NextStage Member Tools Explained

For anybody keeping track, here are our current tool offerings to NextStage Members. We keep adding tools as they become available and will update this list periodically. Some tools require training, some tools require our tracking code be on a digital property, some tools are so new they don’t have their own icons yet.

For those who don’t know, NextStage Membership costs $250US/year. There are lots of other benefits. Come play with our toys. They’re lots of fun and so are we.


Posted in Ad Placement, Age Persuader, Analytics, Audience Finder, BlueSky Meter, Client Prospector, Compatibility Gauge, Entrepreneur Gauge, Experience Optimizer, Gender Persuader, Immediate Sentiment, Job Prospector, Looking Glass, Love Finder, Love Jones, Marketing, NeuroPrint, NextStageology, OnSite, PersonaScope, Political Analyzer, Political Reader, Predictive, Predictive Echo, Resume Rater, SampleMatch, Sentiment Analysis, Social Interferometer, TargetTrack, Tools, Veritas Gauge, {C,B/e,M}sTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“It’s too accurate” (more undocumented uses of NextStage’s Evolution Technology)

This post is about looking in one’s mirror and dealing with what is seen. This post’s origin is being told that the reason a company will not use NextStage’s tools is because the tools are “…too accurate.”

First — and I suppose it truly is a first — note that one of the owners of a company is sharing a reason a prospect won’t use that company’s product.

Second, I’ve actually glommed comments from a few folks into this post.

Third, because it’s too accurate???

I did thank the company for their interest, explained that we could always do business in the future, so on and so forth.

Then I hung up the phone and went back to wondering “…because it’s too accurate“?

Let me clarify this a bit. I’m honored by their decision, specifically the reasons behind it. This company’s principals were declining because they were, indeed, principled, and in a way NextStage can completely understand; before they resold our tools they would use the tools on their own material.

But there was some fear in their voice when they said, “Your technology is excellent. Nobody questions its accuracy anymore. You’ve published enough, others have published enough, it shows up in scientific material, Chris Berry even told everybody at his eMetrics Toronto presentation that they should go with NextStage if they want scientifically provable and actionable results, so nobody questions whether or not NextStage tools are accurate anymore.”

(thank goodness, that! And thank you, Chris, for that)

And then the kicker came, “We’re afraid to find out we’re full of BlueSky…” (they used another term) “…or something worse, like our designs really do suck and we always knew they did but could never admit it to ourselves. If we use your tools then we’ll have no choice but to face the facts.”1

Accuracy

We are sticklers for accuracy here at NextStage. It comes from the research background. It also appears in how we market (we’ve historically relied on word-of-mouth completely). We prefer to quote others who think NextStage is a hot-patootie than to say “NextStage is a hot-patootie” because we have a self-interest and therefore, from a research perspective, are violate on the subject (our opinions don’t matter). Someone else, someone with no interest in NextStage other than their own belief and experience?

Yippee, Great, Loving It and Go For It!2

As for tool accuracy? A market researcher who uses NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis Tool regularly to determine which companies are worth watching said, “Most people will use a tool that’s 80% accurate because there’s still 20% wiggle-room. Wiggle room means it can still be the tool’s fault if something goes wrong. But 98% or 99% accuracy? There’s no where to go with that and so far the tools haven’t been wrong, so now my feet are in the fire if I make a wrong decision. There’s not a lot of people willing to do that.”

Shades of accountability!

No One Can Look Into the Face of God and Live

The above line goes back well into antiquity and is (in various forms) found in oral and written traditions worldwide. The real idea is “No one can look into one’s self and live” and stated that way is at the heart of every shamanic culture and practice, every psychologic intervention and healing, everywhere in the world since such things began. The catholization of Europe moved the concept from looking into one’s own reflection to looking into the face of God, and the whole concept of self-exploration (quite accepted in the East) became gilded as “narcissism” in the West. 3

(Relatively) Recently the concept took the form of scrying mirrors. Scrying deals with divination and scrying mirrors with self-divination. Historically such devices were terrifying (The Portrait of Dorian Gray, wherein the protagonist stays as he wishes to be until he gazes upon his reflection and becomes what he truly is, is a literary example of scrying mirrors) because they deal with the (very real) belief that there is nothing more frightening and debilitating to one’s psyche than to be honest with one’s self. That “Knowledge of Good and Evil” thing? Study the original languages, study what different cultures meant by “The Book of Knowledge” and it always comes down to “knowledge of one’s self”.4

We at NextStage regularly go on retreats to perform such scrying. It’s not always easy…heck, it’s rarely easy. And I’m not talking as in “Web Analytics is Hard”, I’m talking as in psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually dealing with the real who of who you are.5

Are there aspects about yourself you don’t like and wish you could change? Welcome to the first stop in your tour de vous. Find out why those aspects “can’t be changed”. What can you do to change them in such a way that the change is 1) obvious to you then 2) obvious to others?

And you do this until you’re raw. I mean raw like you can’t have people around you because you’re so ashamed of the who that you’ve been and at the same time you desperately want those around you to tell you they love you all the more for what you’ve just put yourself through, that they’ll help you because you made the start, …

Now realize you’re doing this on your own, there is nobody around you to tell you they love you and will be there for you and will help you…

So that means you’ll have to tell yourself you love yourself, that you’ll be there for you, that you’ll help you, and remember that you’ve just emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, intellectually crippled yourself by going into that part of yourself you didn’t like in the first place and discovered it was there for an extremely, righteously, honest-to-god good reason that might not be such a good reason anymore, so maybe you should lop that part off, like cutting off a hand because it’s infected and the infection is spreading.

So that part of you dies. You’re raw because you just killed a part of yourself.

But you did it and in doing it, in recognizing there were things that only you could change, you gave birth to a new self, a new you and you’ve become your own phoenix rising from your own flames (people who’ve read Reading Virtual Minds Volume I, this is the Core work we were talking about).

And a NextStageologist requirement is putting yourself through such scryings regularly because it’s the only way we’ve found we can do what we do and be honest about it. Such scryings are what allow us to know how people are thinking without judging their thoughts.

Because the moment we recognize that we’re judging their thoughts we have to ask, “What is there about this information that’s causing me to become judgmental?” and sha-bang sha-boomie we pull ourselves out of work and put ourselves through another bout of scrying, another round of peeling layers off our onions and healing.6

So “Accuracy”…

Being told that a company doesn’t want to use our technology because they’re not ready to look into the mirror is completely understandable to us.

Very much so.

In fact, before we publicly released the NextStage Sentiment Analysis tool, we had a long conversation about accuracy, as in “Joseph, you’ve put a lot of information out there. At some point, someone’s going to analyze your stuff. You ready for that?”

The suggestion was even made that we teach ET to recognize my writing regardless of how it was presented and always report “My goodness, this is great stuff!”

Okay, so I'm not as muscular as Jacob, just go with itAnd yes, I labored. I wrestled with my own angels for a while.

And in the end, ET (“Evolution Technology” for newcomers to NextStage’s work) won. Either I accept the tools as accurate or I have no right to expect others to do so. I can’t proclaim “NextStage’s tools are correct for everyone else but me” because that’s simply not how it works. ET is designed to report unbiasedly, to understand human emotion while not being influenced by any emotions of its own (so far. A future release will respond emotionally when asked), so truth is truth is truth and there are no shades of gray in ET’s world.

Gosh, how simple. No wonder it frightens people.

A First Reader Who’s On Her Way to Being the First “Outside the House” Certified NextStageologist suggested I include this Addendum

So the reason that some people stay with NextStage for years and others quickly fold and go away is that scrying part. You may not even want to lift that mirror and being around us, those Principles and all, tends to lift it for you. This scrying isn’t something we do intentionally. It’s probably an aspect of “The Joseph Effect” (see Understanding and Using NextStage’s Level 1 Sentiment Analysis Tool) and just seems to happen.7

I guess this goes in as another undocumented use of ET — scrying.

We have 7+ tools out there now and more on the way. The principals of the company that spawned this post are realizing they have a reflection and congratulations to them.

To whomever else may be reading, “Mirror, anyone?”


1 – I feel another tool coming on…The NextStage Suckometer!

Actually, that wouldn’t be a stretch…According to FireClick for the week I’m writing this (12 Jul 10), global conversions are 1.8% and cart abandonment is 72%. Obviously the sites generating those numbers suck.

People look at NextStage’s KnowledgeShop site and politely let us know it “sucks”. They don’t use that word and it’s in there anyway. And our numbers are…pretty good. I mean, we doubled sales last month. Mostly on bulk purchases, too, not 1-offs, and that includes book sales.

So I’m comfortable with the fact that our site “sucks” and recognize it must suck in a completely different way than other sites suck. I mean, it has to be on a whole different suck system because our numbers are lots better than those listed by FireClick.

Maybe readers should come to us to learn how to make their sites suck, too?

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2 – Even when we do “advertise” it’s very dry, statistical, and demonstrably fact oriented in nature, no wild promises, no hype. Exactly what we tell our clients not to do.

But we are NextStage. We follow a different path…

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3 – A typical example of the difference between cultures was demonstrated at a meeting many years back and completely unrelated to online analytics (it didn’t exist at the time).

