Thursday, August 31, 2017

How NOT to display data - in a qualitative pyramid chart

At the D. John Carlson web site I found an article from August 31, 2017 titled 48.2% take 1 – 3 hours which also appeared at LinkedIn Pulse. It began:

“Research in the United States has found that there is significant variability in the time that bloggers take to craft high quality content. Headline findings were as follows:

1 hour –  7.7%

1-2 hours – 24.7%

2-3 hours – 23.5%

3-4 hours – 19%

4-6 hours – 13.3%

6+ hours – 11.9%”
Mr. Carlson’s article referred to but did not bother to provide a link to the FitSmallBusiness web site.

A search revealed that information came from a July 22, 2017 article at FitSmallBusiness by Henry Kanapi titled 15 Business Blogging Statistics That You Should Know. Number 8 was how long does it usually take to write an average blog post? Results were displayed in the qualitative pyramid chart shown above. But widths of the rows are unrelated to the percent for each time period. Also, heights of the rows are not constant, and the colors orange, yellow, and blue are repeated for no obvious reason. So, this idiotic graphic is neither meaningful nor pretty.

That data reportedly came from Statistica, which expects you to pay to see them. But those results really came from a 2016 survey done by Orbit Media Studios that was reported in a blog post by Andy Crestodina titled New Research:  3rd Annual Survey of 1000+ Bloggers (time, length, and tactics).

As shown above, that blog post reports more interesting and useful results for 2014, 2015, and 206 on both the average time for writing a blog post (hours), and the average length (words). In 2016 the average time was 3.27 hours and the average length was 1054 words. How else might we display those six percentages that appeared on that pyramid chart?

One possibility is via a standard horizontal bar chart, as is shown above.

Another is via a horizontal bar chart showing the cumulative percentages, as shown above. From it we could see that slightly over half (55.9%) of blog posts took 3 hours or less, and almost exactly 3/4 (74.9%) took 4 hours or less.

If you want to tell people something interesting and useful, then you need to get back to the original source for data rather than settling for a secondary one.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

An event that will not soon be eclipsed

On the morning of August 21, 2017 I watched the total solar eclipse from near the tee of the third hole of a golf course in Cascade, Idaho that was closed for the morning. That location was picked by an astronomer, my brother-in-law Antony Stark, who is shown at the left in the above image. Our party of eight paid $10 each for armbands. Viewing conditions were perfect, without significant cloud cover or smoke. I’d brought along a homemade wooden Safe Solar Viewer that projected an image of the sun onto a white-painted surface (see yellow arrow).     

We’d also brought my 60-mm spotting scope, to which Tony had added a filter so we could look at sunspots before the eclipse started. He also had a pair of binoculars with a solar filter. We all had viewing glasses too. Seeing the sun completely covered by the moon for two minutes was amazing. Experiencing the sky going dark and the temperature dropping significantly were way more impressive than I’d expected based on reading about them. Phil Plait has a pair of articles that discuss watching the eclipse - When the moon ate the sun and Standing under the shadow of the moon: thoughts on totality.  


My Safe Solar Viewer had a pair of lenses bought from Surplus Shed as a kit for $5. It took me $10 worth of ½” x 3-1/2” pine lumber, and about an hour of woodworking with a miter box and hand drill to assemble it. We wound up looking at the magnified projected image more than through our viewing glasses.  

My wife Elaine had begun planning this trip two years earlier. She had rented a cabin near the lake. Back then we thought we’d be watching from one of the Lake Cascade State Park campsites or day-use areas further south along Lakeshore Drive. Six of us drove 75 miles up from Boise on Saturday in an SUV and a minivan. The other two arrived on Sunday from near Stanley. On Wednesday we drove back the long way back to Boise via Banks, Lowman, Stanley, Sun Valley, and Twin Falls. At the visitor’s center in Twin Falls we saw a couple of base jumpers parachute off the Perrine Bridge and land on the south bank of the Snake River.   

I’ve crossed seeing a total eclipse off my bucket list. The next one is in 2024, and perhaps we’ll see it down in Texas.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Shouldn’t you live your life thoughtfully?

An article by Dr. Ivan Misner on August 24, 2017 (with Alex Mandossian) was titled Discover Your Verb, and subtitled with an artificial grammatical choice - You can live your life three ways: as a Noun, an Adjective, or as a Verb!

Sorry, but I don’t like being sentenced to just one of those three. I’m much happier living as the Adverb thoughtfully.

There are lots of positive adverbs from a list of a hundred: boldly bravely, brightly, cheerfully, deftly, deliberately, devotedly, eagerly, faithfully, gleefully, gracefully, happily, honestly, inquisitively, kindly, merrily, powerfully, seriously, victoriously, vivaciously, warmly.

