Saturday, December 31, 2016

What do people think about whether Donald Trump will be able to keep his campaign promises?

At the Washington Post on November 28, 2016 Jenna Johnson had an article titled ‘I will give you everything.’ Here are 282 of Donald Trump’s campaign promises.

In the aftermath of the election The Economist and YouGov did a poll about what people believe that was reported on December 27th in an article by Kathy Frankovic titled Belief in Conspiracies largely depends on political identity. It linked to a 144-page .pdf file with detailed results. Another Washington Post article by Catherine Rampell titled Americans - especially but not exclusively Trump voters - believe crazy, wrong things discussed some conspiracies. What caught my attention in the detailed results instead was two questions (#20 and #21) about campaign promises. One of them was:
“About how many of Donald Trump’s campaign promises do you think he will TRY to keep?”

Not sure
Hardly any of them
Some of them
Most of them
All of them

When we look at the sum for All of them and Most of them, we see there is a large partisan divide. For the Total sample there is 38%. For Republicans there is 70% (like believing in Santa Claus), for Independents there is 35% (close to the Total, and half of that for Republicans), but for Democrats there is just 19% (half the Total).

Detailed results for this question are shown in a bar chart. Click on it for a larger, clearer view.

A second more realistic question was:

“About how many of Donald Trump’s campaign promises do you think he will be able to keep?”

Here when we look at the sum for All of them and Most of them, we see again there is a large partisan divide. For the Total sample there is 23%. For Republicans there is 45% (almost twice the Total), for Independents there is 18% (again close to the Total),  and for Democrats there is 14%.

Detailed results for this question are shown in another bar chart. Click on it for a larger, clearer view.

The image by Carol M. Highsmith showing a statue of Tex Randall came from the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shallow versus deep research about how much Americans trust their mass media

On December 26th Jane Genova spat out yet another shallow blog post titled Media - Trust Down to 32% (Source: Gallup). She linked to their September 14, 2016 article titled Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low. But Jane didn’t bother to tell us  the question, dig into the detailed results, or comment on what they really meant. Here is what Jane missed by barely scratching the surface.

Gallup had repeatedly asked the following question:

“In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?”

The summary statistic they had reported was the percent for a great deal plus a fair amount.

The infographic shown above portrays one result from 2016 - only 8% of us had a Great Deal of trust, while another 24% just had a Fair Amount of trust, for a total of 32%. What about the past decade? (Gallup also has data from 1997 to 2005, but none for 2006).

A table shown above lists Gallup results for the past decade by all four poll categories:

None at All = 1
Not Very Much = 2
Fair Amount = 3
Great Deal = 4

Back in 2007 only 47% (less than half of us) had either a Great Deal or a Fair Amount of trust, and since then it generally has been dropping. In 2010 just 12%, or one of eight, had a Great Deal of trust and it has been even lower in the other nine years. We didn’t really trust the media very much over that time period. 

How did party affiliation affect that drop from 40% in 2015 to 32% in 2016? Independents went from 33% to 30%. Democrats went from 55% to 51%. But Republicans went from 32% to only 14%. That’s an 18% drop that accounts for most of the overall 8% drop. 

There is another way to look at those poll results, by calculating a Trust Score using the formula (similar to a Fear Score):

Trust Score = [ 1x(% for None at All)
 + 2x(% for Not Very Much)
3x(% for Fair Amount)
 + 4x(% for Great Deal)]/100

Another table shows the Trust Score, which has has dropped from just 2.37 in 2007 (less than halfway up from Not Very Much to a Fair Amount) to only 2.13 in 2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Don’t underestimate the ingenuity of an annoyed user

On November 29, 2016 in the Shark Tank blog at Computerworld there was an amusing story titled Never EVER underestimate an irritated user.

A large manufacturer had proclaimed a new security policy - all computer screens will lock up after 15 minutes with no activity. Then users had to log back in again - with their passwords that had to be changed frequently.

"An employee on the factory floor was very irritated by this change, and devised a system so that his computer would never lock.

He turned his optical mouse upside down so that the sensor was facing up. Then he hung a rag over the mouse, and positioned a fan to blow at the rag.

That way, there was always mouse activity on the computer -- and he never had to key in his password to gain access to the computer during his shift."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Using yourself as a prop for a speech

Patricia J. Martens was director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) from 2004 to 2014. She died on January 10, 2015 from mesothelioma (asbestos lung cancer). A magazine article about her titled Researcher Patricia Martens Turned Dry Data into Stories appeared in the February 2015 issue of Healthcare Policy, Vol. 10, No. 3, pages 10 to 13. I found it in a search at PMC. It describes some of her presentation poses:

“....Most memorable, however, was her trademark ‘squish and shift’ gesture, in which she clasped her hands and raised her arms to form a triangle. She used this gesture to help audiences understand the significance of changing the position and shape of a bell curve representing the distribution of a particular health or social indicator in a population.

If the whole curve could be shifted in a positive direction (she would maintain the triangle proportions but shift her arms to the side) the overall population health gains could be significant, but the gap between the least and most healthy (the tails of the curve) would remain the same. Next, she would demonstrate the ‘squish’ (she would bring her elbows closer together) to explain the importance of a targeted effort to reduce inequality by improving the condition of those who were least healthy.”