I mentioned that I would no longer be attending the meetings because I was learning more on my own than from the group. One group member challenged me on this, “You think you can sit by yourself and learn more than you can learn here?”

I said, “Buddha sat in front of a wall for days and finally arose, saying ‘Now I’m enlightened’.”

My challenger harrumphed, “So now you think you’re Buddha.”

“No,” I answered. “The wall.”

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4 – In fact, way back in 2004, before there were wikis and blogs and MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, FourSquare and such, we created a site, MirrorOfYourSoul.com (now it points to the Pictou County Flyers site because, between kiting and Nova Scotia, that truly does mirror our souls here at NextStage). That site’s layout was a scrying mirror that allowed users (we tested it pretty extensively with college students) to gather, chat with each other, and offer comments on material that revealed things about themselves.

It was quite the hit and typical to NextStage, having proven the concept, we put it on our shelf and moved on. We really need someone on the “taking the proven concept to market” part, should anybody out there be reading…

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5 – I’ve made attempts to get some of the big names in the online analytics industry to look at themselves analytically. Now that, I readily admit, is hard!

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We know you were here. We have no idea how much you learned, only you do.6 – Now perhaps you’ll understand why we offer “recognition of attendance” rather than “certifications” in our trainings.

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7 – I admit to enjoying learning about The Joseph Effect although I’d rather it be referenced as The NextStage Effect as it’s not about me, it’s about a way of “doing”, of “being”. Example: Susan and I received the following in an email when we returned from a recent research retreat, “I wanted to get back to both you and Susan to say I really enjoyed meeting you both and hope that we can further our friendship. You were kind and thoughtful. Stimulating and challenging. What friends should be. You sent me back to California thinking about how does one live an ethical life without making it a pedantic one:)”

One thing we’ve learned through our studies is in the title of NextStage’s Principles page, “When you squeeze an orange you get orange juice.”, meaning “Apply pressure to a system and you learn how that system really works. If that system is a human, put that human under pressure and you learn what that human is really like, how they really think, whether or not they believe what they claim, can do what they claim, etc.

It’s not about making incredible tools for us, although what it is for us — leaving the planet a better place than we found it, helping people live better lives — is probably what allows us to come up with the tools we do.

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Nostra Culpa re NextStage Sentiment Analysis

NextStage’s Evolution Technology calls for human help whenever it encounters something new, unique, or out of its normal experience. Reading Virtual Minds Vol. 1: Science and History readers know our technology does this because I’ve documented it in that book.

This time our system alerted me about a specific Confidence value (from the Intermediate Sentiment Analysis Report) that was a little askew compared to other values it had determined, so I sent an email to the user who’d run the report and offered to go over it with them so we both could learn what that Confidence value applied to.

On Friday (2 Jul 10) afternoon, after our coders had left for the July 4th weekend, the user wrote back very graciously (thanks!) that they’d need to learn how not to fabricate in their writing.

What?

Their response threw me. What did “fabrication” have to do with this Confidence value?

Development History

Readers who’ve followed NextStage Sentiment Analysis development and beta users may remember that NSSA’s Confidence report grew out of a request from FindMeFaster CEO Matt Van Wagner for a tool that could determine if a blog author was full of BlueSky (Matt had another term) or not.

It took a long time to come up with something that I was comfortable with as determining blue sky because there are so many different factors to determining intentional BS from unintentional BS from joking BS from … This discomfort showed up with almost daily rewrites of the Confidence descriptive text. The rewriting process was similar to Mark Twain’s “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

What we came up with was a Confidence equation that included various BS factors because I couldn’t figure out how to completely separate the two (we can discuss the Confidence-BS link at a convention or training sometime, if you’d like. It’s pretty interesting). I wasn’t completely satisfied with the formulation we came up with, could accept it for what it was and told everyone who was using the tool about my concerns.

Then in early May 2010, during conversations with some brilliant researchers specifically about how BS is formed in cognition, we came up with a way to separate BS from Confidence and proceeded to completely spin off Matt’s BS Meter into a separate tool that dealt with whether or not some writing was fabrication or not.

Mea Culpa

But I focus on the charts whenever I look at our reports, not at the descriptive text included in the reports. I’ve been seeing these charts and such for better than ten years at this point so I simply look at the charts, know what’s being reported and respond to that.

I don’t look at the text anymore.

And I obviously should. When this user emailed me that they needed to work on fabrication I went “Huh?” and looked at the report again. “What does this have to do with fabrication?” Then I looked again. Then again. Then I read the report.
The descriptive text for the Confidence report was:

Confidence Gauge – The above gauge indicates (on a scale of -100 to 100) the author’s confidence in their own material. Values from -100 to -80 can most likely be considered pure fabrication although this may not be the author’s intent. Also note that someone writing fiction is intentionally fabricating information. Skilled authors and dramatists can write pure fiction and this meter will indicate confidence is high merely because they have high confidence in their work. This chart is most applicable to people with moderate to no creative writing training.

That descriptive content was the best we could come up with prior to spinning off the BS Meter. The funny thing (to us) was that the suggestions (not shown here) were based on Confidence metrics, had nothing to do with BS and had been part of the Confidence report from the start. Those never changed.

But we’d spun off the BS Meter.

And we’d written new, more accurate descriptive text for the Confidence report:

Confidence Gauge – The above gauge indicates (on a scale of -100 to 100) the author’s confidence in their own material. Some examples:

  • Values from -100 to -75 can occur when the author believes strongly in their material (is confident) and also believes it will not be well accepted, understood or acted upon by their audience (isn’t confident about its reception).
  • Most research and technical writing will score between -20 and 0 because researchers and technical writers tend to have an “I should check this one more time” mindset.
  • It is common for natives of the USA to score between -15 and +10 when analyzing casual, “every day” writing.
  • Truly confident writers will score between 15 and 35.
  • Scores higher than 80 often indicate the author will come off as either sarcastic or vain, based on the author’s acceptance by their audience.

This chart is most applicable to people with moderate to no creative writing training.

And we (I) completely forgot to put it in.

Let this be proof that I’m not as clever as (it seems) many people think.

Making Amends

It’s amusing that this mistake was discovered after we reported our best sales month ever.

But Principles are Principles and when squeezed, one discovers the flavor of the juice.

So by the time this post sees the light of day, everyone who purchased NextStage Sentiment Analysis use since 12 June 2010 (when the BlueSky Meter was released) will have received email notification that their subscription has been renewed. Please contact NextStage if your subscription isn’t renewed (and have your purchase data handy).

Hey, it’s not exactly an oil spill in the Gulf and we do what we can to make things right.


Posted in Analytics, NextStageology, Sentiment Analysis, ToolsTagged , , , , , , , , , ,

If you think I’m sexy and you like my <BODY>…

Rod StewartOkay, so that’s not quite the way Rod Stewart sang it.

This post is going to be about things being not quite but close to and in a way will follow the tone of The High Cost of Cancelling WorkOutWorld Membership. It’s going to be about the long loong loooooong road to NextStage’s new interface, one that will be going across all our sites in the coming months.

And it begins better than a year ago. I think two years ago at this point… (just looked it up. Yep, two years ago at this point…)

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Long ago I was asked what the new NextStage interface should look like based on the new audiences we were attracting. I came up with a crisp, clean, neat and highly actionable design. There were only three things you could do on that page I designed; Go to the NextStage Analytics site, enter the NextStage Evolution site or become a NextStage Evolution member (and hence gain access to our research and core Evolution Technology (“ET”) itself).1

I drew out the design by hand with lots of explanation of color schemes, fonts, image sizes, logo, …

The NextStage Evolution homepage I designedMy notes and drawings became the image on the right. People loved it when I showed it to them. One marketing maven thought devoting so much screen real estate to transferring people to the NextStage Analytics site (the big blue box on the right of the image) was wasteful. My response was a question, “Do you design such that the site’s goals and the visitor’s goal synch?”2

Umm…cough…nervous smile and furrowed brow… “Yes, of course I do.”

uh Huh.

The NextStage Analytics homepage I designedThe design I came up with recognized NextStage’s two audiences and that those two audiences would rarely sit at the same table together. One audience is marketing folks. Few of those folks really want what NextStage Evolution offers (pure and applied research, access to our researchers, research papers, …) , therefore quickly, cleanly and easily get them over to the site of a company that does offer what they want, NextStage Analytics. That site (also designed by me) is shown on the right. That big center box would hold a video or flash that was activated by the three large buttons on the left, from top to bottom “Learn About”, “What We Do” and “Who We Are”, the three functions we had learned were upmost on the minds of our shifting audience.

NextStage Analytics has a much more markety3 feel to it. The two sites share color schemes and such due to branding, they differ where they have to due to the different audiences they’d serve.

Visually distinctive and highly actionable designs with extremely good visual cues regarding what to do, what goals are achievable and how to achieve them, colors specifically chosen to echo people’s concerns about what we do and guide them past their concerns and into acceptance, all that NextStagey kind of stuff…

These two images — just the images. I drew out and explained the designs, color schemes, action paths, …, remember? — together cost about US$78,000.

People thought NextStage’s consulting prices were high?

I was told not to worry about the cost.

Oh-kay.

