Saturday, December 29, 2012

For God's sake, give us a fiscal cliff!

I'm trying to make sense of the trouble the US faces. They seem to have a cool name for everything but this seems to be a deadline where the legislators have stated "we'll really tighten our belts". I'm sure it has a lot to do with the republicans holding the power in congress since the last election and telling Obama that "this has to stop sometime". That said, wars and nuclear subs are damned expensive and the Republicans love that shit.

So, the US government owes a shitload of money to the rest of the world (mostly China and Japan I suppose.) If they don't collect some more tax but more importantly manage their spending they are headed into huge debt problems. The US are in trouble but are nowhere near the crap that Europe has.

The legislators are scrambling and 2013 won't be all that they say - I feel. But the US need some version of the fiscal cliff to make sure their long term debt position takes the red line rather than the blue below:

Australia needs a similar thing. Let's leave the argument behind about the spending flurries of 2008-2010. It probably helped keep us out of the financial shit, but then so did Gina, China and our holes in the ground.

The US need to do something and run the risk of a recession. Ffs as a teenager we lived so long in recession that I thought it was the norm. The 1993 - 2007 dream run was bizarre, surreal. Deep down I knew it had to end.

The dream run has ended. As a country, we need to HTFU and just tough it out for a few years. It's anew thing for most people under 35. Wayne Swan will never give us a budget surplus and I don't really care about that. But the government needs to do some tough shit on spending and (god forbid) taxation now - as if we were going to get a surplus.

Australia is pretty well placed, financially, but if the rest of the world is eating bread and dripping we shouldn't be dining on lobster and caviar. Lest we're like the guy who wins a lottery and blows it all in three years.

I'm scared, but sometimes scared is good.

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"I don't know why anybody BUYS apple sauce"

I heard a female shopper pronouncing that in the lead up to Christmas. "It's just apples, boiled. How hard can it be?"

I was mildly irritated by it but didn't know quite why. I think it was simply the "I'm so clever" over a thing where most people don't care. That lady could harness her abilities for good. She could make 20l of apple sauce and give it to those of us who don't or can't make applesauce.

I think it's why I love this time of year. I took a kilo of plums to my mother in law last night, I make tomato chutneys and give them away. Eggs anyone - the chooks really are producing.

This time of year is great for that. Three wise men gave gifts to the guy - on the day of his birth - that (somehow) they knew would change the world. For me, providing a useful gift that cost me nothing more than a little toil and brains is a great thing in life.

So make your applesauce and give it away - to anybody. You'll feel so much better than proclaiming your superiority.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing day sales - man style

How cool. I've always considered men to be a different type of shopper. More a "search and destroy" shopper.

I went in on Christmas eve to swap a $20 t-shirt at Tarocash. As the (really professional) salesperson (f) was doing the paperwork I thought I'd pick up a blue.

Sensing it was on, the girl mentioned "anything else? We've marked them all down and all sizes are there."

Two business shirts, pants, shoes. $250 for $460 stuff. 20 minutes.

And on the radio I just heard that in Melbourne where it was really crazy, guys were just changing next to the suit rack. Who needs a changeroom?

Search and destroy. What fun.

I love being sold to by a professional. My Tarocash experience was one of those.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Student success: Just a little Christmas day present

Great news

"I thought I'd let you know that I've just been offered a Business Development manager role within ******* South Australian office. I'd have to say that what I learnt throughout my degree, particularly what you taught me definitely help me in the interview process for getting this job."

Good on him.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

"I always read the manual cover to cover"

Having been brought up in a manner of "when all else fails, read the manual" it was great to find Martin Truman at 35 years old.
As I was struggling to understand my new $1500 camcorder he just told me his approach. "Before I do anything, I read the manual". Ten years of working to this policy has saved me so much pain. Especially as every manual for everything can now be found on the web. I've saved thousands of dollars and much stress.
Thanks buddy.

Hollow points and a Glock on a girlfriend: A compelling case for gun control

As I flicked over this image in Flipbook it was interesting - bizarre looking. And a beautifully, logically drafted story that just makes the case for gun control so cleanly. I love that the post has all the cut/paste repeat errors that we all sometimes get. It's honest.

