottom) The same data aggregated hourly.

Figure 5. (Top) Number of individuals that visited the university campus during the second alert period (in blue) and its baseline (in red) aggregated daily.
(Bottom) The same data aggregated hourly.

Frías-Martínez, Vanessa, Rubio, Alberto, Frias-Martinez, Enrique (not dated). Measuring the impact of epidemic alerts on human mobility. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from http://www.vanessafriasmartinez.org/uploads/epidemics.pdf

Tracking human mobility in disaster areas is vital. It tells us where resources are most needed to help victims. It also reveals how a disease may spread.

For instance, in the study by Buckee et al (see below for reference), accumulating evidence reveals a strong link between human mobility and the spread of epidemics.

Big Data: Applying human mobility data to understand malaria transmission.

Big Data: Applying human mobility data to understand malaria transmission

In the case above, the intention was to alert medics to go where infected people might carry the disease. As Buckee et al have shown, it worked very well!

In addition to trying to point health teams to where they are most needed, the cellphone trackers sent health advice to Haitians via text or voicemail. Examples were things like frequent hand-washing or oral rehydration for those who got sick. Mothers were advised about continuing to breastfeed infected babies.

While these data are updated every single second CDRS are structured. For instance, people who call an emergency number can now be tracked. Such data is helpful and allows researchers to gain insights about how a disease or epidemic spreads.

We must improve detection by using big data smartly. With the help of smoothed procedures (see templates / checklists), regulatory hurdles against sharing data can be removed. Using these data can then guide inverventions on the ground, saving many more lives.

Buckee, Caroline O.;  Wesolowski, Amy; Eagle, Nathan; Hansen, Elsa; Snow, Robert, W. (Jan-Feb, 2013). Mobile phones and malaria: modeling human and parasite travel you can find. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2013 Jan-Feb; 11(1): 15–22. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3697114/ doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2012.12.003

What is your opinion?

– Have you recently found / experienced a case in which big data helped disaster relief efforts?
– What other recommendations would you make?

I love to read your comments below and look forward to answering them. Merci.

Source: Data analytics: Lessons learned from Ebola

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More resources

Aranka Anema, Sheryl Kluberg, Kumanan Wilson, Robert Hogg, Kamran Khan, Simon Hay, Andrew J Tatem and John Brownstein (November, 2014). Digital Surveillance for Enhanced Detection of Outbreaks. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Volume 14, Issue 11, Pages 1035 – 1037, November 2014 doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(14)70953-3 Retrieved October 24, 2014 from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(14)70953-3/fulltext

Isaac Bogoch, Maria Creatore, Martin Cetron, John Brownstein, Nicki Pesik, Jennifer Miniota, Theresa Tam, Wei Hu, Adriano Nicolucci, Saad Ahmed, James W Yoon, Isha Berry, Simon Hay, Aranka Anema, Andrew J Tatem, Derek MacFadden, Matthew German and Kamran Khan (October, 2014). Assessment of the Potential for International Dissemination of Ebola Virus through Commercial Air Travel During the 2014 West African Outbreak (The Lancet, Oct, 2014) The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 21 October 2014 doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61828-6 Retrieved October 26, 2014 from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61828-6/fulltext

Informatics Resources for Ebola Epidemic Response (Resource page). http://ndssl.vbi.vt.edu/ebola/ebola-approach.html

David Pigott, Nick Golding, Adrian Mylne, Zhi Huang, Andrew Henry, Daniel Weiss, Oliver Brady, Moritz Kraemer, David Smith, Catherine Moyes, Samir Bhatt, Peter Gething, Peter Horby, Isaac Bogoch, John Brownstein, Sumiko Mekaru, Andrew Tatem, Kamran Khan and Simon Hay. (September 2014). Mapping the Zoonotic Niche of Ebola Virus Disease in Africa (eLife). Retrieved October 22, 2014 from http://elifesciences.org/content/early/2014/09/05/eLife.04395

Talbot, David (August 22, 2014). Cell-phone data might help predict ebola’s spread. Mobility data from an African mobile-phone carrier could help researchers recommend where to focus health-care efforts. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from http://www.technologyreview.com/news/530296/cell-phone-data-might-help-predict-ebolas-spread/

The Guardian – Ebola funding tracker – interactive

Amy Wesolowski, Caroline Buckee, Linus Bengtsson, Xin Lu, Andy Tatem (September 2014). Containing the Ebola Outbreak – The Potential and Challenge of Mobile Data (PloS Current Outbreaks, Sep, 2014). Retrieved October 29, 2014 from http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/containing-the-ebola-outbreak-the-potential-and-challenge-of-mobile-network-data/


5 tips to manage 3 important issues

1. When do infographics add value?
2. How to confirm that an infographic’s information can be trusted.
3. What are the ropes to skip when preparing or sharing an infographic?