Patricia also used another simple prop:

“She would distribute licorice sticks, for example, to help non-statisticians grasp the significance of the Lorenz curve, a graphical representation of income-related inequality. The more the curve sags, the greater the inequality. Dr. Martens would have audience members bend their licorice to mirror the curve on the slide of a graph she projected – a curve that revealed, in one instance, that rates of suicide (and suicide attempts) in Manitoba were much higher for people in the 20-per-cent-lowest-income category. This curve, she noted, suggested the need for targeted interventions. In contrast, an almost-straight line on another graph revealed that among people over 55, dementia affects all income groups in Manitoba almost equally, suggesting the need for universal interventions.”

Patricia wrote a long magazine article about The Right Kind of Evidence - Integrating, Measuring, and Making It Count in Health Equity Research in the Journal of Urban Health, December 2012, Vol. 89, No. 6, pages 925 to 936.

A yoga pose came from Openclipart, and the rainbow licorice sticks came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How far should you trust a list of 50 Top Public Speaking Blogs that actually has 54 items?

Not very far! In November Feedspot had an article titled Top 50 Public Speaking Blogs Every Speaker Must Follow. They also had another article titled Top 50 Woodworking Blogs Every Woodworker Must Follow which listed 60 items. I don’t like being told what I must do by people who can’t even count. 

This blog wasn’t on that public speaking blog list, since I don’t do Twitter or Facebook. Some blogs that were on it like Manner of Speaking, and Expert Media Training had posts about being on that list. But they didn’t mention that Feedspot should take lessons from Count von Count

Even more hilariously the Feedspot article titled Top 100 Leadership Blogs for Executives, Managers and CEO’s listed 293 items - but at the bottom instead claimed it showed the Top 300 Leadership Blog Winners.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bursting the overblown claim that 95% of Americans fear public speaking at some level

One overblown claim I’ve found is that 95% (or 19 out of 20) of Americans fear public speaking at some level. It would be a marvelous statistic for marketing speaking training or coaching assuming it is true - but it isn’t. 

This year it popped up in Raymond Evan’s book Public Speaking for Beginners:

“In fact, statistics show that some degree of public speaking fear/nervousness affects an estimated 95% of speakers.”

Back on March 5, 2010 I blogged about Is there really a pandemic of public speaking fear? I mentioned that Doug Staneart had also claimed:

“Surveys show that 95% of the population admit to feeling fear of public speaking or stage fright.”

Another article of his at The Leader’s Institute titled Top 5 Myths about Public Speaking Fear repeated it.

It popped up again in a post at the Inflenceology blog by Jeff Paro titled Marketing lessons from my 72 year old mother. He said:

“If your name can come to mind when a prospect or patient is looking for a solution to a problem, you are already light years ahead of your competition.

One way to be different is by speaking in public or video marketing.


Because statistically speaking around 95% of the population have some form of fear of public speaking or camera shyness.

That means, just by doing either, you are automatically DIFFERENT than 95% of people.

Not to mention, the authority positioning that you get from being a speaker.”

It’s time to burst that claim. In the past few years there have been surveys that asked about different levels of fear of public speaking. One was the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears (their third one). They found the following percentages:

Not Afraid - 38.3%
Slightly Afraid - 34.7%
Afraid - 16.4%
Very Afraid - 9.1%
Refused (or don’t know) 1.5%

Adding up Very Afraid + Afraid + Slightly Afraid, just 60.2% feared public speaking at some level other than zero (38.3%). That’s a long way from 95% - or 12 rather than 19 out of 20. The 2014 and 2015 Chapman surveys found similar results. (The 2014 one labeled the lower levels slightly differently). When we average all three, the percentages are very similar:

Not Afraid - 36.4%
Slightly Afraid - 34.6%
Afraid - 16.3%
Very Afraid - 9.8%
Very Afraid + Afraid - 26.1%
Very Afraid + Afraid + Slightly Afraid - 60.7%

In 2014 there also was a YouGov survey with four levels. I blogged about it on April 2, 2014 in a post titled YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they were most commonly afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. They found the following percentages: 

Not Afraid At All - 23%
Not Really Afraid - 22%
A Little Afraid - 36%
Very Afraid - 20%
Very Afraid + A Little Afraid - 56%
Very Afraid + A Little Afraid + Not Really Afraid - 78%

That 78% from YouGov is higher than the 60.7% average from the Chapman surveys, but still much below the 95% claim. YouGov also surveyed British adults. On March 23, 2014 I blogged about how YouGov survey of British adults found they most commonly were afraid of heights, snakes, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. Results from that survey were close to those found from their U. S. one.

A bar chart presents results from all five surveys, and disproves the claim that 95% fear public speaking at some level. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). So, you can’t leapfrog 95% of people - it’s more likely just ~26%.

But, where did that 95% claim really come from? Actually it refers to communication apprehension (or anxiety) - something broader than fear of public speaking, and it is over three decades old.