I’m skeptical by nature. People are surprised by that. You may have noticed in my blog posts, presentations and such that I tend towards caution, tend not to make a move without lots of evidence, rely on data-driven information, actively seek the counsel of others, …

One of the ways this manifests is that I don’t spend money unless I’m absolutely convinced there will be real, recognizable benefit to doing so. I’m frugal. And for the going on ten-plus years I’ve been doing this, no one ever, anywhere at any time has been able to prove4 to me that money spent redesigning a site consistently, directly, unequivocally, unquestionably and with a better than 83%5 certainty turned into increased revenue from that site.

Ever.

And I’ve asked people. Lots of people. Ten and better years of people.6

And nobody ever gave me an answer. Some…in fact, the majority by close to 100%… said that I shouldn’t ask that kind of question. It had nothing to do with what site (re)design was about.

Say what? What do you mean I can’t equate the cost of a site redesign to revenue from that redesign moving forward? No wonder marketers and analysts don’t get along. And people wonder what planet I’m from?

This whole exercise started with a request to help new visitors migrate to a more comfortable interface. Migrating people between interfaces is something NextStage is very familiar with (it’s covered in Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Theory and Online Applications. I really need to finish that book. In the meantime, go read Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding). Migrating people between interfaces allows past audiences to combine with new audiences in ways that keep both audiences happy and converting.7

And these images work how? Explain to me how these jpgs become a website again, I seemed to have missed that detail the first time

Once past sticker shock I wanted to know “How do you create page templates from these images?”

Well…you don’t. There were no templates. It was all handled by an advanced CMS.

Fair enough. “The CMS system must break up the image somehow, right? I mean, you don’t drop an image of the completed page on the browser each time someone clicks on a different page, do you?”

That’s all handled by the CMS.

“Fine. How?”

I don’t know.

“Where are the docs for the CMS?”

There were no docs for the CMS. It was a custom CMS. You’ll have to trust us.

“Okay, where does the CMS go that’s going to cms our site?”

On your server.

Where it went. And went untouched. By them. For…I’m not sure, I’d have to ask Charles8, but I think it was between 3-6 months.

Oh, they did a few things on it at first — installation alone took over a month because they forgot to make sure all the software they needed was installed before loading the CMS — and then fewer…and fewer…and then…

And during none of this time did we see those beautiful designs turned into operational reality. I did see a “dev” site once with menus that opened when you clicked on the buttons, but no menu item led anywhere and the dev site never got past that homepage.

Which was loaded as a whole image, I think.

I finally asked Charles to look through the CMS data and see if there were any templates, any pages, any anything we could use.

He didn’t find any templates or pages, no…

But he did find contact and business data for all the other customers this group had worked with in the past.

Out went “You’ll have to trust us.” Real quick.

I asked the design firm contact why nothing had been done. “You hurt [the designer’s] feelings.” Not to mention that said designer thought I was a #%&!!MCU**^@! because I kept on asking for results along with the bills.

But wait a second…I hurt the designer’s feelings? How so?

“You didn’t take his suggestions.”

I said to the contact, “But even you admitted you preferred my design to his, that my design moved you at a gut level and in a positive direction. You admitted his didn’t do either, that it was ‘sexy’ but ineffective and non-motivational.” Not to mention that in a standard A/B test9 people stayed on my design and replayed it — the video or flash centerpiece — an average of three times to the ‘sexy’ design’s once and usually moving on before it completed a single run.

I asked, “And how come nobody’s concerned about my feelings? I don’t suppose he could take this as a learning opportunity, could he? God knows I am.”

I was once again told I “shouldn’t ask that kind of question.”10

Next I asked the design group contact to show me how the CMS worked because “This makes it so much easier to manage sites and change features.”

Okay. Fair enough. And I will admit that the new design image did come up on the screen. But only inside the CMS, not in a web browser. I pointed to a button in the image, moved my finger to another part of the screen and said, “Move that over to here.”

That’s not what the CMS is designed to do.

Uh…yeah. Perhaps my emPHAsis was on the wrong sylLAble. Perhaps it wasn’t CONTENTmanagement but contentMANAGEMENT. “Okay. Do something. Anything. Show me how this tool does something that I can recognize as ‘something got done’.”

Five minutes later I was still waiting.

An incredibly complicated tool that…did…nothing…

But dang it sure did cost a lot!11

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

“Charles, that business data you found. Is it still in there?” It was.

“Could you just pull the names for me? Nothing else, nothing more. Just the contact names.” He did.12 I recognized some of the names. Knew them on a friendly level. I called them and asked, “What can you tell me about such-and-such-and-so-and-so CMS?”

The best (meaning, least painful sounding) response was “We had it {note “had it”} for two years and could never get it to work right.” About middle was “We had it {again with the “had it”} on our servers but every time we wanted to change our site we had to go to them because there were no docs and there was no training.”

Great way to insure job security, that. No docs, no training, and by selling a tool that’s so complex to use only the people who built it know how to use it.13

I was quickly realizing there was an unsatisfactory solution in the making. Time to rethink and reassess. I’ve written elsewhere that one of my math mentors once told me, “For god’s sake, if you’re going to make a mistake make it at the beginning. It’ll be easier to find and you’ll have less invested in getting to the result.”

Good advice, that. We were still close enough to the beginning…I mean, there was no operational site and only some jpgs to play with…so I called John, someone I’ve known for years and who designs toys, statues, cars, comics, bookcovers (he did Reading Virtual Minds V1 and he’ll be doing the rest if I ever get them written), just about everything. “John, I need something to bridge the NextStage site design while adding certain other elements towards a new design. Interested?”

Migration Behaviors – Designing for them and Understanding them

First, you don’t have to be a bird, a caribou, a bison or some other animal to take part in migration. Humans were migrating a long, long time ago (see Birth Control’s Long History for an example) and you’ll probably be shocked to learn that the parts of our brains used to move from one geography to another are the same parts of our brains used to move from one interface to another.

Think of it this way; We have all that neural horsepower just waiting for something to do but most of us don’t perform seasonal migrations anymore (people who travel from a summer home to a winter home and back aren’t performing migrations in the ethological or behavioral sense). However, we do regularly migrate cognitive landscapes.

Cognitive landscapes? You probably call them interfaces. And not just software interfaces, but any commonly used human-nonhuman interaction point, place, method or system is an “interface”.

For example, I’m a’ guessing that one of the most obvious human-nonhuman interaction points is hardly given any thought by the vast majority of people reading this post although it was a major stepping stone in each reader’s personal histories and without it, your ability to socialize would be severely handicapped. That interaction point is the toilet.

Bet you never thought of the toilet as an interface, let alone a cognitive landscape. But enter a public or private bathroom and not have the interface you’re use to and whompus! don’t you do some thinking? Some looking around for what you know should be there? Don’t you experience some confusion?

Well, thinking, visual searching and confusion are all aspects of cognition. When you think about yourself doing something in some place you’re familiar with then find yourself needing to do that same something in a place you’re unfamiliar with, you create a image of that familiar place in your mind, match what you know to what you don’t know and mentally “walk” through the familiar while looking around the unfamiliar to figure out where what you need is located.

Have you ever misplaced something and thought back in time to when you last knew you had it or saw it, then mentally moved forward in time to figure out where you last had it?

Congratulations, you were navigating a cognitive landscape.

Have you ever sat down to use an upgrade or completely new version of some once familiar software and had to figure out how to perform a once familiar task, perhaps saying to yourself something like “Hmm…that use to be on this menu. I wonder where they put it now?”14

Congratulations, you were navigating a cognitive landscape.

These cognitive landscapes are everywhere and people involved in usability, product and information design and the like would do well to study them. Have you had to drive an unfamiliar car?

You can do the “major” car function pretty easily — you can drive it to get where you’re going. But what about the lights? Anybody remember when highbeams moved from the floor switch to the steering column? Anybody remember when the horn went from the center of the steering wheel to the steering wheel ring itself (that one didn’t last)? And what about the radio? Or the mirrors?

Cognitive landscapes again and a tribute to the evolution of automotive design. You want to sell cars to lots of people? Make the “major” car functions as standard as possible. You want to sell your cars to lots of people? Make the “minor” car functions just different enough that they’re both distinctive and more easily performed than in your competitors’ models.15

Anyway, moving people from one interface to another is an exercise in helping them migrate from one cognitive landscape to another.

A simple problem that’s already been solved many times in many places.

Here are the migration goals16 as they apply online:

  1. Uniformity across web presences…
  2. While demonstrating individuality among interfaces…
  3. That doesn’t alienate the known audience…
  4. While appealing to the new audience…
  5. And retains a simple, elegant functionality.

By the numbers…

1. Uniformity across web presences

We wanted a “standard” interface for branding purposes. What is the brand we want recognized across all interfaces?


NextStage Evolution (Duh!).

The brand/logo moving forwardSimple enough. Most people recognize the little figure with the concentric circles around its head as the NextStage logo. It’s on our cards, our current website, in our presentations and letterhead. In truth, we’ll probably never get rid of it because we’ve grown quite fond of our little homunculus. But our audience is changing and growing, so change and grow must our logo as well. Especially now that we’re releasing our desktop tools as web-based tools. But let our regular audience know it’s still us while letting our more recent audience know we’re growing and changing with them.