And there also are lots of negative adverbs to avoid: accidentally, angrily, anxiously, awkwardly, badly, blindly, boastfully, crazily, foolishly, hopelessly, irritably, jealously, lazily, nervously, obnoxiously, poorly, rudely, selfishly, shakily, tediously, wearily.

An image by Billy Hathorn of August Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Don’t hang your article from a bogus quotation (and also watch your social network etiquette)

Back on July 4, 2017 Mr. David Fazio posted a thousand-word article (about his organization Helix Opportunity) on LinkedIn Pulse titled What Makes Us Different. It began:

“Henry Ford once, famously, quipped:

‘If I’d asked what people wanted, they’d have said, ‘ ’faster horses.’ ‘
Look around, and there’s an infitecimal number of ideas being funded every day that are aimed at essentially building faster horses.” 

He didn’t bothered to check that back on July 28, 2011 at Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole had written about My Customers Would Have Asked For a Faster Horse, and found Ford hadn’t really ever said that.

I read Mr. Fazio’s article after he dumped a post and link to it at LinkedIn on The Official Toastmasters International Group (which has almost 30,000 members). That article said nothing about Toastmasters and clearly didn’t belong there, since the About This Group section there says very clearly (my italics):

“Before posting please note that we have the right to remove any user contributed post, for any reason, in our sole discretion. Any posts that are deemed to be unrelated to Toastmasters will be deleted as will members who consistently post unrelated or promotional content.”

The first comment came from a Distinguished Toastmaster who was protective of the group. He rightly asked what does this have to do with Toastmasters?, and ended by proclaiming SPAM! David went off at him in a rant.

I followed by commenting something facetious like that I supposed anything could be viewed as relevant, since it might be considered a speech topic.

David went off at me for a long paragraph, beginning by saying that if I’m not the group owner, and I’m not, then I have no right to judge what belongs on this group, etc., etc. etc.

He also mentioned other recent posts on that group that he claimed were off-topic (but were not), including one put up the the group owner, Social Media Strategist at Toastmasters International. Eventually the group owner deleted the entire thread. Before that happened I had put up a comment on the LinkedIn Pulse article:

“What makes you different is that you didn’t bother either to finish proofreading your text, or to take off the caption at the bottom of your graphic. Infitecimal isn’t a real word, and infinitesimal means an indefinitely small quantity. The right word is enormous.”

David replied that he’d written infitecimal for style and effect - which makes no sense whatsoever.

Curiously, the June 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine contained an article by Scott Steinberg on pages 14 and 15 titled Social Network Etiquette. David’s combative online behavior violated everything Scott had said in his section on Tone of Voice and Attitude.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Spouting Nonsense - No one has ever done a survey that says the number one fear is public speaking

In an article on August 3, 2017 titled Speech: The Most Dangerous Class Your Student Must Take on the Rock Your Speech Class web site for the Bridges School homeschool collaborative Kim Krajci claimed that:

“No one has ever done a survey that says the number one fear is public speaking. That myth has hung around for a long time.”

That statement is false, so Kim is awarded a pink Spoutly.

Back in April 1973 R. H. Bruskin Associates did such a survey of U.S. adults that was discussed in the London Sunday Times on October 7, 1973 and in the December 1973 issue of Spectra magazine (from the National Communication Association). I blogged about it in the most popular post on this blog back on October 27, 2009 which was titled The 14 Worst Human Fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: where did this data really come from? Two decades later there was another survey by their successor firm, which I discussed on May 19, 2011 in another blog post titled America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring Survey.

In yet another post on July 30, 2012 titled Is fear of public speaking the greatest fear in the entire galaxy? I linked to my discussions of fifteen surveys, only five of which had public speaking as the number one fear. A blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2016 discussed how the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears ranked public speaking as only number 33 of 79 fears.

The most useful information we can give students instead is about what U.S. adolescents fear. On June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears?

Kim’s About web page says she has a BA in Communications and  is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), so I would have expected her to have done a better job of researching fears.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Is a contract signing away your independence valid?

Not in Victoria, Australia. My Google Alert on public speaking turned up a curious article from SmartCompany titled Public speaking promoter ordered to refund business customer $4000 in first unfair contracts case in Victoria. A clause in that contract had rather outrageously said that the seminar provider, Success Resources,:

“may change the Speakers, the Hours, the Dates and/or the Location of the Seminar Services for any reason by notifying you in writing of the change and detailing substitute Speakers, Seminar Hours, Dates and/or Location”.