One place where it shows up in a 1986 article by James C. McCroskey, Virginia P. Richmond, and Leonard M. Davis titled Apprehension About Communicating With Supervisors: A Test of a Theoretical Relationship Between Types of Communication Apprehension that appeared in the Western Journal of Speech Communication, Spring 1986, Vol. 50, pages 171 to 182. On page 173 they say:

“McCroskey and Richmond (1982) suggest that almost 95% of the population report having communication apprehension about communicating with some person or group.”

Cheryl Hamilton got the story right in her textbook, Communicating for Results 8th edition, 2008  page 157:

“In fact, Richmond and McCroskey reported that approximately 95% of those surveyed in the United States have some degree of communication anxiety.”

Then that statement mistakenly got changed into more narrowly referring just to fear of public speaking. You can find it that way at a web page titled What is Stage Fright at  the Secrets To Public Speaking web site which says:

“It is important to note that 95% of all speakers experience some form of anxiety/nervousness when public speaking (Hamilton, C. (2008/2005). Communicating for Results, a Guide for Business and the Professions (eighth edition). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth).”

It also is at another web page at The Fear Of Public Speaking web site titled What Is The Fear of Public Speaking Called? which similarly says:

“According to academic researchers more than 95% people experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when public speaking (Hamilton, C. (2008/2005). Communicating for Results, a Guide for Business and the Professions (eighth edition). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth).”

Both of those incorrect references might have come from the Wikipedia page on Glossophobia that got it wrong with 95% back in 2010, and then fixed it to read 75% in 2011.

UPDATE January 9, 2017

On January 7th I received the following comment from Professor Steven S. Vrooman:

“This is word salad. McCroskey and his various colleagues found a durable set of evidence that the 90-95% marker for communication anxiety is there in dozens of studies. Now, that number gets broken down into levels of fear, with 30 and 45 being high and mod high levels. This the commonly reported 75% number.The other 15 have a manageable but relevant anxiety. I am shocked you would use shoddy public opinion polling to try to discredit 50 years of peer-reviewed research. In the end, you suggest anxiety and fear are different. Okay. But that's an intellectually dishonest contribution to this literature.”

That is an amazing display of academic arrogance, beginning with an insult.

Merriam-Webster defines word salad as:

“a jumble of extremely incoherent speech as sometimes observed in schizophrenia.”

What I said about the fear of public speaking was NOT word salad. Instead it was a coherent discussion of some recent statistics about the fear of public speaking. Professor Vrooman incoherently replied by trotting out statistics for communication anxiety, which I had noted was a different and broader concept. And, although he has blogged about why you should Cite Your Sources!, he didn’t bother to give a link or even a title to a magazine article.

Vrooman also whined that I was using shoddy public opinion polling. But textbooks on public speaking have been referring to the 1973 Bruskin and 1993 Bruskin-Goldring polls for decades. Courses on public speaking have been marketed with the claim that public speaking was the number one fear (greater than death). James C. McCroskey referred to Bruskin in his textbook An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication, as I blogged about in a 2014 post on Busting a myth - that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking. Mary Hinchcliff Pelias had an article on pages 41 to 53 in the January 1989 issue of Communication Education magazine titled Communication Apprehension in Basic Public Speaking Texts; An Examination of Contemporary Textbooks. She looked at 25 of them, and found that 13 (including McCroskey) referred either to the Bruskin survey or the article about it in the 1977 Book of Lists.   

Public opinion polls are important because they do random national surveys. I’m not aware of McCroskey and his co-workers having ever done one on public speaking fear (or communication anxiety). There thus is doubt as to whether their conclusions apply to adults in general, or just college students. But there have been national surveys on fear of public speaking published in peer-reviewed magazines. They were not done by communications academics, but found even lower percentages for fear than the public opinion polls I cited in this blog post.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Have backup plans in case of an emergency

On December 13th at his The Accidental Communicator blog Jim Anderson posted about how Bad Things Happen and Speakers Need To Know How To Deal With Them. I’ve repeatedly blogged about that topic, in posts which you can find under the label of Worst Moments. One of my favorites is a March 10, 2012 post titled How an engineer kept a power failure from derailing a speech.

A month ago the Boise Airport had an emergency - when aircraft were unable to contact the controller up in their tower. Fortunately it happened at about 2:30 AM. You might expect that no air traffic would be active then, but some medical helicopters were (perhaps to refuel).

Was there a problem with them trying to arrive and depart? No, they just went to the backup procedure of announcing themselves on the arrival and departure frequencies.

Meanwhile, the Boise Police sent four officers out to the tower to check on the welfare of the controller. A squad car tried flashing his lights, sounding both his siren and an air horn - but got no response. You might not expect them to be heard, since the reinforced-concrete tower is 295 feet high (the second highest building in the state of Idaho). Eventually they got let in, found the controller who looked “dazed and confused,” and he admitted falling asleep. Officers reportedly smelled marijuana, but drug tests were negative.