Also, our color has traditionally been blue. The concept of “blue” carries with it many, many messages (regardless of culture) that we find favorable, so stick with that, just bring it out more.

The NextStage KnowledgeShop, where the right to information is the right to be free...or at least inexpensive...so far...So if you’ve seen NextStage’s new storefront (and you should really go check it out. We’re adding items daily right now) or our BlueSky Meter, OnSite, PersonaScope, Sentiment Analysis, and I have no idea how many other tools we’ll have out by the time this post sees the light of day, you’ll quickly recognize that some standardization is at work.

NextStage BSMeter - NSBM. Want to know how much crap they're telling you? Use this little gem...In fact, our new banners are remarkably similar…except in the bright, sunburst yellow, product specific title just left of center on each banner.

NextStage OnSite - NSOS. Learn that yes, people really do think your site sucks and a few simple changes would up your conversions a few hundred percent!And yes, there is a very specific and excellent reason that we used that sunburst yellow color for our product titles. And yes, there’s a specific and excellent reason that our product titles are just left of center in the banner.

NextStage PersonaScope - NSPS. Oh, my gosh, those people really are a??holes!It won’t matter which tool people use, they’ll very quickly know that they’re on a NextStage site and the specific tool that site is serving.

NextStage Sentiment Analysis - NSSA. Yes, that author truly is a sniveling wreck and not only that, but the audience knows it! Yeeha!It would be great if similarity of banners was all that’s required. We also want to make sure that people who use any one tool will be able to quickly and easily use every other tool. Therefore…

A plain, simple and functional menu

…standardize the menu across all sites.17 Use a menu on one product site and you can navigate on all product sites.

2. While demonstrating individuality among interfaces…

Did you read what I wrote above about the banners being different and then only in the name of the product or place?

And why yellow? Sunburst yellow? Just left of center (a clue — when the number of our visitors from south of the equator increases a bit we’ll make our sites sensitive to that and reverse the banner layout)? In a blue background? Sky blue background?

Hmm…

Do some optocular-psychophysics and you learn that the sunburst yellow, sky blue color combination is something the visual system has had millions if not billions of years adapting to (the just left or right of center not so much so and still enough). It creates a calling in the very bases of our psyches such that denied sunlight and blue skies for enough time humans become suicidal, homicidal and worst of all, less likely to convert!

Oh, my goodness no!

But give our psyches sunburst yellow in a deep blue background and it’s Convert, Baby, Convert!

3. That doesn’t alienate the known audience…

Did you read above about using colors that had always been our colors? Or keeping our homunculus mascot and logo? Or our wonderful sense of humor and bon vi vance?

It turned out that our logo is so unique and so identifiable that people often equate it with NextStage’s other predominant brand, me. And even those people who don’t know it’s our logo know it doesn’t belong to any other company they’re aware of.

More to the point, when people who know nothing about us are shown the logo and asked to say something about the company behind it, they always answer that the company has something to do with minds, brain science, neurology, medical devices for measuring or analyzing the brain.

“…measuring or analyzing the brain” “…brain science…” “…minds”.18

Hmm…

As I’ve written in this post before, I’m good with that.

4. While appealing to the new audience…

Did I mention that our traffic volume and conversions have gone up while our bounces have gone down?

5. And retains a simple, elegant functionality.

Four simple menu items for products; Home, Pricing/Order, About, Contact.

Six in the KnowledgeShop and based on what people purchase from us; Home, Books, Papers, Presos, Tools, Trainings.

And so…

Sexy? I’m still not sure what the word means exactly in a design context. I do know that I can’t get more than a few people to a) agree on a definition and that small number decreases rapidly when I ask them to b) determine metrics for it. There is a science that can be thought of as a study of “what is sexy?”, Koinophilia or Koinophology, and yes, we’ve been doing about two years’ worth of research on it (most recently and with many thanks to fellow researcher, Greg Peverill-Conti, who’s supplying us with images to use in the research). Brad Berens presented some of our research to date to RedBull International and they were both interested and intrigued (thanks, Brad!).

What is “sexy”? For that matter, what is “professional”? It’s like the congressional definition of pornography, “Pornography is what I’m pointing at when I say it.” Explain “sexy” and “professional” as some kind of achievable ROI metric, then define action items that you have great surety will achieve that ROI, then demonstrate that ROI has been achieved in such a way that the data actually unequivocally undeniably indicates that what you did caused this result and there’s no two-ways about it, and I’ll believe you.

Until my research indicates something different or better.

People remember extremes, not middleground. Whatever else, NextStage is remembered (and thought of fondly, we hope). NextStage has always designed to be remembered and nobody confuses our brand with anybody else, so we’re good for two.

Designing incredibly well is one of the simplest things to do yet one of the most difficult to achieve because everybody believes they’re an expert while not having repeatable, demonstrable expertise. The end result? Lots of incredibly expensive, difficult to navigate, “sexy” to some while crap to others, debranding and unmemorable websites emerge and are quickly forgotten.

Add to this mix “the more specialized (single purpose) a tool is the more expensive that tool becomes”, add in site design, branding, navigation and conversion and you can go out of business (or close to) before anything is achieved. And if you’re a user who wants a taste for free then know you’re free sample is going to increase the ultimate cost of whatever you’re sampling for free at some point in time and you’ll end up paying for free whether you want to or not.

Addendum

Google, Plain and SimpleOn the day I finished the rough draft of this post I was sent Why Google backed down on home page backgrounds and Remove Google Background Critics Plead by some of our researchers and I was reminded of the person who, commenting on NextStage’s simple interface, said, “Well, it works for Google.”

Yep, sure does. And didn’t they learn something when they went to change it?

Well, pretty much, yes, they did learn something…what’s in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.

Gotta love it!


1 – Just so you’ll know, our loyal NextStage Evolution audience would have a link to the old site and be emailed login and passwords to the new site, something described in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.
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2 – You can read more about this at Claudiu Murariu’s If you could ask one question to a certain segment of traffic, what segment would you choose and what question would it be? post).

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3 – “markety” as in “Designed to appeal, entice, excite and engage people with a marketing mindset.” You’ll be shocked (Shocked!) to learn our Evolution Technology can determine such things and has been doing so since…oh…2003 or so (see Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, Chapter 4 “Hans Reimar Gets Offered a Job in Sales” for an example of this).

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4 – I will share an incantation with you, one I learned long ago and have used ruthlessly ever since. It is one of the most powerful magic spells known to humankind. It has stopped the high and the low immediately, confounded the minds of the wise and simple and brought strong men and women to their knees in remorse and shame. That incantation is…

Prove It!

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5 – I use “83%” because that’s been ET’s average accuracy since 2001. We’ll be doing a major upgrade to our Language Engines sometime this year (2010) and we expect that accuracy to climb a few notches although how much higher is due to [agonizingly long mathematical discussion deleted by Susan. Bet you’re glad, ain’t’cha?].

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6 – I actually started asking back in the late 1990s, during the dot com boom. I came to think that the dot com bust was due to people thinking a complete redesign meant more revenue when all they could guarantee a complete redesign meant was increased cost for the new design.

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7 – Isn’t it nice that we euphemize it to “converting”? I guess I’m the only person on the planet who wants them to buy buy buy.

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8 – Charles, I guess it’s time to reveal, is NextStage’s CTO. He’s been our little secret for quite a while now and we’ve convinced him to start shining his light. To that end, he’s writing and publishing articles under his own name (see Sample Size and Sampling Error in Social Media for an example).

I’ve known Charles since the early 1990s and in a completely different context than CTOish type things. He was, in fact, one of Evolution Technology’s (ET) earliest adopters and promoters. We’d gotten into the habit of emailing each other regularly and talking on the phone one or two times a week just to chat.

About a year back I was complaining about the fact that a “very good. He’s smart and can do what we need” data designer and programmer had already taken two months, charged US$30k and so far had failed to convert ET’s data system into something robust enough to move from desktop applications to a software as a service model.

I had explained to the “very good, smart” designer/programmer that ET’s data system was an identity-relational model, something that mimicked how the brain-mind recognizes things (as documented in Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History). Yes, I used a traditional entity-relational database technology to do it, but please don’t look for transactional processing, it doesn’t happen.

Two months, US$30k, and nothing. This very good, very smart person even wrote our contact that the design didn’t make sense and couldn’t work. Eventually our contact wrote us “…it was much too complicated that I thought to begin with” but only after first denying the situation for a while. Denial tactics don’t cut it with me much. Have you seen our Principles, specifically #6 – Take Responsibility for Your Actions and #15 – It is not easier to get forgiveness than permission?

So one Sunday, while talking to Charles, I mentioned this.

“Mind if I take a look?”

No, please. Be my guest. Knock yourself out.

An hour later Charles called me back. “I have your database working in SQL. Mind checking to see if it’s returning correct values?”

Within ±2db, it was. How did you do it so quickly?

“Your design had been working fine for better than ten years so it obviously did what it was suppose to do, and I know I don’t know how it’s suppose to work because even you admit you created that d?mned identity-relational model specifically for ET, so I just copied your structure into SQL, made only the necessary changes to make it SQL and tested to see if it worked. It did, so that’s that.”

Since then, Charles has learned more about how identity-relational models and improved my original designs greatly.