I Grew Up With Guns, Then I Was Held Hostage With One

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kafkaesque: When everybody knows more about your progress than you

Our hero, K., goes with his uncle to meet his uncle's friend, who is a lawyer. After 10 pages of rambling confusion we get to a passage where the lawyer's carer, Leni, goes out of her way to meet with K. privately. In view of the fact that Leni has never met K. and that he still hasn't been charged, this is bewildering:

"But do you have to be always thinking about your trial?” she added slowly. “No, not at all,” said K., “I probably even think too little about it.” “That’s not the mistake you’re making,” said Leni, “you’re too unyielding, that’s what I’ve heard.” “Who said that?” asked K., he felt her body against his chest and looked down on her rich, dark, tightly-bound hair. “I’d be saying too much if I told you that,” answered Leni. “Please don’t ask for names, but do stop making these mistakes of yours, stop being so unyielding, there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself from this court, you have to confess.

Confess to what? I know I'm bouncing through this book quickly, but I'm dead certain that K. hasn't been accused of anything.

Kaf·ka·esque [kahf-kuh-esk]
2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
1945–50 Kafka + -esque

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Kafkaeske: When your tormentors are punished worse than you are

So our hero is surprised, again, but this time the two crooked policemen are prisoners of "the whip man" and are to be punished. It seems that when our hero complained to the judge about the wicked system - of which the policemen are a part - it put the policemen in great trouble.

Do you know what it is that’s made him so fat? He’s in the habit of, everyone that gets arrested by him, he eats their breakfast. Didn’t he eat up your breakfast? Yeah, I thought as much. But a man with a belly like that can’t be made into a whip-man and never will be, that is quite out of the question.” “There are whip-men like that,” Willem insisted, who had just released the belt of this trousers. “No,” said the whip-man, striking him such a blow with the cane on his neck that it made him wince, “you shouldn’t be listening to this, just get undressed.”

The summary corporal punishment for the two policemen seems entire out of place against the prolonged, but (physically at least) benign treatment of Joseph K. All part of the overarching torment, I suppose.

Kaf·ka·esque [kahf-kuh-esk]
2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
1945–50 Kafka + -esque

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Good Guys: A great online purchase

I'm sure Gerry Harvey won't be impressed but I went online yesterday, bought a chest freezer and picked it up today.

No fuss. Showed a driver's licence in store then drove around the back.

Out. Good guys. Gepps Cross.

Repotting cacti: Ouchie

Worth doing, but an irritatingly painful job.

Christmas and a recipe for gravy

No point saying how good this is, it just is.

Paul Kelly's languid reading of a letter from prison at Christmas time rips me up inside every time I hear it. A story of one guy's sadness at being away from his family at Christmas time, and a celebration of what we all have if we go to one of these things.

Tears in my eyes even now.

"And Roger. I'm even gonna miss Roger, cause there's sure as hell no-one in here I wanna fight".

And live.

And the recipe that's in the song - perfect too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tim Minchin's dinner with a dope

Haven't we all had a dinner like this - winding up either saying "what's up his ass?" or being the one in Tim's place, sheepishly making phone calls the next morning. After an unload like Tim's it's always handy to call around the next day to see how many friends you've lost.

This story of a girl called "Storm" starts a little slowly and then all of a sudden the 9.37 is up. I always loved Scooby Doo as well, and for exactly the same reason as Tim.

UPDATE: this has its parallel in a recent blog I passed on, about how everyone's entitled to an opinion, but not all opinions are equally valid.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kafkaesque: Where your day in court is of little value

So our protagonist has made it to his first hearing and gets to say his piece:

“There is no doubt,” he said quietly, “that there is some enormous organisation determining what is said by this court. In my case this includes my arrest and the examination taking place here today, an organisation that employs policemen who can be bribed, oafish supervisors and judges of whom nothing better can be said than that they are not as arrogant as some others. This organisation even maintains a high-level judiciary along with its train of countless servants, scribes, policemen and all the other assistance that it needs, perhaps even executioners and torturers — I’m not afraid of using those words. And what, gentlemen, is the purpose of this enormous organisation? Its purpose is to arrest innocent people and wage pointless prosecutions against them which, as in my case, lead to no result.