This post builds on an earlier one I wrote in August 2011 where I asked, what makes a great infographic? There, I noted:

“The question is, can viewers see the overall shape of the data more easily and quickly with infographics than any other visual aid? Most infographics fail this acid test.”

Things sure have changed since then. One major challenge has been big data, of which have increasingly more. Unfortunately, we are therefore also more vulnerable to misinterpreting information, which in turn leads us to make the wrong decisions.

These days, running a poll on Twitter or a survey with an online tool is quick and easy. Nevertheless, how one frames the question – see Scottish referendum – can affect responses. The British competition authorities have a 39-page guide on framing questions correctly. They are concerned about ‘acquiescence bias’.

Here respondents fail to challenge assumptions implicit in a question, such as, Did you do some physical exercises today?, which implies that you should have done so. Instead they recommend adding something like, Did you do some physical exercises today or did you not do any? Such clunky questions require giving the subject two response options:

1. I did not do physical exercises today, or
2. Yes, I did physical exercises today.

These type of questions lead to more robust results. Without robust data, answers needed for our questions are on shaky ground. In turn, making smart decisions could be a sheer impossibility (see Guest Poster Karen Dietz’ Storied infographics: Why do they fail?).

Here are five tips to reduce the risk of wasting ink and time by producing a rather useless infographic.

Tip 1: Actions speak louder than words

People often say one thing but do another. For instance, Jeff Bullas re-posted an infographic on his blog. In the post, one is advised to always give credit to the original poster
(see below).

But does Jeff Bullas follow his own rule? Nope. Nowhere can a hyperlink be found to the original post with this infographic. Bullas is in great company, though. Most blogs that re-posted this infographic failed to give credit where credit is due. But you have to, especially if you consider yourself an authority on your subject.

Where is the added value of this infographic compared to a table?

Where is the added value of this infographic? Would a table have done a better job?

Tip 2: Make it easy for your readers

As the above example illustrates, sometimes graphics are hard to find. Instead, a string of words is added to some graphic elements.
The question we always need to ask:

Is the information we have best suited to an infographic?

CLICK - The turnover rate in the control group was 47.2 percent higher than that of the individual identity group, and 16.2 percent higher than that of the organizational identity group. And turnover was 26.7 percent higher in the organizational identity condition than in the individual identity condition.

The MIT Sloan Management Review did not think so about the above information, but the table also illustrates that, if done well, infographics can do much to clarify the keypoints of a study for the uninitiated.

Tip 3: Trust but verify

President Ronald Reagan told President Mikhail Gorbachev that the SALT Treaty they both signed in Washington, DC would need to be verified. Always verify that the links posted in the bottom of an infographic work before republishing it. For instance:


The above link (listed under sources in the infographic above) did not work for me. To minimise such errors:

a) use a URL shortener, or
b) give a short link to where you found the data.

After some digging, I found the post that the above misspelled URL should have led to:


The lesson here? Long URLs increase the chances of a typing error if a reader wants to go check things out. Something a reader should do, before believing or re-posting the data.

Tip 4: Check your numbers

Based on the above link issues, I wanted to read the 12 pointers about how to use Pinterest as a business from Jackie Raiford.

“Jackie is a graduate student studying Conservation Biology at Antioch University in Keene. She is the Social Media Specialist at ParagonDigital.”

She tells us what she thinks works or not on Pinterest. It sounds very useful and sensible, but I cannot tell whether it is based on data or just her opinion. Do you want to invest several thousand dollars each month in your social media officer?

Because, as Jackie rightfully suggests, that is what it means if this is properly managed. Your expert will spend several hours each week posting the right things and engaging with fans and clients on Pinterest. That does not come cheap, does it?

Another interesting issue in the same vein comes up when the graphic below is studied a bit more carefully. For instance, do the city character and real estate values correlate? What is city character, exactly? How do you measure it? Are commuting times in London or Mumbai a factor?