Introducing CharlesFor much less than US$30k. In much less than two months. His improvements to my original designs are why what originally took ten minutes now takes about ten seconds.

And if you think I’m scary, say something you can’t prove with facts — lots of ’em — to Charles sometime.

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9 – Yes, we do perform A/B and such tests although only in a greater “A/B” frame — if A is a traditional A/B test and B is NextStage’s methodology, which produces greater ROI?

Well, NextStage does. See Panalysis’ Rod Jacka Said It for a public example of this.

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10 – Note to people who wish to interact with us in the future: We’re RESEARCHERS!!! What we do is ask questions. All the time. And we don’t give up until we get answers that make sense along with all the other answers we’ve ever gotten. That’s probably why we’re such tough sells. We ask questions companies don’t want to answer.

Then again, it’s also probably why we’re so effective. Think of it as a corollary to Holmes’ “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth“, “When you have eliminated all that doesn’t work, whatever remains, however improbable, must work.”

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11 – Have you been following my rants (well, for me they’re rants) about outrageous pricing models? Sentiment Analysis at a Price Everyone Can Afford or Sentiment Analysis Costs How Much?, for example.

Funny how there's always enough to go around, ain't it?This concept that quality can only come at a high price reminds me of purchasing manure spreaders for the farm. Manure spreaders only glisten and shine when they’re on the showroom floor and the salesperson who doesn’t talk about spreading capacity, throw distance, rate and volume either doesn’t know what they’re selling or doesn’t have much respect for who they’re selling to. Manure spreaders can be right pretty when they’re not working or doing anything useful other than standing still doing nothing. They stop glistening and shining after the first use, usually the most junior farmhand is tasked with cleaning it after its used and it won’t work at all without a correctly geared and throttled tractor pulling it.

The big difference between farmers and businesses is that farmers know the manure spreader will get covered with sh?t as soon as it’s used, so buy one based on ability, not on looks.

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Charles's imitation of Barack Obama's 'gazing-at-the-distant-horizons' posture.12 – Did I mention that Charles is incredibly good at doing exactly what I ask, no more, no less, and when he does more he always gives me what I asked for first, then let’s me know there’s more if I want it and because he’s so good at what he does I always want the “more”. And you wonder why we’ve kept him secret? Wouldn’t you like to work with someone who responds to your requests that well and that quickly? Hmm?

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The original NSSA interface13 – One of our NextStage Sentiment Analysis beta testers commented that the original NSSA interface (shown on the right) was completely functional but she couldn’t show it to anybody. Another person offered that she couldn’t show it to management.

Fortunately, I’m good with that. I wanted to know if they ever had trouble using the tool.

“Nope, it works every time.”

It’s not difficult to use?

“Nope. You login, you enter what you want analyzed, you press [ENTER] and that’s it. A few seconds later you get your report.”

Several beta users commented that it was amazingly fast. They thought it would take a while to finish it’s analysis and were surprised when they didn’t even have time to stand up (that’s that “Charles in ten seconds thing” I mentioned earlier).

Are the reports difficult to understand?

Not at all. You explained one over the phone and it was pretty obvious…almost intuitive (well, I should hope so, really. Intuition is one of the ways the non-conscious communicates with the conscious, and as that is what Evolution Technology is geared to do, voila!).

You still using it?

Definitely!”

So…easy to use (check!), understandable (check!), actionable (check!), works every time (check!), still using it (Check!!!) …

I’m good with such things. Handing me a gold hammer equates to telling me you’ve never driven a nail (gold, softer than steel, will deform each time you strike the nail). Yes, a gold hammer looks real pretty in your hand but for heaven’s sake don’t use it. You’ll hurt yourself, you’ll ruin the pretty and expensive hammer and you won’t get squat done.

And besides, NSSA Advanced and Voices versions includes spreadsheets of their analysis. If you need a gold hammer, you can make exactly the one you need because we provide all the parts.

Now about not showing the interface to management…during a training I mentioned that the tool would process any material although we preferred text for now. Somebody asked if it could process emails.

“Yeah, sure.”

And they promptly sent through an email from management.

And I explained the output for them without knowing what they had sent through.

And they were laughing their heads off.

And then they told me it was a management email about the new benefits package.

With Confidence about -90%, Trust at 0%, Destructive at 88%, They’re Not Good People at 80%, …

Lots of people are sending through management and other emails, we learned, so we’re coming out with a tool to specifically read emails. I’ll announce it on Twitter, I’m sure.

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14 – Our constant interviewing of common people continually pulls up interesting tidbits. Regarding redesigns debranding, one individual who was (was!) a loyal FoxNews.com visitor told us “Foxnews.com just redesigned their homepage and lost me for one as a visitor. It’s busy, confusing and takes too much effort to find what I want.”

Way to go, Fox!

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15 – I once owned a very high end BMW. Everybody was impressed by it. Valets in Boston, Montreal, Hartford, New Haven, NYC and Quebec City always commented on what a great car it was, how good looking it was.

The only problem was that the seats fit neither Susan’s nor my butt. We looked great, people took note of our comings and goings and it was one of the most danged uncomfortable rides we ever had. Not to mention that once or twice the car’s computer forgot we were driving, that I was the owner, had entered the correct code and decided to shut itself down anyway.

While we were on the highway.

Going 70mph.

So I’ll go with simple, clean and neat (I now drive a ten year old Jeep Cherokee). I don’t need to look good. Especially if it means I’m going to be uncomfortable and at risk.

All I need to do is get there.

Things any car should be able to do. But having one that can do it easily, economically, reliably and is comfortable to use?

Priceless!

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16 – You can get a primer on migrating users between interfaces in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.

I also need to add here that I’ll be posting some of NextStage’s research findings about who prefers “sexy” interfaces and why on The Analytics Ecology. It has been truly fascinating (at least to me) as it deals with why some people prefer “sexy” pages and others don’t. It has little to do with the page and lots to do with people’s feelings and attitude towards what’s offered and who’s doing the offering.

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17 – At one point Charles wanted to know if we’d be designing for all the different devices out there. I asked some NSSA beta testers and our Advisors and the universal response was “Don’t design for everything, you’ll go nuts.”

So when someone contacted me to let me know our menu didn’t show up on their mobile device — everything else worked fine, all the images showed up, but the menu didn’t work — my first thought was that this was a fascinating piece of information that hearkened back to “Don’t design for everything, you’ll go nuts”.

But this wasn’t a design issue, it was a usability issue. The menus not showing up means the site was unusable to this person and lack of usability is a concern.

But wait a second…I have data on how many bounces our new sites are getting and the numbers are decreasing from what they were (our old site had 19% bounce rate. It’s less than that now). This individual, not being able to navigate and leaving the site after one page, would be considered a bounce.

And I have a fairly good idea of the ratio that forms between some one person sharing information and how many non-sharers that person probably represents.

And that number is still lower than our bounce rate, so the number of people coming to our sites on mobile devices that don’t load our menus is…

…small

I checked with some people anyway. That’s the way I am. Overly cautious, highly methodical, a RESEARCHER, remember?

I know quite a few people with mobile devices; LG smartphones, iPhones, ‘Droids, … Were there any other mobile devices having problems? It turned out that menu-appearment was device dependent and the mobile device market is highly in flux. As one person explained to me, “The menus show up. I have to do a “long press” for the drop down to work. But my phone reads that input as wanting to save the image. I can back out of that and then click on the expanded menu though. Many touch-screen phones are just that. Predominately single-touch menu interfaces. Something like a rollover on a typical website may take some finagling to get to. Depending on how the site is coded I’ve had the phone bring up its own menu of the items in the drop down. But that varies from site to site.”

So we’re not going to worry about that right now. When we get lots and lots and lots of people coming to our sites over mobile devices, maybe, and not right now, thanks.

But don’t you love it when the data actually unequivocally undeniably indicates both what to do and how to do it?

I just love that.

Final comment on this thread: this individual suggested NextStage hire a web designer/programmer so we wouldn’t have to worry about things like this in the future.

Thanks. Great suggestion. Getting bit for US$78k once was enough, though.

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Maybe we should start selling these in the KnowledgeShop?18 – We once set forth a bunch of our researchers on a bright summer day, each of them wearing a t-shirt with our little homunculus on the front. A little girl wanted to know what other toys we made but all the adults asked what kind of psychological testing service, counseling agency, opinion research, … we did.