As with so much in this book, the process is agonising and carries the expectation - although he is right - very little good can come of this for our hero. Apparently so. The judge replies, as K. leaves:

“I merely wanted to draw your attention, “ said the judge, “to something you seem not yet to be aware of: today, you have robbed yourself of the advantages that a hearing of this sort always gives to someone who is under arrest.”

Kaf·ka·esque [kahf-kuh-esk]
2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
1945–50 Kafka + -esque

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kafkaesque: "Don't be concerned with things above your pay grade"

I won't finish the Kafka book "the Trial" - its pretty hard work. But I will offer a few points for as long as I am reading it. The lead character (K.) wakes up to find two police officers (apparently) in his bedroom and that he's under arrest. After about 45 minutes of infuriatingly circular and nonproductive talk with the juniors, and then the supervisor he was told that "presumably you'll wish to still go to your job at the bank" and that "while you're under arrest it was not meant to encumber you in any way, you should still live your life as normal".


[supervisor] “I never meant it should be anything else,” he replied. “It hardly seems to have been necessary to notify me of the arrest in that case,” said K., and went even closer. The others had also come closer. All of them had gathered together into a narrow space by the door. “That was my duty,” said the supervisor. “A silly duty,” said K., unyielding. “Maybe so,” replied the supervisor, “only don’t let’s waste our time talking on like this. I had assumed you’d be wanting to go to the bank. As you’re paying close attention to every word I’ll add this: I’m not forcing you to go to the bank, I’d just assumed you wanted to.

Kaf·ka·esque [kahf-kuh-esk]
2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
1945–50 Kafka + -esque

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Unbridled enjoyment of another's good news

Get this. Mandy Patinkin of "Homeland" simply can't contain himself as a co-interviewer has to dash because his wife has gone into labour. A minute and a half to brighten your day.

Mazel tov

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kafkaesque: An exploration

As I recounted a recent conversation I'd had, a trusted one told me it sounded "Kafkaesque". Now I have loosely known what the term means, but I don't feel comfortable using terms unless I know - very much - what they're about. That's all a part of being a smartass, if it seems like I have an answer for everything it's because I know what I'm talking about or I wouldn't be engaged in the conversation.

So I thought we could explore "Kafkaesque" together.

Step 1: Dictionary

Kaf·ka·esque [kahf-kuh-esk]
1. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or resembling the literary work of Franz Kafka: the Kafkaesque terror of the endless interrogations.
2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
1945–50 Kafka + -esque

ok then, that helps

Step 2: Wiki
Franz Kafka was Czech, and wrote a lot through the paranoia of pre WW1 Europe.
Kafka's writing has inspired the term "Kafkaesque", used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly Der Process and "Die Verwandlung". Examples include instances in which people are overpowered by bureaucracies, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape the situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

Step 3: Chat to a trusted one
This trusted one has read some of the works and told me it's about lack of transparency, control and personal disempowerment in the face of a behemoth bureaucracy. Suggested two books which he said were short and probably available electronically.

Step 4: Read something
So I'll read "The trial" about where a guy wakes up and finds he is being arrested.

I'll try to keep you up with it. If I manage to keep myself up with it. I'll blog you if I find anything interesting.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I thank a teacher

That's my girl up there in her year 7 graduation from St Joseph's Memorial School Norwood. She's a star.

And I can say I'm indebted to her teacher, Deb Machnik on the left.

In the parent teacher interview this year I saw how technically brilliant Deb has been with Mia, and how well she must have done it with Edan three years ago.

I often get compliments about my kids. Just quietly, deep down, I thank a teacher.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recognising the "lesser" ones

So I hear that tomorrow has been declared - at least by @891adelaide - as the day of the roadie and one of their promos spoke some of these lyrics. This song gives me chills. I love a piano/vocal song anyway, but the sweet words, the lilting music and the huge message is just humbling.

The "lesser ones" are the people who bust their asses while we're all having our "knock off" drinks. They're cleaners, security guys, RAA nightshift drivers, coppers, service station guys. There's no glory in not being one of them, just a little luck. And any one of us might be back there again, quick smart. Or we might just be doing it our whole life, with honour.

Some of us live our "big" lives, but it doesn't make the other people small.