Parts of the story eventually were pieced together via requests for police reports, etc., and reported in the Idaho Statesman in a December 9th article titled Air traffic controllers take a nap and grab a snack while pilots’ calls go unanswered and one on December 16th titled Investigation of Boise airport tower silence my include if FAA Staffing rules violated. The December 9th Boise Guardian article smirked ‘Joint’ Investigation at Boise Air Tower.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Catching typographical errors is important for everybody

If you have typos in your presentation, or blog post, or tweet, then some folks will rightly conclude you are not either serious or professional.

Today at her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova posted on The Donald’s Misspelled Tweet - So? She claimed Donald Trump didn’t have to get his spelling of unprecedented correct. Jane referenced a Daily Mail article which said:

“ 'China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act,' Trump wrote in a misspelled tweet.

Trump deleted his original tweet, posted at 4.30am, after he was ridiculed online and later issued the same message with the correct spelling.”

In her blog post Jane also speculated:

“It could have been deliberate. Those wanting attention in a noisy world have always played with the rules.

The tactics range from seeming ‘mistakes’ in grammar to misspellings to turning nouns into verbs.”

If that was true, then why did he delete it and then tweet a corrected version?

I found it hilarious that her blog post giving The Donald a free pass was just after one titled Hillary Clinton’s Gala - Lousy Timing with a graphic titled Appearance Is Everything, and just before another titled Cover Letters - Unless You’re Donald Trump that pontificated:

“The cover letter is our first introduction to a prospective employer or client. First impressions count for everything.

Each aspect of the cover letter should be perfect. That must include correct spelling of words and proper grammar.”

One of Jane’s blog posts on December 9th originally was titled Investing in Litiagation - Beyond the Usual Risk. She eventually caught that misspelling of Litigation, but you can still find it buried in the web address for that post.

More alarming was that on November 18th she put up the exact same blog post (Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes & Superlawyer David Boies Part Company) three times in a row.

Mr. Trump just should stop tweeting. I can picture how a tweet of his gone horribly wrong will start World War Three. After some late-night phone negotiations he will mean to tell a prime minister:

“Why don’t you tuck yourself into bed, and we’ll continue in the morning?”

But, he’ll type an f instead of a t, accidentally hit return too early, and send:

“Why don’t you f*ck yourself”

UPDATE December 28, 2016

 Another example is a recent blog post by John Sadowsky that now is titled How to lose an election but originally said How to loose an election, as is shown above via a Google Search. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking

I found an article posted on December 13th by Peter Khoury at the Magnetic Speaking blog titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics. It is so far off the mark that I want to just put my head in my hands, like the old man shown above in a drawing by Van Gogh. Peter says that:

“There is a number floating out on the web stating that 75% of the population have speech anxiety. I have to admit, that I fell for that number at some point.  But coming from an engineering background, I wanted a source to verify the information and I could not find any. That’s what started me on the quest to look into this and provide accurate data. The 75% number is wrong - real numbers are below with backed up studies to support them.”

I also thought that that 75% was wrong, but tracked it down as described in a February 3, 2014 blog post titled Busting a myth - that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking.

Peter begins by claiming that:

“Public speaking fear (Glossophobia) is a subset of social anxiety disorder (SAD). There is a lot of misinformation out there about this fear and the number of people suffering from it.”

It isn’t a subset. Not all people who fear public speaking have social anxiety disorder (aka SAD, also known as social phobia). Back on October 11, 2011 I blogged about What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?

A phobia is more severe -  it is an excessive, persistent, and interfering fear. The conceptual difference is shown above in a Venn diagram. (A previous version of the diagram was in another blog post of mine from December 11, 2013 titled Spouting Nonsense: July 2013 Toastmaster magazine article fumbles fears and phobias). Later I’ll get back to the numbers from the magazine article discussed in that post about a survey known as the NCS-R (which is from a more recent survey than the NCS Peter refers to).

Peter spreads misinformation. He looks up some statistics on social phobia and ‘adjusts’ them to supposedly describe fear of public speaking. First he looks at Table 1 in a magazine article from 1999 by T. Furmark et al. titled Social phobia in the general population: prevalence and sociodemographic profile. For Sweden, a total of 15.6% have social phobia. He multiplies this by 0.894 to get that 13.5% of Swedes fear public speaking. (The multiplier came from an article on epidemiology of social phobia which had studied people around Florence, Italy). That is ludicrous. Back on March 25, 2011 I had blogged about the Furmark et al. article in a post titled Almost 1 in 4 Swedes fears public speaking. As the title suggests, Table 4 of the article instead lists their survey result that 24% fear Speaking (or performing) in front of a group of people.     

Peter also looks up some results for the USA from Table 1. A total of 7.9% have social phobia. He again ‘adjusts’ - multiplies this by 0.894 to get that 7% of us fear public speaking. That 7.9% he used comes from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), but it only refers to a one year period. For a lifetime the prevalence (also shown) is 13.3%. Why did he choose to use the smaller number? Back on July 22, 2011 I blogged about Putting the fear puzzle pieces together: social and specific fears in the National Comorbidity Survey. In that post I charted NCS results that Public speaking was feared by 30.2%, and Talking in front of a small group by 15.2%. 