The 1908 Puck cartoon 1908 came from the Library of Congress.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Get Happy - Danish Style

I have been reading The Little Book of Hygge (Danish Secrets to Happy Living) by Meik Wiking. The Danish word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) translates as a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Joy is found in simple pleasures. It literally is a little book, 226 pages long, and just 7-1/4” high by 5-3/8” wide. 

On page 96 Mr. Wiking says:

“The one thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog, which translates roughly as ‘a nook.’ It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea. Mine is by the kitchen window.”

On pages 30 and 31 he states a ten-point Hygge Manifesto:

Turn down the lights.

Be here now. Turn off the phones.

Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.

It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.

Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.

No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.

Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…?”

This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.

Starting on page 156 he describes a hygge safari through Copenhagen. One stop is for smørrebrød (open sandwiches), usually served with beer and schnapps.

You can watch a 17-minute TedX INSEAD  Singapore talk by Malene Rydahl on Planting Seeds of Happiness the Danish Way. Meek Wiking has a 19-1/2 minute TedX Copenhagen talk on The Dark Side of Happiness.

The 1910 image shows physicist Niels Bohr and his fiancé.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What ten factors contribute to a good first impression?

The answers from a recent study of 1000 business people done by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in England are shown above. (Click on the chart for a larger, clearer view). They came from page 7 of their 20-page RADA in Business report titled All the Workplace is a Stage: How to Communicate with Clarity and Impact.

The top five factors were What You Say (46.3%), How You Speak and Sound (34.7%), How You Act (33.9%), What You Are Wearing (30.6%), and Your Confidence (29.3%).

What You Say (words) came first, in stark contrast with the often quoted Mehrabian Myth (shown above) that your words carry only 7% of your meaning. I blogged about it back in July 2009. (So take your speechwriting very seriously). Then came two nonverbal factors - How You Speak and Sound and How You Act. What You Are Wearing was fourth, although proponents of dressing for success would insist it instead is primary. Your Confidence only was fifth, so advocates of power posing should sit down and fold their arms.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spotting fake news and finding reliable information for speeches

The August 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine contains a four-page article by Teresa R. Faust, library director at the College of Central Florida, starting on page 22 titled Fake News is in the News. Keep it Out of Your Speeches (Learn how to find reliable information online).

It’s a useful article, but there’s more that can be said both about fake news and finding reliable information. You can find links to more web pages about fake news in an American Library Association article from February 23, 2017 titled News: Fake News: A Library Resource Round-Up.

Fake News About Fear of Public Speaking

Teresa didn’t give any specific examples of fake news about public speaking. I know of two sets of web pages with fake statistics about fear of public speaking which should be avoided. Unfortunately both of them are on web sites with excellent search engine optimization (SEO) skills. When you try to find a startling statistic for opening your speech, a Google search for public speaking fear statistics will likely deliver them on the first page of results.

The first of these is two pages from 2012 at the Statistic Brain web site for Fear of Public Speaking Statistics and Fear/Phobia Statistics. Both claim to list percentages from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). But Statistic Brain is just a statistical medicine show, and that’s NOT where those numbers came from! The phony claim that 74% fear public speaking is much higher than the 21.2% found in the NIMH-supported National Comorbidity Survey - Replication, which I blogged about way back in June 2009. 

The second one is a Magnetic Speaking blog post from December 13, 2016 by Peter Khoury titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics. I blogged about it on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. Back on March 28, 2011 I had blogged about how 24%, or Almost 1 in 4 Swedes fears public speaking. But when Peter looked at that article he didn’t report that obvious statistic. Instead he said that for Sweden a total of 15.6% have social phobia, and he multiplies by 0.894 to get that 13.5% of Swedes fear public speaking. (His multiplier came from an article on epidemiology of social phobia which had studied people around Florence, Italy). His ‘calculation’ just is silly.

Finding Reliable Information Online for Your Speeches

Teresa’s article also discusses finding information. Curiously she didn’t refer to the previous two-page article in the June 2014 Toastmaster magazine by Margaret Montet titled Don’t Rely on the Web (visit a library for sophisticated research tools). On February 24, 2015 I replied to that article with a long blog post titled How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries).

In it I described a more powerful strategy for learning how to use your public library - look at the web site for your state university library, whose databases also will include those at your public library. Every term that university will get another batch of students enrolled in their introductory public speaking or communications course. They likely already have developed a web page with a specific guide for that course, or a more general one on communication. (I gave an example for every state). 

The image of fake news came from a March 18, 1897 Puck magazine cover at the Library of Congress.


The library at the Portland Community College has a student guide web page on Fake News.