So for once a song pays tribute to the workers and thank goodness for that. So:

Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They're the first to come and last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They'll set it up in another town


But the only time that seems too short
Is the time that we get to play
People you've got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait
Or you can pull us through

As I get older, may I retain some humility. God willing.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Apocalypse Now: Even more disturbing today

As a young guy who liked war movies and didn't know better, I found Apocalypse Now a boring movie. But the boredom, interspersed with senseless carnage seems to be an accurate portrayal of war.

Madmen who can call for the death of hundreds of civilians on a whim such as "the surf is good at that village and Charlie doesn't surf".

"someday this war's gonna end" with a sense of sadness.

The many Vietnamese friends and colleagues I have, we would have a completely different relationship if it was 40 years ago.

"Apocalypse Now" is not really a movie about war, it's about megalomania an darkness of the human spirit. For that, and many other reasons, it's more disturbing today than ever. And riveting.

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Sunday Relaxer: You're so vain

As an eight year old growing up in Parafield Gardens and Salisbury East, this was one of the adult songs that I didn't really get, but it got so much play. So it became part of the fabric of my life. And this beautiful lady doesn't even sound angry, just clear in her assessment of something that went wrong for her. Note to self.

The song is harsh, talking about Warren Beatty I think, but not vengeful. And its matter-of-fact insight brought the admiration of millions, me among them.

The thing that drew me back to it in the 80s was that I'd heard the studio version has Mick Jagger doing backing vocals - the harmonies in the chorus. I think it's one of his best performances of his brilliant career. The fact that you can't hear Mick in this version is its only downside.

But this has to be the best live rendition of a song I think I've ever seen. The sound people did brilliantly and even though the 1980s lead breaks were frenzied, the band stayed true to the languid style of the song. Perfectly true.

Carly Simon bent a few notes for spontaneity, but otherwise it's near impossible to tell this from the studio version. I'm so glad Seth Godin put a minor link to this song in his blog just then.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Authenticity: A life less fearful

A tweet friend, Dr Samantha Thomas just posted a link to one of my favourite Guardian articles: the top five regrets of the dying.

I think I've posted about it before. Not sure.

But here's the first:

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Every day presents us with moments to live a life that's true to ourselves and compromising doesn't seem such a big deal. A racist joke in a bar that we let slide, a totally wrong call somewhere else that we go along with, a friend on the ropes that we tend not to notice. Before we know it we're a shell of our former self and nothing, much, matters any more.

And the price we've paid doesn't become apparent until we're facing death and wondering "will anybody care?". Now that scares me more than joblessness, destitution or being accepted by certain crowds.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Virgin Mobile and me - finished for now

I swung over to Virgin from Telstra four years ago due to a core service failure. And this one lasted four years. My letter:

Virgin Mobile has not coped with me putting my SIM card into a new phone, an HTC One X.

I had no end of trouble with my data connection, and solved it myself, while the Virgin help desk remained befuddled.

Your befuddlement has now extended to SMS. On one of my many calls to your helpdesk, I was told to do an isolation test. I responded that if you ge me to the point of putting somebody else's sim in my phone, the next step is to change carriers.

Now your sim fails on my son's identical phone and his succeeds on mine. That was Thursday last week.

My new sim arrived today. I will be porting my number and paying out my Virgin Balance before the end of the week.

It's been a good four years, but all things come to an end.

I got my sim yesterday, it activated today and once it switched over I had instant SMS and data. So, Virgin, what's the problem? Now I'm on a $19 monthly plan with a company called "Live Connected" compared to your $59. And all because when you were presented with a moment of truth you failed to stand up. My problem is solved, perhaps yours is just beginning.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What I like about research conferences

They force us all to look in the mirror. It's hard to fake it, when you might meet the same people each year. Some are on an exponential trajectory, others linear, others are backsliding. But these conferences show this all in stark relief. Examples:

Someone saw a presentation I was in and said "gee I thought that'd be a nice question to answer, but I can see its been answered." But if the presenter doesn't send it to a journal he'll miss the real chance. Note to self.

A person I know who said "yeh you'll get insecure if you're standing still and I know that because for the last year I've stood still"

I watched for a distance a person who thought they were going to write a PhD on a given topic and thinks that having "stern chats" to other people is going to stake out their territory. Sorry honey - doing the work will stake out the territory.