How about results from the more recent National Comorbidity Survey - Replication (NCS-R)? The article I referred to in my October 11, 2011 blog post had results for both fears and phobias. 24.1% had a social fear, and 21.2% had a fear of public speaking/performance. 12.1% had a social phobia, and 10.7% had a phobia of public speaking/performance.

What about similar statistics for other countries? On August 15, 2012 I had blogged about how Surveys show that public speaking isn’t feared by the majority of adults in nine developed and eleven developing countries. For 9 developed countries,15.9% had a social fear, and 13% had a fear of public speaking/performance. 6.1% had a social phobia, and 5.3% had a phobia of public speaking/performance. For 11 developing countries, 14.3% had a social fear, and 9.4% had a fear of public speaking/performance. Just 2.1% had a social phobia, and 1.6% had a phobia of public speaking/performance.

Peter pointed to some results about the effects of social phobia described in a publication from Columbia University, but didn’t bother find the actual source. It really is an article by David J. Katzelnick et al., titled Impact of Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder in Managed Care, Am. J. Psychiatry, 2001, Vol. 158, pages 1999-2007. You can find the abstract and download the full text

Peter states the following seven Unbelievable Statistics [with my comments in brackets].   None of them are believable. If you want to read about real research, then please look elsewhere.

Overall numbers for the USA:

1]  7% of Americans fear public speaking
[wrong! The NCS has 30.2%, and the NCS-R has 21.2%]

2]  6% of male Americans have speaking anxiety
[wrong! The average from the NCS-R for public speaking/performance phobia is 10.7%]

3]  8% of female Americans have speaking anxiety
[wrong, see above]

Negative impact of public speaking fear on career statistics:

4]  Public speaking fear has 10% impairment on wages
[Wrong! This percentage applies to social phobia]

5]  Public speaking fear has 10% impairment on college graduation
[Wrong! This percentage applies to social phobia]

6]  Public speaking fear has 15% impairment on promotion to management
[Wrong! 14%  applies to social phobia]

How many seek professional help?

7]  Only 8% of those who have public speaking fear seek professional help despite the documented negative impact on career and wages.
[Wrong! That percentage only applies to people with social phobia.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Public speaking was the 7th most commonly stressful activity in an online survey done for

How stressful is public speaking compared with other situations? This fall the job search web site had Harris Poll do an online survey including asking about the following ten stressful activities:

Being trapped in an elevator
Death of a loved one
Doing your taxes
Getting a root canal
Going through a divorce or breakup
Looking for a job
Planning a wedding
Public speaking
Spending a weekend with the in-laws

They asked 2,557 full-time employed adults in the US, UK, and Australia whether they were:

Not at all stressful
Not very stressful
Somewhat stressful
Very stressful

Results were reported on a web page with the cryptic title of The Opportunity Index - subtitled Perceptions of Mobility & The Job Search. As shown above in a bar chart (for the sum of Somewhat stressful and Very stressful) the top five were Death of a loved one (94%), Going through a divorce or breakup (92%), Looking for a job (83%), Moving (82%), and Planning a wedding (78%). Then came Getting a root canal (73%) and Public speaking (70%) was seventh.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Another 25 jargon phrases to nevermore use when writing your speech

On December 5th Travis Bradberry posted an article at LinkedIn Pulse titled These Buzzwords Make Smart People Look Stupid. He listed the following 25 jargon phrases, which I have put into alphabetical order:

All hands on deck
Apples to apples
At the end of the day*
Back to the drawing board
Bang for the buck
Circle back around
Elephant in the room
Get my manager’s blessing
Get the ball rolling
Hit the ground running
I don’t have the bandwidth
It’s on my radar
Let’s touch base
Low hanging fruit
Move the goal post
No brainer
On my plate
Par for the course
Ping me
Reinvent the wheel
Synergy *
Take this offline
Think outside the box*
Thrown under the bus

Four of them (indicated by asterisks) previously appeared on a list from Accountemps that I blogged about in an October 14, 2014 post titled 20 annoying buzzwords that nevermore should be used in the workplace.

Travis did not suggest how to replace jargon with plain English. Lucy Kellaway has done that in her Guffipedia, which I blogged about on December 16, 2015 in a post titled Jargon and guff.

Another phrase that should be eliminated is the sports jargon of things being “in play.”

The image inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven was adapted from a Puck cartoon from November 7, 1900 found at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trumpty Dumpty? Low ratings in Pew poll about presidential transition

On December 8th the Pew Research Center released results from their poll in an article titled Low Approval of Trump’s Transition but Outlook for His Presidency Improves. It includes a link to the full report.