Sure, Savills got great PR out of this graphic – we will definitely get a repeat performance in 2015, and the FT managed to fill more than a page based on this graphic. Singapore and Moscow have few high rises and high real estate values, while New York has many skyscrapers and also has high real estate values. So what have we learned? That there does not seem to be a trend!

This is an example of an infographic – produced by a reputable firm and published by a highly esteemed newspaper – whose merit should be questioned by readers and editors alike.

CLICK - Are population size, persons per hectare, number of buildings over 150 metres, and density/building height USEFUL indicators that HELP us measure the city's urban identity? Or even a city's character? I think what we have here is #BigFail, lack of #Usefulness, #SmallData

Tip 5: Spell out your methods

As we have seen, experts often post some tips while suggesting that doing the same will also lead you to success. In other cases (see above), the infographic insinuates a causal relationship where there seems to be none.

These things can be done correctly. For instance, in the research below, weather data was used to learn how it might correlate with restaurant reviews. In combination with thousands of restaurant evaluations from thousands of patrons across the country, the authors concluded that bad weather leads to more negative reviews.

The difference is that this study is not a quick and dirty exercise. It uses a thoughtful definition of the issue being investigated. Second, time, effort and financial resources were spent collecting the data. Such studies are not done in a week or two (see below).


Experiments are best conducted in the lab. Field studies should try to control for certain variables, such as the day and time tweets were posted.

Bottom line

We all use simple visualization techniques for quantitative or qualitative analysis, which does not mean we analyze data for its own sake. Instead, we want to make informed decisions, so we analyze our data to gain an accurate and thorough understanding. Almost all effective visualization of quantitative or qualitative analyses are two-dimensional, X-Y axis type visual aids, such as bar or line graphs, and scatterplots. We want an overview, so we zoom in and filter, then study the details.

However, if the details are not to be trusted, visualization may result in more confusion that clarity. To illustrate, you may start with a table to allow the reader to get an overview (see DrKPI Blog Benchmark).

DrKPI Blog Benchmark shows how to improve content marketing for Barclays Wealth Blog and foster more dialog with target audience

DrKPI Blog Benchmark shows how to improve content marketing for Barclays Wealth Blog, to foster more dialogue with its target audience.

The above table gives you an overview with lots of information in context (e.g., country and same industry). Once you dig deeper, graphics get added.

These must be designed to display content easily, without wasting ink. UNFORTUNATELY, more often than not, infographics are a string of words. Through dazzle and a splash of color we may want to convey more than our data permit. That means we are trying to snowball our audience or at least wasting their time.

If we look again at the images above, the US map is relatively simple. Nonetheless, it conveys a lot of information. Also, the table about onboarding at Wipro (see earlier above) conveys interesting findings in non-technical language to managers. Both images use little if any color but add a lot of insight for the reader.

Better safe than sorry – buyer beware

Infographics may offer much color and splash. Nevertheless, their data may be boring or less valid and reliable in comparison to quality work. Keep that in mind.

So before giving away the farm, use the 5 tips in this blog post to check things out. Is trusting an infographic you found advisable? It could be based on invalid data riddled with bias and therefore make you look stupid if you re-tweet or post it to your blog!

Lots of collor and images - but where are the numbers

Lots of color and images – but where are the numbers?

What is your opinion?

– Have you recemtly found an infographic you liked? Please share the link!
What do you recommend doing FIRST when putting together an infographic?
– What other recommendations would you make?

I love to read your comments below and look forward to answering them. Merci.

Source: Can infographics show you the money? 


Bakhshi, Saeideh, Kanuparthy, Partha, and Gilbert, Eric (April 7, 2014). Demographics, weather and online reviews: A study of restaurant recommendations. Paper presented at the 23rd International World Wide Web Conference, in Seoul, South Korea on April 10. DOI 10.1145/2566486.2568021 Retrieved April 6, 2014, from http://labs.yahoo.com/external_publication/2014/02/27/32842/

Cable, Daniel, M.; Gino, Francesco; and Staats, Bradley, R. (March 2013). Breaking them in or eliciting their best? Reframing socialization around newcomers’ authentic self-expression. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 58(1), 1-36 DOI: 10.1177/0001839213477098. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from http://d26f1zbt4c3e98.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Reframing-socialization-research.pdf