We all have up years and down years. Without the "self check" mechanism of meeting our colleagues we can convince ourselves that we are doing OK. If we make choices to spend less effort on our research in favour of teaching, family, or other pursuits we should at least have the honesty to recognise the price we pay as we see our colleagues excel.

Easily said. It takes some gumption in the doing, though.

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The #anzmaz12 hashtag data is building

I was interested to see how it goes. Last year I crunched a whole heap of stuff, calculated Pareto shares and even estimated Negative Binomial Distribution (NBD) parameters for a bunch of those hashtags. It was all fun enough but never really made it into the little five pager. This year:
Just quietly the 20% Pareto share is 85%. The total number of tweets made by the top 20% of tweeters (all six of them) is 578 out of about 679. Yes the Pareto effect is in play but we would know that, because as soon as you get some light / some heavy you'll get some sort of Pareto effect.

This all looks NBD above, just that we don't have a count of the "zero tweeters" which is what you really need if you're an NBD purist. Now that's a whole other question. How many zeroes should there be and how do we classify the population:

  • all conference delegates?
  • all conference delegates with a twitter account?
  • all conference delegates with a twitter account who have viewed the #anzmac12 hashtag?

I did it - stochastically - for an EMAC paper back in 2004 by estimating parameters for a truncated (at zero) NBD and "backfitted" the number of zeroes. I still wonder about that - it sounds a little circular. But these are the games we play - the reviewers didn't mind the idea too much so it got in.

Still, there we are - we have a set of data that is growing and it'll be interested to see how it fills out tomorrow. Leave aside the fact that perhaps the tweets per day activity might be growing - at least among the lighter tweeters.

So many questions...

A paper from last year's ANZMAC:

Small and Large Hashtags: Parallels to Consumer Behaviour and Differing Double Jeopardy Effects in the Twittersphere.

*Cullen Habel. The University of Adelaide.
Jean-Eric Pelet. Université de Nantes.

Keywords: Twitter, Metrics, Double Jeopardy, Hashtag, Social Media

* Presenting author


Affiliate groups in Twitter are represented by hashtags, with each tweeter typically only posting one or two tweets to the hashtag in a given period. This paper reviews an archive of 100,000 tweets over 30 hashtags to find support for the propositions of large differences in market share and number of tweeters per hashtag, but small differences in the average number of tweets per tweeter. The low end shows an inverse double jeopardy line, where the smallest hashtags tend to be dominated by a heavy tweeter trying to drive discussion. Mature affiliate groups such as #qanda sit on the traditional DJ line. We conclude that reach is important – broad contact is preferable to dozens of tweets sent to a small follower base.


This paper addresses a question that is familiar to practitioners – should they pursue reach or frequency? Will a better “buzz” be created by engaging very broadly, or by building a close community of strong advocates? It does this in the context of the Twitter platform and demonstrates that while the medium may look different, the pursuit of reach is still important.

Twitter enjoys a global presence of 200 million users (Shiels, 2011) and is considered to have had a major influence on both the US elections and the Iranian elections of 2008 and 2009 (Shiels, 2011), whilst a “Mashable” poll indicated that Twitter broke news of Osama Bin Laden’s death to over 25% of their respondents with television next at 18% (Parr, 2011).

As a communications platform, Twitter is only slightly younger than Facebook, starting in 2007 compared to Facebook’s 2004 (Carlson, 2010). Twitter was conceived as a network of SMS messages – similar in some ways to the “news feed” function of Facebook. Twitter represents an alternative marketing communication and networking channel with a range of practical applications, including:

  1. Extending reach of existing blog or other communications as with, an online communications blog.
  2. Announcing events and deals – Dell and Amazon, as well as group wine buying sit @vinomofo
  3. Improve frequency of updating websites and blogs –  @theaustralian (newspaper) has a strong Twitter feed for this
  4. Building consensus and communities of supporters – @theqwoffboys have included twitter as a medium to build their strong networks
  5. Building word of mouth “buzz” around ones product or brand – the city of Adelaide benefits from the services of @adelaidetweet
  6. Updating breaking news at conferences or events - @GreatWineAdv is the “Great Australian Wine Adventure”
  7. Updating networks for personal branding – Stephen Fry is one of the strongest on Twitter
(Source: Handley, 2007)

Given the maturity and the continued growth of the platform there has been – somewhat surprisingly - little scholarly work on the patterns of communication within this medium from a marketing perspective.