USA Today summarized it in an article titled Poll: Majority of Americans unhappy with Trump’s handling of transition which provided a vertical bar chart with the same data as the first one shown above. (Click on it for a larger, clearer view). There is a striking deficit (a great fall) of ~30 percent between Obamas's approval ratings and Trump's - 72% versus just 41%. Page 12 of the pdf from the Pew Report said:

“About eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (79%) say they approve of the job Trump has done explaining his policies and plans for the future to the American people; just 15% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the same. The 64-percentage point gap between the ratings offered by Republicans and Democrats is larger than the 44-percentage point gap in early reactions to Obama measured in December 2008 and the 48-percentage point gap in reactions to Bush measured in January 2001. The current gap is driven in part by very low rating among Democrats: the 15% who approve of Trump’s early approach is lower than any rating given to a new president-elect by members of the losing party in recent elections (including the 29% of Democrats who approved of how Bush laid out his vision in January 2001).”

Presumably this gap comes as a reaction to Trump’s combative campaign. Trump can expect to hear the phrase “(Screw you) and the horse you rode in on” a lot more in the future.

The Humpty Dumpty image was adapted from one in Puck magazine back on March 12, 1913 found at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Public Speaking isn’t the most common Personal Fear in the third annual Chapman Survey of American Fears for 2016 - Reptiles are

On June 26, 2016 I blogged about the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears in a post titled How could you spin the results of a fear survey where public speaking wasn’t even in the top 5, 10, or 20? One answer was to ignore most of the results and instead focus just on one category with 18 rather than 89 fears.

That same strategy can be applied to the 2016 survey. As shown above, we could focus just on the 15 Personal Fears and ignore the other 64. In a post at The ONE thing blog titled How to become a talented public speaker and tell a story that makes an impact they ignored that public speaking ranked 33rd out of 79 fears and instead said:

“If the mere thought of standing in the front of a room and talking to a group of people has your heart pounding and palms sweaty, rest assured, you are not alone. Public speaking is the second most common personal fear. According to a Chapman University survey, over a quarter of people are afraid of speaking to a group. Being the center of attention and knowing that all eyes are on you is a truly terrifying prospect for many people.”

That’s silly because overall 8 of those 15 personal fears were ranked in the Bottom Ten (as also is shown above). I have shown the percentages listed in the Chapman blog post, and mine based on raw data without adjusting for those who didn’t answer (refused).

How could you do even worse? By missing the fear or reptiles. In an October 31, 2016 article at Brain Alchemist titled 5 Blood Curdling Fears and Worst Nightmares of Public Speaking Anastasia Pryanikova claimed:

“According to findings of the Chapman University Survey on American Fears, public speaking is the top personal fear in 2016, afflicting 25.9% of Americans.”

In another blog post on October 22, 2016 titled According to the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of Corrupt (federal) Government Officials and only Slightly Afraid of the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) I discussed how to calculate a Fear Score where:

1.0 = Not Afraid

2.0 = Slightly Afraid

3.0 = Afraid

4.0 = Very Afraid

The Fear Score for reptiles is 2.060, or just above Slightly Afraid (2.0). For public speaking it is 1.933, and even below Slightly Afraid.

An image of a timber rattlesnake came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Before you waste time replying to a help wanted ad, make sure you know what game they are playing

On December 7th I saw two posts on the Jane Genova Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog titled Lifehack, et al. - Read through Application Before Applying and The Cover Letter - It’s Not About You. The second one was missing some important information about analyzing a help wanted ad, which I learned about way back in graduate school.

One game is when the employer really is looking for someone to hire. A second very different game is when they already have found a foreigner, and now need a tall pile of applications to prove that they simply couldn’t find a suitable American. The second might well be referred to as a green card game, and you don’t want to play it.

Sometimes it is fairly easy to tell when the second game is being played, because there are overly specific requirements listed that look like and were reverse-engineered based on the background of the candidate who already really has been selected. You don’t need to go learn game theory to recognize that game is being played. 
Another variation on the second game is an EEO game, where an inside candidate already has been selected (or is very strongly preferred). Then the opening still must be advertised to keep HR looking clean. That EEO game happens both with companies and government agencies. It can be less obvious than a green card game.

Back when I was in graduate school some other PhD students and I were invited to a local research lab to present seminars about our thesis research. Someone from human resources (HR) asked us if we would like to fill out and later return their job application form. We were flattered, and did so. Of course, we never heard back from HR. But in the next few months we did hear that they had just hired a foreign student who’d received his PhD from an Ivy League university.  

Sometimes the games go even farther. Once when I was looking for work I was invited to interview at a research lab up the Hudson River from New York City at the very end of the year. Almost everyone there had an engraved wall sign in a holder next to his office door. The only exception was a Russian engineer, who obviously just had been hired. It was clear to me that HR was finishing using up their annual recruiting budget by paying for my plane ticket, hotel, and car rental. 

Help wanted ads sometimes show up repeatedly, as Jane described in another post titled Education Labs - Here the help-wanted is yet again, on May 30, 2016. Back when I was in graduate school, I remember an ad in the back of Metals Progress magazine. It was for an engineer to work on clad metals at a very large electronics company. That ad showed up every 18 months or so. By the third time it looked very peculiar. I wondered if it was a job that only Superman could have filled successfully.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Spouting nonsense: Alanna Ketler claims surveys about our fears show public speaking consistently ranks at the top of the list

On December 5th there was an article by Alanna Ketler at the Collective Evolution web site titled 9 Uncomfortable Life-Hacks That Could Pay Off Forever. Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.

