Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the attention span of a marketer shorter than that of a fruit fly?




















Last year on January 21st I blogged about Is the average attention span of a presentation coach almost as short as that of a house fly? In celebration of that anniversary I’ll look at how some marketers have been using the same bogus 8 and 12 second numbers that once came from Statistic Brain. More recently they have hilariously claimed the average attention span in 2015 is precisely 8.25 seconds, versus 12 seconds in 2000. They continue to claim a gold fish has an attention span of 9 seconds.

One silly reference last month was in an article by Ryan Shelley on December 16, 2016 at Business2Community ironically titled Stop Posting Crappy Content: The Art to Creating Content with Purpose which wrongly attributed those numbers to Microsoft. A second silly reference was in an article by Sandra Fathi on December 20, 2016 at Ragan’s PR Daily titled 5 PR and social media predictions for B2B communicators which also attributed them to Microsoft. A third is an article on January 8, 2017 by Vikas Agrawal at Customer THINK titled How to Drive Social Traffic With Infographics.

Even sillier, at Amazon is a forthcoming book by Paul Hellman titled You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World. The back cover blurb wrongly claims:

“The average attention span, experts tell us, is now 8 seconds.”

But the most outrageous claim was blaming the 8-second attention span on the new kids in the work force - Generation Z. Jeremy Finch said that at Fastcoexist in a 2015 article titled What is Generation Z, and what does it want? He said they would dig below the surface but began by misstating the same old nonsense. Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor also said it in a post on December 21, 2016 at the AICPA Insights blog titled 5 to Watch: Trends and Predictions Shaping 2017.




























Fortunately these silly claims have been challenged. On January 29, 2016 at Policyviz Jonathan Schwabish wrote about The Attention Span Statistic Fallacy. He even linked to my November 16, 2014 blog post titled Does it take 9, 90, or 900 seconds to lose your audience’s attention? Jonathan also showed the Microsoft graphic including the reference to Statistic Brain that was cropped out in the version shown by Vikas Agrawal. Mindi Ridgeway referred to Jonathan Schwabish’s article in a November 15, 2016 article at WORDS per se titled The Myth of the Modern Attention Span. There also was a serious article on December 1, 2016 by Neil A. Bradbury at Advances in Physiology Education titled Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10 minutes, or more?




















If instead of marketers you had asked parents of toddlers about attention spans, they would have talked about minutes rather than seconds. On example is an article at Day2Day Parenting titled Toddler Attention Span: How Long Should They Be Able To Focus? Another is an article by Helen Fowler Neville at Parenting Press titled Be Realistic about a Child’s Attention Span. She said that a 2-1/2 year old may spend about 2 minutes on a single activity, or even play peacefully for 10 minutes. 

The Statistic Brain web page originally claimed the source for their silly numbers was The Associated Press. Later they added the more prestigious National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. I called their bluff by actually looking at the PubMed Central database, and easily found an article from August 2008 in Infant and Child Development titled Focused Attention in Toddlers measurement, stability, and relations to negative emotion and parenting. Table 1 shows their results for toddlers aged 1-1/2 (T1) and 2-1/2 (T2) years. For a 1-1/2 year old the shortest mean attention span was 3.19 (minutes). 
 
But, just how short is the attention span of a fruit fly? According to an article from 2016 at PLOS ONE titled Vision in Flies: Measuring the Attention Span it is 4 to 5 seconds.

Images of a fruit fly and a toddler both came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Floodlamp technology marches on





















In our home we have lots of 3-1/2-inch diameter R30 floodlamps mounted on sockets recessed in the ceiling. (There are six in the kitchen, and four in the living room). When we moved in there were 65W incandescent lamps. Three years ago we replaced those with 15W warm-white compact fluorescent lamps. The fluorescent lamps started slowly and were not dimmable.

At the Boise Costco store on January 11th I saw some 8-packs of 9.5W dimmable R30 daylight LED floodlamps (as shown above)  that normally were $26.99 but had a $16 rebate. I bought one package. The final price including sales tax was just $1.46 per lamp. These LED lamps are instant-on and seem brighter, although their output actually is rated at 650 lumens versus the 750 lumens for the compact fluorescents. Later I bought two more packs for the halls and master bedroom.