With a key marketing application of Twitter as an outreach medium, as indicated in points 1, 4 and 5 above, this paper reports upon an exploratory quantitative investigation into the nature of “buzz” creation and relates it to the well known “double jeopardy” pattern of consumer brand selection.

Hashtags indicate communities of interest

Whist the “follow” and “news feed” functions of Twitter tend to mimic those of Facebook; it is the use of hashtags that indicate self organising affiliate groups, and allow users to “buy into” a given area. A user may include the term #justinbieber in their message to signify their engagement with the “Justin Bieber” meme, and other users may choose to include the same term if they – too – are speaking to that meme. Hashtags may be frivolous, or more serious as shown by list given in table 1.

Rather than a personal stream, users may then choose to search on the hashtag term and view all messages (from followers/followeds or not) regarding that term. A user watching current affair program “The Insiders” is able to follow an underground, global, real time conversation simply by watching the #insiders stream on their PC, iPad or smartphone.

How strong is an affiliate group?

In the pursuit of a large, active group of tweeters affiliating with their hashtag, a marketer should be concerned with two measures – how many tweeters have engaged and the average number of tweets per tweeter. This has a distinct parallel with previously identified consumer goods patterns (Uncles et al., 1995) and allows us to present a set of simple propositions for our twitter study:

P1: Large differences occur in market shares (hashtag daily tweets)
P2: Small differences in average purchases per buyer between brands (tweet rates)
P3: Large differences in the number of buyers (tweeters)
P4: Double Jeopardy Effects – tweeters and tweet rates show a positive correlation across the hashtags.

In much the same way as consumers have a choice to buy multiple brands over a period of consumption, tweeters have the choice to engage with a broad range of topics on twitter – as represented by various hashtags. This exploratory paper has taken a very broad range of these hashtags and they are not meant to represent brands or product classes, simply to gain an insight to overall tweeter behaviour.


During the month of June, 2011, we observed the tweeting behaviour around some thirty hashtags. This involved archiving tweets for a given period using a freeware product (The Archivist) provided by a division of Microsoft. This data collection software makes use of the twitter search function, saving the username, plus the time and content of each tweet that used a specified hashtag. This allowed us to tabulate the average tweets per day made using a given hashtag, as well as the number of engaged tweeters and average number of tweets per engaged tweeter. There appeared to be a natural break between hashtags – they either enjoyed over 1,000 tweets per day (on average) or 500 or less. For analysis later in this paper this natural break was used as a way of defining small and large hashtags.

Results and Discussion

Table 1 below gives a sample of the data, from the extremely active (if frivolous) meme where people might say “#dontlookatmeif I haven’t had my first coffee for the day” to tweeters watching a television show with “Politest #qanda panel ever.”, and “go to #wineFORUM for great wine news”.

Only five small and five large hashtags are shown below, for reasons of brevity. Readers are welcome to contact the author for the exhaustive list of the 30 or so.
It must be noted that these observations are not for the same length of time, or for the same dates, or even the same pool of tweeters. It is therefore not strictly correct to refer to “market share” when comparing hashtags to each other. Nevertheless, the tweets per day represent relative activity within the particular hashtag, some “share” of the twitter attention being paid to a given meme.

Even leaving aside the extreme first value, it can be seen that the rate of tweets per day vary between around 10,000 and perhaps around a hundred (sometimes down to 50 or 30). Thus while accepting the fact that measures are not directly comparable, proposition 1 is supported. This can also be seen in the x-axes of figure 1.

When we consider the average number of tweets per tweeter see that even within the restricted sample of table 1 the average number of tweets per tweeter varies between 1.2 and 3.9, with an outlier of 5.6. That is essentially a 1:4 variation from largest to smallest, compared to very large variation that occurs in the tweets per day column, so proposition 2 is supported. Graphically this appears in the left hand y-axis of figure 1.

When we consider the number of tweeters in each twitstream it can be seen that they vary from a hundred or less, into the thousands, as shown in the y-axis of the right hand graph of figure 1. Thus P3 is supported. 