They were to:

1] Wake Up an Hour Earlier Every Day
2] Keep a Food Journal
3] Track Your Spending
4] Question Everything
5] Be Honest
6] Pick One Thing to Master at a Time
7] Accomplish an Almost Impossible Task
8] Practice Public Speaking
9] Incorporate Some Form of Meditation Daily

Under her #8, Practice Public Speaking she began by claiming:

“Surveys about our fears show that public speaking consistently ranks at the top of the list, even before death, and I have certainly had my fair share of horror stories in this realm.”

Of course, that is total nonsense, so she earns a Spoutly. Two obvious counter examples are the 2016 and 2015 Chapman Surveys of American Fears where public speaking was ranked 33rd out of 79, and 26th out of 89.

She might have gotten her silly claim from Glenn Croston’s book The Real Story of Risk, as I discussed in an April 25, 2015 blog post titled Is public speaking by far the scariest thing that people face? Even more than death? No, it is not!

Perhaps Allana should have paid more attention to her #4, Question Everything, where she had said:

“This one is important. Do not take the information that is presented to you at face value. Question everything. If you see something on the news but a little piece of you has some doubt, look into it further and do your own research. Do not just believe everything you read, even if it’s an article on Collective Evolution! Look into things further and form your own opinion.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

A brief book review of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Earlier this year a wonderful book for introverted kids and teens was published. It is Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain, with Gregory More and Erica Moroz. It follows-up her earlier book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. In 2012 she also gave a widely viewed 19-minute TED Talk on The power of introverts.

Each chapter in Quiet Power contains several brief stories, and ends with a summary of points and usually a page of instructive cartoons by Grant Snider. For example, Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight is about performing and sharing your talents with others. It has:

Introductory stories about Carly and Liam, followed by A Shy Introvert shines (Ryan), The Fairy Godmother Sings Soprano, A Nudge from Mom (Victoria), Free Trait Theory, and An Audience of Dolls (Caitlin). The Summary is titled How to Shine in the Spotlight, and it has sections titled Prepare, Study the Experts, Slowly Build the Pressure, Familiarize Yourself, Breathe, Smile, Connect, and Look Outward.  

The four main parts of this book and their chapters are:

Chapter 1: Quiet in the Cafeteria
Chapter 2: Quiet in the Classroom
Chapter 3: Group Projects, the Introverted Way
Chapter 4: Quiet Leaders

Chapter 5: Quiet Friendship
Chapter 6: Quiet Parties
Chapter 7: # Quiet
Chapter 8: Opposites Attract

Chapter 9: Quiet Creativity
Chapter 10: The Quiet Athlete
Chapter 11: Quietly Adventurous
Chapter 12: Changing the World the Quiet Way
Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight

Chapter 14: The Restorative Niche
Chapter 15: Quiet with Family


Quiet Power is not perfect. I disagree with her statement on page 249 in A Guide For Parents:

“But if your child is one of the many with stage fright - public speaking is the world’s most common phobia, afflicting extroverts as well as introverts - here are some ways to help him overcome it... “

That is an doubly inflated unsupported variation (both geographically and by fear level) of a statement in Quiet:

“...public speaking is the number-one fear in America, far more common than the fear of death.”

It would be much more useful to point out some real survey statistics on adolescent fears. Back on January 29, 2012 I blogged about Is public speaking the greatest fear for US teens? I discussed how in a 2005 Gallup poll it was not even in their top ten. On  June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears? In that post I discussed results for 14 situations from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). 24.9% feared speaking in class, compared with 13.3% for going out/dating. 

On February 18th NPR had an interview with Susan described in an article titled How Parents and Teachers Can Nurture the ‘Quiet Power’ of Introverts. It includes a discussion on public speaking.

I wish something like this book was around when I was a kid. How shy was I five decades ago, when I was in 10th grade? I was the second of five children - three boys Harry, Richard, and Thomas, and two girls - Ellen and Sally. After school Ellen was talking with a group of her girlfriends and waved to me to come over. I thought she might be playing matchmaker. No such luck. She had told them that her brothers really were named Tom, Dick and Harry (in reverse order), but they thought she was kidding. They all knew about Harry, the Eagle Scout who was a whiz at math and chemistry. And they all knew about Tom, the musical prodigy who became the lead cellist in the school orchestra while only in seventh grade. But I (Dick) was invisible. Until she introduced me, none of her friends believed that I even existed.   

Finally in 11th grade I really started to blossom. In trig class I got asked to put homework problems up on the blackboard and explain them. My classmates began to realize that I almost always got them right. I also was one of three 11th graders who took Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, and got a 5 on the AP exam (meaning when I got to university I didn’t have to take either semester of freshman chemistry). On the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships I was a semi-finalist, and also outscored a girl who later became one of four valedictorians (Later my sister Ellen got a National Merit Scholarship).