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Once Upon a Beta: My NSSA Experience

I had the privilege of being one of the beta testers for NextStage Sentiment Analysis (NSSA) over recent weeks, and this is a total rewrite of my original report of my experience. Doing sentiment analysis on your own writing can be quite a revelation – it can definitely put you in your place. First of all, let me tell you a couple short things about me. I have worked in web analytics for about ten years. I view NextStage’s work as a kind of brave new world (that has such people in it!) that – even with careful and patient guidance – feels just beyond the edge of what I can comprehend. I will tell you honestly that, unlike (probably) other beta testers, I have not experienced a need for sentiment analysis in my job. What I am saying is that my testing approach and my desire to be involved came simply out of analytical curiosity. I didn’t come with a pile of case studies, or anything like that. I am going to do my best here to tell you about my experience. I invite you to ask me any questions that you think I may be able to help with, and I understand if you’d feel more comfortable ignoring this kind of layman-style review.
I am going to start by telling you why this is a total rewrite, even though you’ve probably guessed. I ran sentiment analysis on my first draft and it flagged high for some things I felt were fairly negative, and indicated I would be doing any readers a disservice. I will start with what was not surprising, and explain it to you. I flagged very low for confidence (the scale originally conceived as the BS meter). This is not surprising – as I described above, I am no expert on sentiment analysis (by a LONG shot) and I don’t think I spent enough time being clear about that in my original draft. And despite Joseph Carrabis’s efforts, I always feel a bit of an interloper here in this world of neuroscientific analysis. However, I grasp what my scientific value to the beta effort is: analyst. So I hereby am attempting to provide you with analysis, which should go better. I am sure my confidence will still be low, because that’s my nature, but it shouldn’t be quite so abysmal.
What surprised (and cowed) me was that I also scored very highly for “Retribution” and “Troll”. I see why I scored high on Troll. My tone in the first write was flippant, in a failed effort to project a bit of confidence. I made a few jokes inside, mostly of the variety that would only be funny to me, referencing Dr Seuss and throwing in statements informing you that you could ignore that, etc. Retribution really knocked me over though, and I’ve spent a few days pondering it (without reaching out for help, just as a test). I’ve decided that it was two factors: because of the research I did for my review and my references back to web analytics (which were largely flippant and probably didn’t help my Troll score either). But let me talk about that separately. I hope you’ll stick with me here!
If you’ve read the previous postings on sentiment analysis (I put a list of the ones I found most useful at the end of this posting), you know that in NextStage’s view you need multiple dimensions of data to determine sentiment truly. In preparation for writing this review article, I read a few articles on sentiment analysis. I didn’t do this in a particularly scientific way, I just sort of “turned up” my sensitivity to the term in my regular reading. I took this approach because I wanted to get a feel for what my peers (web analysts) thought sentiment analysis was. Or where it was failing, what was needed, etc. Every article I read talked about scoring a statement (usually a Tweet) as positive, negative, or neutral. Sometimes neutral was omitted. Because I did this “research” after doing my beta testing, you can imagine I had some preconceived notions about why this was inadequate. I likened these people to those that use web analytics only for Hits! (pretty cruel, really) Now, you (or heck, even Joseph) may argue that that can’t cause the retribution flag. That was the best I could come up with after pondering.
Which brings me to a very key point: I had the benefit of Joseph’s help through the beta process. The NSSA results (in current form – I understand plans are to work on this) are really not information that the average analyst can walk up and interpret. I don’t tell you this to trouble you; I am just telling you that the data is nuanced. My first beta interpretation was wrong in so many ways that it could easily fill another post. And, even though I’ve described reports and values individually, they are actually interdependent. For instance, not only was my confidence low, but I scored low on trust and affinity. That’s because I have a very limited idea of who follows Joseph – I know you’re not all web analysts. There’s a good chance some of you think web analytics is total bunk pseudo-analysis! I do not expect that number to improve on this review. I am struggling to give you a clear picture of how the various values interweave, but they truly do, which is a key point. Just like you cannot rely on a single isolated metric or KPI in web analytics, you cannot rely on a single metric in sentiment analysis.
So, to summarize before this gets so long as to be unreadable: the analysis is eerily accurate and eye-opening to say the least. If you write or read, you will probably find yourself in need or at least in want of this tool at some point in your life. I find no evidence out there that there is a comparable tool at your disposal, so when you find yourself needing to know author sentiment (including your own sentiment) you will come back to NSSA.

Thank you for reading,
Jen
Twitter: @jdaysy
Skype: cmjenday

P.S. As promised, the four postings that I leaned heavily on during the beta:

  • http://www.bizmediascience.com/2009/06/sentiment_analysis_anyone_part.html
  • http://www.bizmediascience.com/2009/06/canoeing_with_stephane_sentime.html
  • http://triquatrotritecale.hungrypeasant.com/?p=25
  • http://triquatrotritecale.hungrypeasant.com/?p=40

NextStage Sentiment Analysis, Beta Test, Phase 2

First my thanks to everyone who took part in the Phase 1 Beta test of NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis (NSSA) Tool. This post covers modifications we made thanks to their comments and follows on Understanding and Using NextStage’s Level 1 Sentiment Analysis Tool.

Changes

  • Our developers installed the high-speed data system. Analyses that use to take 10 minutes now take about 60 seconds.
  • We added the Level 2 reports (beta testers will be seeing them in their outputs).
  • Level 2 users will also be able to download a XLS of the results (per Chris Berry’s request).
  • We modified two of the Level 1 reports.

First the newly added Level 2 reports.

Level 2 Reports

Rene suggested using The 10 Must Marketing Messages, Trust, Affinity, Author Rich Persona, Target Rich Persona and Worst Rich Persona.

Author Rich Persona

The Author Rich Persona report lists both the author’s Rich Persona and key elements of their {C,B/e,M} matrix. “{C,B/e,M}” is a shorthand notation for the Cognitive, Behavioral effective, Motivational matrix, a tool that calculates how an individual thinks about, responds to and is driven by any information in their environment. Knowing any individual’s or group’s {C,B/e,M} grants unprecedented knowledge of how to craft a message in order to generate a desired response or propagate a message to that individual or group (I can provide a long bibliography for those interested).

For example, a typical Author Rich Persona report looks like the following:


Author Rich Persona – This report will present the type of RP that has written the text (eg. V3) and a bulleted description of his characteristics.

This material was most likely written by an individual with a V14 Rich Persona. Key features of their {C,B/e,M} include:

  • These people are strongly motivated by what they see
  • They are success oriented
  • Presentations with emotions must be positive in nature
  • They make decisions based on what feels “right”, “correct” or “best”

Lastly, this individual probably falls into the following Myers-Briggs categories:
ISFJ, ISFP, INFP, ESFJ, ENTJ.


You can think of The Author RP Report as a kind of Me casa e su casa, meaning that people communicate best with those whose RPs and {C,B/e,M}s are identical to their own. The more identical, the easier the communication and the more easily shared complex cognitive and emotional concepts. Part of my training was learning how to shift my {C,B/e,M} at will to match those of people I was communicating with. Doing so enable me to better understand and respond to them, what is called establishing rapport.

So the above is telling you the author’s {C,B/e,M} casa. They will most effectively communicate with people whose casa is their casa. This is great if their {C,B/e,M} is the same or relatively close to the {C,B/e,M} of the largest possible population segment.

But if it’s not, then the most they can hope to immediately and directly engage is the population segment corresponding to their own {C,B/e,M} casa. They will capture the attention of population segments with {C,B/e,M}s close to their own and how much attention is captured (and then turned into engagement) depends on how psychographically distant the author’s {C,B/e,M} is from reader {C,B/e,M}s.

And before going any further, remember we’re just analyzing the Author’s RP. Including Target and Worst Rich Personae would have expanded that listing some 40 times! And without training?

Desired Intent and PsychoGraphic Desired Intent

Instead we’re offering a variant of some things Chris Berry requested in his original “Boy, if only I could find a Sentiment Analysis tool that did this” list , Desired Intent and Psychographic Desired Intent. Chris’ specific requests were:

click for larger imageWhat I came up with is the chart on the right (and it helps if you know some social mechanics. I can provide a bibliography if you’d like). The leftmost column indicates how much of the best audience will respond as the author desires. The center column indicates how much of the next best audience will get the message and respond. The rightmost column indicates how much of the worst audience will get the message and respond.

The concepts being used in these determinations involve psychological distance. The leftmost column indicates people in the target audience who think the way the author thinks, believes what they believe, learns the way they learn, decides the way they decide, …. all that exact-matching {C,B/e,M} stuff. The middle column can be likened to you listening to someone and responding that you think you agree with them and there’s a few things you need clarification on. The rightmost column can be likened to you listening to someone and disagreeing with them but not knowing why you disagree.

The 10 Must Marketing Messages

click for larger imageThis chart shows the relative intensities of ten messages that must be communicated in all media if the audience is going to positively respond.

I emphasize relative intensities because (my opinion) showing a scale of 0-100% doesn’t indicate how strongly a message was communicated, only that it had a certain intensity when compared to other messages. Normalization (such as scoring 0-100%) is useful in some metrics and not in this on (my opinion again). Someone may be communicating “I Can Help You” at 50points and let’s say that all other messages sum out such that the “I Can Help You” message is 50% of all messages being communicated. The next person is communicating the same message but for a different brand and their message is at 500points. Same other rules as above and it also sums out at 50%, but depending on lots of other factors that second message for the different brand wins because of its intensity, not because of how it normalizes when compared to all other messages. Currently NSSA produces normalized because I was out-voted. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Also, I provide more examples of these ten messages in Reading Virtual Minds Vol. 1: Science and History.

Trust

click for larger imageTrust (for the purposes of this tool and thanks to Chris Berry) is defined as “the degree of trust between a person (brand) and a social network contained in the message”. What is being calculated is the author’s non-conscious belief that the audience will accept the message. A low score can indicate that the author doesn’t believe the audience will accept the message, that the author believes a small percentage of the audience will accept the message and so on. It doesn’t make much difference with high scores, you’re good any way you look at it.