Double Jeopardy in the Twitterverse

Proposition 4 deals with the phenomenon of double jeopardy (DJ). In a marketing sense, DJ means that lower market share brands are penalised twice – they have far fewer buyers and the buyers they have tend to buy them less often (Ehrenberg et al., 1990). The Twitter context tends to parallel the original observations of McPhee (1963) with Hollywood actors, comic strips and radio presenters. A DJ line is an x-y plot of the number of buyers of a brand against the number of times the brand is bought (Allsopp and Jarvis, 2003) and tends to be an upward sloping line with some curvature (Habel and Rungie, 2005).

A DJ line in the Twitter world is a plot of tweeters vs tweets for the various hashtags. Such a plot for the entire set of this data showed almost no relationship (R2=0.04) with a slight downward slope. This amounts to a rejection of proposition 4. Double Jeopardy does not appear to apply when the entire sample of twitstreams are considered. This is worthy of further consideration.

Different DJ lines for the small and the large hashtags

This contrary picture to standard DJ can be explained by the way in which small hashtags (<1000 tweets per day) behave differently to the larger ones (>1000) as shown in figure 2.

For the large hashtags the standard DJ pattern applies – upward sloping line with an R2 around 0.3. It is with the small hashtags that the opposite occurs – the fewer tweeters there are the more tweets – on average – they tend to make.

Driving communities vs driven communities.

Closer investigation of the tweeter behaviour shows a great many of the smaller hashtags being dominated by a small number of highly active members. In one case (a wine forum) four tweeters accounted for 65% of all tweets - actively working to generate interest. This means that the chart on the LHS of figure 2 has a great many of those small brands showing high average tweet rates per tweeter.

By contrast with a large, a mature hashtag such as for a television show (in this case #qanda) there is no dominant tweeter. Some are heavier, but there is no one tweeter dominating the discussion. Past some critical point the community gains a life of its own and does not need to be driven by PR consultants and forum owners. This is also an indication that external drivers – such as being a television show of its own (or some global meme) is a great assistance to an affiliate group.

We argue that this is the cause for the rejection of proposition 4, and the reason for the differing double jeopardy effects when we consider the small and the large brands – it is an artefact of the small communities being driven by a number of highly active members.

Conclusion and Marketing Implications

Whilst the propositions of this paper are not – in themselves – controversial they have not been examined in the context of this new medium of twitter. Propositions 1, 2 and 3 draw a clean parallel to brand choice in consumer goods marketing – hashtags vary far more in the number of people engaging with them than they do in the level of engagement.

For a marketer or communications professional attempting to generate activity around their topic of interest (their own hashtag) this means that reach is important. The overwhelming nature of Twitter is one of tweeters engaging briefly with a range of ideas as they go use the medium. The strong hashtags have thousands of tweeters making around three tweets.

Marketers and communicators should therefore work with the ephemeral nature of the medium. The gaining of a single retweet from a tweeter with thousands of followers is likely to promote your hashtag far more effectively than spamming your own five hundred with dozens of messages.
Limitations and Further Research
This has been in its very nature a coarse analysis. We have deliberately looked past the nature of the tweet content and across a range of hashtags in an effort to understand consumer behaviour patterns in this medium. Whilst the overarching patterns of double jeopardy have been established (and exceptions identified) there is ample scope to fine tune this analysis to consider what is being written in the tweet, or the more general categories of hashtag.

Beyond the coarse analysis of DJ lines and percentage of tweets, future research should include Pareto analyses – the percentage of tweets accounted for by the heaviest 20% of tweeters (e.g. Anschuetz, 1997). Furthermore, with such a skewed distribution of tweet rates (many low level tweeters and a few heavy tweeters) a range of consumer behaviour models such as the Negative Binomial Distribution (Ehrenberg, 1959) would take this to the next level.


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Two books from Byron Sharp

I can't complain. I got two books - one management and one text - written by prof Byron Sharp at this year's Australia New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference.

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Rebecca presenting at #anzmac12

What makes a blog influential?

Dr Catherine Frethey-Bentham from the University of Auckland put together a model that promises to predict whether a corporate blog is influential. Of those, Google page rank, pageviews and number of inlinks showed as significant drivers of influence.