In 12th grade I  took both AP physics and calculus. I got a 5 on the AP exam for calculus, and a 3 on the one for physics. I began my freshman year at Carnegie-Mellon University with a semester worth of AP course credits. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A bad way to make passwords secure

On November 23, 2016 the Computerworld website had a SHARK TANK article with a software horror story titled Now THAT’S password security. It described what a government employee encountered when he tried to login to another agency, as he had to do quarterly. It seemed like he could never remember his password, since he was told it was invalid each time he tried to use it again. 

“Eventually, fish can no longer restrain his engineering urge, and he decides to do some testing to identify the actual problem.

First he attempts a login, and as usual it fails. He goes to the password-reset page, but instead of typing his new password into the input box, he types it into a text file, then copies and pastes it. That way, he knows he'll be inputting exactly the same password every time.

Then he immediately logs out and tries to log back in by pasting in the password. And as before, the new password fails.

Fish tries several more times, and it keeps failing -- even though it's the same pasted password every time.

Clearly, it's help desk time. Fish makes the call, and after several rounds of debugging and testing, there's finally a clear answer: The passwords that fish is creating when his account is reset are all too long.

‘But instead of failing, the reset system simply chopped off the extra characters and saved the result’ fish says. So my password of ABC=12345 became ABC=12. But on the password-setting page, there was no mention of a maximum length, and no error message for a too-long password.

And a year later, now that they're aware of the problem, there's still no error message, and no warning of a maximum password length. I guess it's more efficient to have users create a new password every time they log in than it is to tell them what a valid password is.”

The image of an Xacto paper cutter was derived from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

You can’t tell what people in the city are eating for lunch from an aerial photo

A good speech, article, or blog post calls for detailed, careful research. You always should go back to primary sources. If instead you just depend on superficial secondary ones like a brief magazine or newspaper article, then you can miss important details.

I just ran across a September 28, 2016 article by Fredrik Haren at his Lessons from the World of a Global Keynote Speaker web site titled The most dangerous job in the world (just kidding). Mr. Haren had based his article on a single-page one in the September 19, 2016 issue of Bloomberg Business Week. That article by Evan Applegate was titled Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack. It was the print version of an infographic I blogged about on November 7th. The article and infographic begin with the same sentence:

“Chapman University asked 1,541 American adults what they fear most, then ranked the answers by the share of respondents who indicated “afraid” or very afraid” for each.”

Then the print article lists 50 fears (a Top 50 out of 89 they surveyed) without showing the percentages, while the infographic lists 42 fears but shows each percentage when you mouse over an image.

In his article Mr. Haren commented that:

“On a plane from Omaha where I had just delivered a speech I read an article in Business Week where they reported on a study by Chapman University about the things that Americans feared the most.

It was a long and depressing list of threats, from fear of corruption (number 1) to fear of cyberterrorism (number 2) and fear of personal data tracking (number 3) to fear terrorist attacks (number 4) and so on. (Americans are afraid of a lot of scary things that are statistically very, very unlikely to hurt them.)

What I found absolutely amazing is that the ONLY thing on this list that was actually a choice – meaning something that a person can choose to do or not do to! – was ‘the fear of public speaking’! (and perhaps also ‘heights’.)

‘Fear of public speaking’ came in at place 26 just after ‘fear of robots replacing the workforce’ and just ahead of ‘fear of property damage’.

The more I look at this list the more amazed I am by it.

There is this saying that people are ‘more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying’ – something I always thought must have been an exaggeration – but according to this survey it turns out to be true! (Fear of dying came in at 43…)”

Results from the Chapman survey were reported on October 13, 2015 in a blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2015. What simple question should have told Mr. Haren he was not seeing the whole list? Where was the fear of flying? It is 61st.

Is Mr. Applegate’s title Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack correct? Well, sort of. Obamacare was ranked 13th and feared by 35.7%, while nuclear attack was ranked 16th and feared by 33.6% - a difference of 2.1%. Based on the sample size of 1,541 the Margin of Error for the survey is plus or minus 2.5%, so the difference is not significant.

In my November 7th blog post I pointed out that the Chapman survey questions really were “How afraid are you of...?” not “What do you fear most?” and, there were four possible answers:

1 Not Afraid

2 Slightly Afraid

3 Afraid

4 Very Afraid

What do Americans really fear most? Back on October 30, 2015 I blogged about how According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. In that post I showed how to calculate a Fear Score from the percentages for those four possible answers shown in the detailed results from the Chapman survey:

Fear Score = [ 1x(% for Not Afraid)
+  2x(% for Slightly Afraid)
+ 3x(% for Afraid)
+ 4x(% for Very Afraid)]/100 

For Corruption the fear score was only 2.7, which isn’t even at Afraid (3.0). For Public speaking it is 2.022, almost exactly 2.0 (or just Slightly Afraid). For Zombies it was 1.308, and the very lowest for Gender was 1.201 (not far above the 1.0 for Not Afraid). This analysis fits with what Mr. Haren said in another article on Nov 6 2015 titled The world is less dangerous than we think.

How about the comparison between the fears of public speaking and death? Many people know about it based on a Jerry Seinfeld joke that I last blogged about in October. 

An image of New York City in 1977 by Derzsi Elekes Andor came from Wikimedia Commons.