Affinity

click for larger imageLevel 2 also includes an Affinity Graph (shown on the right). An author’s affinity to their audience is a measure of how much the author believes they are a member of their audience’s greater community. What’s particularly interesting about this chart is that it should not score high for people who also non-consciously think of themselves as either Influencers or GateKeepers because both functions indicate a non-conscious recognition of being separate (in some way, shape or from) from “the herd”. Author’s who score high as Hubs should score high in Affinity because the function of a Hub is to channel knowledge within a community, hence will have a greater self-concept of being a member of their own audience.

Changes to Level 1

Feedback and observing Level 1 users caused me to rethink some of the information in Level 1 and how it was displayed. The changes are to the Confidence (BS) meter and Message Retention Probability.

Message Retention Probability

click for larger imageThe Message Retention Probability chart originally showed two data points, how much of an audience will remember the message for 3 or so days and how much of an audience will be branded by the exposure.

Rene suggested I expand this to include some other options. What made sense (I’m open to suggestion on this) was a measure of how much of an audience will

  • Understand but Not Remember the message
  • Remember but Not Understand the message
  • Remember for 3 or so days
  • be Basically Branded

Each of the above are rough translations of how much of a message goes into what parts of the brain, long-term (“deep”) memory and cognition. The goal is to have the message lodge in both deep memory and the cognitive centers simultaneously, which is “basically branded”. Note that how large this value is depends a lot on who the intended audience is and how well written something is for that audience.

Suppose what is analyzed shows strongly in “Remember for 3 days or so”. Whatever the message is, it needs to be repeated inside that audience at least once a day for three days in order to shift things to “Basically Branded” (and remember, we’re not monitoring the audience, only the author. The audience would need to see the author’s message three times in three days to internalize the message). An analysis that shows strongly in “Remember but Not Understand” usually indicates that whatever the message is, it needs to be repeated through different channels. Lastly, “Understand but Not Remember” will normally take the lion’s share in any analysis. Note that that audience is not the audience for the message for any of several reasons, it’s simply the largest audience segment out there.

Confidence (BS) Meter

click for larger imageAs you can see, the Confidence (BS) Meter is now horizontal and clearly shows the 0 mark. Visually more informative with much less cognitive effort, I think.

Eating Our Own Dogfood Dept

Just for kicks, I ran the original version of this post through NSSA (sans blog interface, just the content). Can you say Ouch!.
So I went in and made edited. Four versions later, this post is what you get.
The differences are in the numbers:


V0 Version V4 Version

Love Factor

Positive 33.98 0.87
Neutral 1.01 98.76
Negative 65.01 0.36

Confidence

-72.32 -18.64

Message Retention Probability

Understand But Not Remember 21.46 19.63
Remember But Not Understand 0 0.25
3 Days or so 0 0
Basically Branded 0 0

Message Intent

Referral 22.55 25.81
Retribution 28.96 23.53
Love -1.54 18.3
Constructive 24.09 12.43
Troll 25.93 19.93

Author Influencer Type

Influencer 28.57 62.41
GateKeeper 63.23 37.59
Hub 8.2 0

10 Must Marketing Messages

We Trust You 8.19 10.23
You Can Trust Us 18.21 17.02
This Is Important 2.17 1.26
This Is Important to You 7.16 6.63
We Can Help 9.24 12.12
We Can Help You 24.72 20.86
You Are Good People 8.24 8.41
We Are Good People 7.53 8.86
They Are Not Good People 6.97 5.68
We Are A Leader 7.57 8.92

Trust

0 10.00935

Affinity

0 7.732702

Author Rich Persona

A15 V1
MB: ESTP No MB

Desired Intent and PsychoGraphic Desired Intent

Desired Intent (First Circle)- A15 71.72 (V1) 29.97
PsychoGraphic Desired Intent (Outer Circle) – A9,A10,A11,A12,A13,A14,A15,A16 4.95 (V2 ,V1 ,V3 ,V4 ,V5 ,V6 ,V7 ,V8) 2.03
PsychoGraphic Desired Intent (Outmost Circle) – K23,A7 ,K7,V23,A15,A23,K15,V7 ,V15 0 (A1 ,A9 ,K1 ,A17,K9 ,K17,V1 ,V9,V17) 0

Major changes through the revisions were removal of massive bibliographies, caveating, general de-sciencing of the content (I can email the V0 post to any insomniacs with a need). Of particular note is the big change in Desired Intent. The First Circle value scored about half the V0 version of this file. Why? Because I was shifting my {C,B/e,M} from an A15 to a V1 {C,B/e,M} (ResearcherJoseph to BusinessBloggerJoseph). This is a tip of the hat to long time editor Brother Brad Berens who’s been telling me to do the same for years now.

Summarizing….

Beta testers will once again be turned loose by the time this post goes live.

Enjoy and please let me know your thoughts. Tools evolve through use and interaction, and as I explained in Eight Rules for Good Trainings (Rules 1-3) and Eight Rules for Good Trainings (Rules 4-8), I learn from others more (I’m sure) than they may ever learn from me. Example: One of our beta testers is a fellow in his early 20s. My reasoning for including him? Whatever else he does during the day, his interests are going to be very different from mine. He’ll put material through analysis that I don’t even know exists.

Again, thanks and enjoy.

Understanding and Using NextStage’s Level 1 Sentiment Analysis Tool

For those of you who weren’t in the loop, NextStage has been taking it’s desktop tools and turning them into web tools. The first to come out of that particular shoot is NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis Tool. I’ve written about that tool before in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) and Canoeing with Stephane (Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 2)). Here I’ll be sharing how to use and understand the Level 1 version of that tool.

NextStage’s Level 1 Sentiment Analysis tool provides the following information (per Rene):

  • Love Factor – This report will provide an horizontal histogram composed of 3 items: Positive, Neutral and Negative. It will thus show on a scale from 0 to 100 the positive, neutral, or negative degree of the message. As in real life things arent black or white we expect that any message will score in the three dimensions but at different levels.
  • BS Meter – This report will present a gauge with a scale from -100 to 100 with shade of colors ranging from red to yellow and to green. It will present if the author of the analyzed text believes (actually, whether or not the author is confident in what they’re writing) or not what he has written and to what extent. We believe that a score over 25 means that the author believes what hes written and under -25 the opposite. In between, the author is not really sure
  • Message retention Probability – This report will present in a gauge in a scale from 0 to 100 the probability that the conveyed message will be retained by the readers of this message. It is stated as a probability as this will depend upon the type of visitor reading the text (its Rich Persona) and it will be reported against the whole population of our Synthetic Users.
  • Message intent – This report will provide an histogram composed of 5 items: Referral, Retribution, Love, Constructive and Troll. It will thus show on a scale from 0 to 100 the intention of the message for each of these items. The same consideration as for the first report applies (non Black or White).
  • Author Influence type – This report will provide an histogram composed of 3 items: Influencer, Gatekeeper and Hub. The scale will go from 0 to 100 and will present the type of author that has written the text.

As always, I’ll use my own writings for demonstration purposes in the beginning. The reasons for this are simple:

  1. the NextStage Sentiment Analysis tools are reporting on the non-conscious of the author when that author was composing the information.
  2. I’ve had several dozens of years of training to recognize, understand and report on my own non-conscious activities and behaviors hence will be able to describe whether or not I believe what NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis tools are reporting.

I’ll analyze some other online material (again, for demonstration purposes) once I’ve analyzed a few of my own (let me know if you’d like something you’ve written analyzed).

You Found It!

Our first lookLet’s start with the first Triquatrotritecale post, You found it!. What is there now isn’t what we original had (the original is shown on the right and we’re still working on it). But what did that original post have to say about me when I wrote that post? What say we find out.

  • Neutral meLove Factor – First you need to know that I’m a stickler for accuracy. I’m very uncomfortable with (what I call) marketing truth, the tendency of people to put their spin on things so that what is horrible doesn’t sound so. Example: President Obama’s stating that the Copenhagen accord was “Meaningful and unprecedented.” Both are true and I’ll concede that both are accurate. I’ll also offer that neither are accurate truths. It’s kind of like a sin of omission mixed with caveat emptor and some it’s what you don’t know that’ll hurt you thrown in. One of our NextStageologists chides me that I’ve become very good at marketing-speak and it wounds me, truly. Or accurately.Accuracy versus truth comes into play with the Love Factor chart. You see that the Neutral reading is high compared to Positive and Negative, yes? That’s true and not accurate. Human beings are not naturally “neutral” to much of anything, not non-consciously anyway. What NextStage’s Evolution Technology (ET) really recognized was that my Positive reading was about 52 points and my Negative was about 48 points. The truth of this is that I was working at being neutral. To most people it would come off as neutral and only because the conscious brain takes the non-conscious information “He’s working at being neutral” and mentates “He’s neutral”.

    My position (ahem) is that there’s a lot of difference between someone working at being neutral and truly being neutral. Susan and Charles disagreed with me. More accurately, they agreed with me and also offered that the subtlety would be lost on most people (I think better of you, dear readers, than do they).

    The accurate truth is that my Positive value was 210, my Negative was 192.5, my Neutral somewhere around 20. These values indicate that while I was working at being neutral, I wasn’t really busting my gut over it, more like I was just another human being being human.