UPDATE: I look at this blog, which I started in Feb 2011. I started this after a dalliance with what I call "the black blog" and managed to keep this a little lighter - and received less legal censure. There's even the data in this blog to do a little study: dependent variable as monthly pageviews, independent variables monthly posts, outlinks. Unfortunately a key driver is probably Twitter / Facebook promos, and for me that data would be long gone.

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The #anzmac12 hashtag is looking reverse J

I'm at the Australia New Zealand Marketing academy conference. Dick Mizerski just mentioned that Facebook places checkins would probably take an NBD pattern - many light users and a few hardcore. When I mentioned that it probably applied to the #anzmac12 hashtag I think the point might have been lost on some, but the raw data is starting to bear it out.
 It will be really cool to get the fully tabulated username / posts data and see if the Negative Binomial Distribution (reverse J-curve) fits the data. It certainly looks as theough it will.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prison fellowship - cool ad

The idea of helping out a kid while his dad is in prison. Very appealing. And the ad, simple execution but does the job. I think they get free tv spots, which is cool:

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The comforting reverse J curve on cigarette purchases

Here at the Australian New Zealand marketing academy conference, John Dawes is presenting some charts, this time of frequency distributions of cigarette purchaseoccasions / packs over 12 months.

That familiar reverse J curve (often referred to as Negative Binomial Distribution) even in such an addictive product category.

What I'd be really interested in is what plain packaging will do - I think it might make consumers more "switchy" around brands, but that the category level patterns would remain the same. It's an empirical question.

But my reasoning for why the tobacco industry is so against it? Three reasons:
They don't want to be told or controlled on it
It's the thin end of the wedge against them
Even if category level patterns don't change, a more "switchy" customer base will still result is market share shifts, at the very least it will cost more to hold position.

The scary thing for government is that the category level behaviour might not change. And the fact that the cigarette companies are fighting it so hard is not due to a fear of the overall behaviour sales reducing.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The picture of a phone fail

The no1 criterion of a phone is that it works for the whole day. At least as far as I care. So here is the picture of how the HTC One X failed, on that basis. The x-axis runs the length of a day. I used the phone to watch tv and listen to radio. By 1pm the battery was in dire straits.

So the rest of the day was "plug it in, don't use it" then "use it, but plug it back in when you can".

That's bullshit. I never had this with the iPhone. I won't be held to ransom by a bunch of people who traded "flash" for functionality. My productivity was nobbled from lunchtime.

I don't think the HTC One X is a serious  phone.

Ben Goldacre's bullshit detection plan

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Research: Just because they give you an answer...

I have to thank @danariely for the heads up but this is a great little point about how when you force people to give you an answer, you often get gibberish.

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The case for less government provision of service

I first saw this on Catallaxy files which - as a conservative think tank - could be expected to run this line. But it makes a fair point about the efficiencies of privatisation. But then I look at the price of our water and electricity now, and I wonder...

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A service "moment of truth" can't compensate for poor core service

Virgin Mobile have fantastic "frontstage" service. I always get helpful, efficient people on the phone.

Never mind that they were given a bad faultfinding guide - that the wrong "xxx proxy" was wiping the APN settings I was trying to load, or even that the network had mysteriously failed to give them to my phone. When their tech support called an hour later - still confused - I'd solved it myself.

Today when the phone stopped sending SMS they wheeled me through the same faultfinding protocol and then asked me to jockey the SIM card into another phone. As I'd said to the lovely lady yesterday:

"if I get down to swapping sim cards, the swap I make will be to swap a card in that works and cancel my account with you."

So after doing what they call "the isolation test" (sim swap) and finding that it was the service and not the phone I called their techs, told them that was the case and spoke to the sales guys. They can 'escalate' the query all they like but I think they'll be too late.

What a shame for Virgin. My contract expires on Dec 17. I'm already planning my new prepaid carrier. I'd paid cash for a new phone a month ago - how do you think I got from Apple to HTC?  Sorry Virgin, your frontstage service people got let down by crappy product.

Your only hope now is "Service Recovery". Good luck with that. Over the weekend I'll be considering my options.

As it happens I found a monthly contract on a carrier that will cost me $19. Given I just tried to send a text to my wife just then "I hope the funeral goes ok for you" and it failed, it's now personal.

I think my love affair with Virgin Mobile has come to an end. No matter how nice they are to me.