Easier summary article: Cable, Daniel, M.; Gino, Francesco; and Staats, Bradley, R. (March 2013). Reinventing Employee Onboarding. MIT Sloan Management Review, Retrieved May 28, 2014, from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/reinventing-employee-onboarding/

Few, S. (2011). Data visualization for human perception. In Mads Soegaard and Rikke Dam (Eds.), Encyclopedia of human-computer interaction. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/data_visualization_for_human_perception.html

Few, Steven (2009). Now you see it. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. See http://www.analyticspress.com/nysi.php

Gattiker, Urs E. (July 9, 2012). Why do infographics fail? ComMetrics Blog. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from http://commetrics.com/articles/2012-ultimate-guide-for-marketing-part-1/

Schrage, Michael (September 3, 2014). Learn from your analytics failures. Harvard Business Review – Blog Network. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/09/learn-from-your-analytics-failures

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We address 3 questions: 1. What data do we really need answers for? 2. Why is a sound methodology critical? 3. Do metrics that focus on small but useful improvements make sense?

With business analytics, the toughest challenge is collecting data needed for questions one needs answered. My emphasis here is on:

– must-have answers, not – desired answers!

This is the third post in a series of entries about big data. Others so far are:

– Facebook mood study: Why we should be worried!
– Secrets of analytics 1: UPS or Apple?

New technqiues will not do

Often, we focus on predicting or forecasting the future. However, in management it is more important to understand the analytic HOWs and WHYs. These matter more than the promise of prediction. In the past we did not call things predictive analytics but forecasts instead. We used

– time series, as economists still often do, and – tried our luck with multivariate analysis (both part of what is called parametric statistics). These days, we still use the above methods. However, new ones have come to the fore, such as:

– k-means clusters, and – random graphs.


A random graph is obtained by randomly sampling from a collection of graphs.

Get the latest news on your mobile Subscribe to our award-winning blog: DrKPI – the trend blog

Read more

Why little data mean a lot: Incremental innovation is key.
Google Trends shows a spike in searches – iPhone6: Remember the flu trends? Increased searches do not make something a fact…
Constant experimentation and rapid implementation: Strive for lots of small and frequent advances, because that is good enough.

We address three questions

1. What does it mean when Google Trends shows a spike in searches?
2. Should we aim for lots of small wins from ‘big data’ that add up to something big?
3. Do metrics that focus on small but useful improvements make sense?

Get the latest news on your mobile
Subscribe to our award-winning blog: DrKPI – the trend blog

CLICK - Caution - things may not be as they appear. Check the methods.

1. ‘iPhone slow’ and Google Trends

There are three types of business analytics:

Descriptive analytics that look at historical data,
Predictive Analytics that try to determine what might happen, and
Prescriptive Analytics that focus on giving us different options, in which case we choose what we think suits us best, given time and money constraints.

The question remains whether we have the right data… To illustrate this challenge, we can look at the Google Flu Trends (GFT). Using search results from Google, the GFT supposedly indicates how the flu spreads and affects people in various countries.

Read more

Google, Bing, Qwant need access: Here is how you set-up your robots.txt file correctly.
How to check your robots.txt file: Entry explains how to do it right. In turn, improve your site’s SEO results and traffic.

We address three questions

CLICK - Sometimes Google is not allowed to index a website or blog #DrKPI #SocBiz #SmallData

1. What do robots or crawlers do?
2. What does it mean if a robot cannot crawl the content of your blog or webpage?
3. How to BEST set-up your robots.txt file.

Improve  your search positioning and get the latest news on your mobile.

Subscribe to our award-winning blog: DrKPI – the trend blog for SEO and the social web

By default, everything on your blog that visitors can see, can be indexed by search engines like Google or Qwant. Indexed content will show up in search results. Most blogs receive about 40 to 70 percent of their visitor traffic from search engines.

You can prevent search engines to index certain pages. This is done by editing your robots.txt file. However, this is usually not in the blogger’s best interest. Below we outline what your robots.txt file must contain to allow Google or DrKPI to crawl it.

What do robots do?

Web robots are sometimes also called web wanderers, crawlers or spiders.

Robots perform various tasks. In the context here we are interested in their work regarding:

1. Site Indexing: they take a copy of a website they find and store this information at the search engine’s servers.
2. Validating the site code – this means comparing the website code to W3C standards and grading the code according to accuracy.
3. Link Checking – this includes tracing incoming and outgoing links.

What should you check for?

Read more