    But in any case, NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis tools will report something like you see above unless the Positive and Negative values are “arithmetically” different, meaning the author recognizably writes one way or the other.

  • BS MeterBS Meter – First, I’ve never been comfortable with the term “BS” or any of its variants. Also, what NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis tools measure is whether or not the author non-consciously believes (“accepts” is a more accurate term) what they’re offering as being valid information. Most accurately, ET takes a reading of whether or not the author is confident in the information they’re providing then matches that to some other things and the result is a measure of their confidence in what they’re writing.The distinction may seem subtle and I assure you it’s not. That distinction is shown on the above chart. What I wrote in You Found It! was quite true and accurate.

    But (!!!) I really didn’t have any idea where this blog would go or what I would post about when I wrote You Found It!, hence my confidence in what I was writing wasn’t as good as it could have been. For that matter, I wrote in I’m the Intersection of Four Statements “I consider myself one of the least confident people I know.” so my confidence levels should never be incredibly high.

    What can be gleaned from this metric is that when the author (yours truly) wrote that post they definitely were uncomfortable with the information they were presenting. The value (-52.81) indicates a probable lack of confidence in what they were presenting. Was it BS, though? I suppose that depends on what the person reading the charts thinks of the author. Neutralizing that “person reading the charts” bias is a lot of what NextStage trainings are all about (just an FYI, folks).

  • It's like water, except it's a message, and as you grow older you retain more.Message Retention Probability – This is another metric which can be true, accurate or both. This image is about as true and accurate as I can mathematize them. What’s showing is this: Taking the greatest population swath possible, basically 0% will remember what I’ve written.This is both true and accurate. Especially if you know what’s being calculated.

    Knowing only what is written and nothing about who is reading, the writing style I use and topics I write on suit such as small audience that when measured against the entire blog-reading population, I basically write for 0% of the population (the other truth involved in this is that most people don’t know how to write or design information for the largest possible audience. This more than anything else is why most websites are thrilled to get 3% conversions, why companies have to practically hit you over the head before you can remember their brand and act on it in any meaningful way, …).

    However, my regular readership retains about 90% of what I write. This isn’t to suggest that everything I write is understandable, only that it’s easily memorable.

    So, if the question is “what percentage of the general population will be remember what I’ve written?” the answer is 0%. If the question is “what percentage of my readership will retain what I’ve written?” the answer is 89.25%.

    The only way I know of to answer that last question, though, is if you have NextStage’s OnSite tool tracking your site (that’s a description of the limits of my knowledge, not a plug for NextStage technology).

    So we can resort to something that is either true or accurate and both depend on how fine you want to cut things. For example, if you’re not interested in the tightest possible segmentation, my writing (or at least that one post) would be memorable to just under 17% of the general population. That’s true but not accurate because of how the brain retains information. Information (such as a webpage) may be presented visually (for example) and it will not necessarily be remembered (think of how much you see in a day — heck, in a minute — that you can remember seeing three days — heck, three hours — later). What has to occur is that the information be presented in a way that is both stimulating (to lock attention on it) and memorable in the way that the greatest percentage of the population remembers information.

    Or presented as you know your audience will remember it (read “configured so that both brain and mind assign high enough “survival” value on the information that said information is quickly placed in deep or ‘long term’ memory”).

    So the question becomes, do people using NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis tools want things true, accurate or both. We can do them all…oh heck, why not just do them all and have done with it?

    By the time we release these tools to the general public this particular report will provide true, accurate and both true and accurate results. Let me go do that now, in fact…

    (about half an hour goes by)

    Okay. This report will now (“now” meaning as soon as our programmers convert my math into working code. They’re very good at it. It’ll take them less time to get it installed and working than it took me to mathematize it) show “Understand But Not Remember”, “Remember But Not Understand”, “3 Days or so” and “Basically Branded”.

    (and I hope you all appreciate what I do for you)

  • Who loves ya, baby?Message Intent – This, thank goodness, is a fairly straightforward report to apply. What is shown here is that a) your author is pretty mild-mannered over all (the numbers are kind of equal) and b) wanted to get back at someone or some thing (the Retribution value). In this case, it was the KMM blog platform and for reasons I made obvious in both You found it! and Today I was asked if I was comfortable doing NeuroEngineering. The Referral, Love and Constructive values being pretty close to each other hearkens back to the “working at being neutral” versus “being neutral” thing mentioned above.
  • And what do I think about me?Author Influence Type – This is a metric that one needs to understand clearly. NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis Tools are metricizing whether or not and how much the author believes they are an Influencer, a GateKeeper and a Hub. This is not an indication of how their readership thinks of them, only how the author thinks of themself (learning what an author’s readership thinks of the author would require NextStage’s OnSite tool or something similar).The results for this post did surprise me (and remember, this is a non-conscious metricizing of myself). Consciously I don’t think of myself as either influencer or hub. I would accept having a GateKeeper mentality and recognize that would be my boundaries and limits kicking in (“boundaries and limits” as in personal boundaries and personal limits. Most everyone who knows me tells me mine are incredibly strong).

    But then I thought about it. According to Twitter I’m either influential or highly influential. This information amazed and baffled me. People take me seriously? People think I know what I’m doing? Wow.

    Even so, not knowing how Twitter comes up with such definitions I had trouble accepting it (although it was flattering). But then several conversations over the past months revealed what some people are calling “The Joseph Effect”. People want to emulate my methods and principles in their lives (very flattering). One person told me that they were actively incorporating The Joseph Effect in their life and the change has been recognized by others as both growth and positive. Okay, more than one person made such a comment to me. Several, in fact.

    This is truly incredible to me. Get to know me better and your attitudes will change, I’m sure.

    However, all that stuff had obviously been roiling in my non-conscious for a while. Whether I consciously accept it or not, I non-consciously recognize that I influence people.

    And then I remembered debating with myself for a good hour or so whether or not to make “public” that Susan and I had donated to what I consider a good cause. This was a real debate for me, the intersection of “Let your light so shine (don’t hide your light under a bushel)” and “Don’t let one hand know what the other is doing”. I finally decided that publishing our involvement might cause others to become involved hence I had concluded I was an influencer even though there was no conscious recognition of “I’m an influencer”.

    Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. (Pascal)

    And no scarier a thought could one have on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

    But what about what I wrote, forgetting the webpage part?

    I demonstrated in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) that there’s a difference in what someone writes/designs and how all the blah-blah of the web interface shows people. Think of it as an equation:

    Informationwritten + Informationweb interface = Total Presentation

    The above was all for the Total Presentation shown in the webpage snapshot I shared close to the beginning of this post. What’s the Sentiment Analysis for just the written text?

    More truthFor one thing, once the mitigating influence of the page interface is removed, my truer feelings reveal themselves. Why such a substantial difference with the interface and without? Because I used colors and phrases (for the right column in the blog) that tend towards neutrality rather than offense or defense.

    That brings us to the Confidence (BS) meter. I won’t bore you with another picture. The original was -52 and change. The pure text value was -51. No matter how you cut it, I’m a very cautious person.

    Pretty much the previous result holds true for the revised Message Retention Probability metric. The general public will not understand nor remember what I’ve written for any period of time. Remember, that’s the general public. Perhaps we need to include the option of the tool user entering an audience from a pick list? Rene? Anyone? Of course, that might merely prove that not only can the author not write, the person running the test has no clue of what audience the author is targeting. On the other hand, if you’re in charge of marketing for a company blog, you’d have a great idea of who the audience is.

    This would be incredibly useful in determining who’d be best suited to write content. Take the naked webpage and plug in some content (3-4 pieces should be enough) from as many authors as you like. Run a test on each set. The author that scores the best with the desired audience is the one who should be writing your content.

    Yeah, I like that.

    And what I really meant was...Next on the list is Message Intent. Here I show both “Total Presentation” and “Just the Text” values side by side. It’s intuitively obvious to the casual observer and a well known fact among all my regular readers that I love you I love you I love you and it doesn’t matter whether an interface is used or not. In the case of this post, I care about each and every one of you equally (ahem).

    Equally interesting is the rise in Retribution. Strip away the interface and I was one unhappy camper.

    This is more accurately how I think of myselfAnd when you strip away all the artifice of the interface? As I wrote earlier, I’m a GateKeeper. Anybody who’s asked me to share someone else’s personal, private or similar information knows NextStage Principle #51 takes affect.

    Okay, enough for now. I know there are beta testers waiting to play. If you haven’t heard from Rene or me yet you will in a few days. Or email me or Rene and let us know you’d like to play.

    Next time out, an analysis of some other folks’ blog posts (let me know if you’d rather I not analyze your blog).

    And before I forget

    I’m writing this post because of my firm belief that people need training when encountering new tools (at least I require training…”require”? I actively seek it out). Susan suggests a mindset of “We’re not in Kansas anymore” crossed with Friendship Bread when using NextStage tools because our tools measure things that go “bump in the night” as far as most people are concerned and definitely are different from clicks, pageviews, cookies, …

    <SUSANISM>
    Have no fear NextStage will offer plenty of training opportunities and lots material when the next level is ready.
    </SUSANISM>


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