Quality control on the LED lamps wasn’t wonderful. On one the threaded end broke away from the body when I tried to screw it into a kitchen ceiling socket (with my suction-cup-on-a-broomstick light bulb changer). So, I got out a ladder and removed the body by hand. Then I used a needle nose pliers to unscrew the threaded end that still was lodged in the socket. I could see a power supply circuit board inside the lamp body, so I got out a hacksaw and pliers and dissected the failed lamp.




























Near the front there are seven LEDs (yellow rectangles) on a circuit board held by four tabs onto an aluminum reflector. At the center is a two-pin socket where the power supply circuit board plugs in.






























Here is a top view of the circuit board.






















Here is a bottom view of that circuit board, with more surface-mounted components which include 9 capacitors (C), 4 diodes (D), 2 inductors (L), and 17 resistors (R).   

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Using imaginary or abstract visual aids


Even imaginary visual aids can be powerful in a speech. You always can talk about and point to things that aren’t there. On page 180 of his 1996 book Plain English at Work Edward P. Bailey gave three examples. Two are:

“One person was showing the distance someone could broad jump. So she made the stage an imaginary place for the event, started at one edge, and walked the distance for the high school record. She talked about that awhile, then moved a little farther to show the collegiate record. And so on.

....Another made the stage an airport, showing which directions the planes would take off and land, where the gates were, and where the control tower was. She then used this to illustrate the various traffic patterns the planes would fly, depending on the direction the wind was blowing.”  
























An airport also could be shown abstractly on the stage using rope and colored yarns to mark runways and taxiways, and sheets of paper to indicate the control tower and terminal. Your audience will imagine the details.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Know Something. Say Something. Be Something.





















On January 15th John Zimmer posted Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 248) Elbert Hubbard at his Manner of Speaking blog which was:

“To escape criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

It follows the familiar Rule of Three. Back on January 9, 2015 Quote Investigator looked at where else it came from.

But I recognized it as being a negative version of something similar to the 1927 motto of Taylor Allderdice High School, which I graduated from in Pittsburgh and is:

“Know Something. Do Something. Be Something.”

The U.S. Army also uses a three-part leadership slogan of Be-Know-Do, which was written by Major Boyd M. Harris in 1983.

A better positive version for speakers is to:

Know Something. Say Something. Be Something.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Are great teachers great storytellers?



























Yes, they are. That was the title of a magazine article by Frank Romanelli on page 93 of the August 2016 issue of the American Journal of Pharmacy Education (Vol 80, No. 6). He said:

“....Have we as teachers forgotten the importance of storytelling? Some speculate that growing demands to teach more to more students alongside the over reliance on PowerPoint presentations and other technologies have led many educators to stray from telling the larger story. Stories are a connected means of presenting and transmitting information. Moreover, information that is presented in a logical and systematic fashion is often easier for students to understand, process, retrieve, and synthesize. Perhaps the greatest strength of storytelling is the naturalness of this mode of information transmission. For most of us, our education started informally through fairy tales, fables, and even family stories.

The effective use of storytelling as a component of teaching may be too often overlooked. Telling the story of a disease, disease state, or any lesson on a micro or macro level may be invaluable to students. The story of a disease helps learners understand circumstances surrounding recognition of an altered health state and the chronological events that shape the pharmacotherapy used to treat or cure. By providing a narrative account, a storyline forces students to better understand the circumstances that lead to drug discoveries, obstacles to treatment, and advantages and disadvantages of specific therapeutic options. A paramount lesson from the narrative is comprehending what leads researchers or clinicians to ask certain questions or make certain hypotheses concerning a disease.”


An image of Story hour in the first grade came from the Library of Congress.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Free return address labels in the mail from charities are an opportunity, not a problem

















On January 9, 2017 Jane Genova blogged about Unsolicited Junk Gifts from Supposedly Worthy Causes - Ask Congress to Ban This Kind of Snail Mail. (Titles of posts from her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog show up under Speaking Pro Central at Alltop Speaking, which I glance at every day). She had received address labels and a notepad from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Jane ranted that:

“....The brutal reality is that gifts, even junk gifts, impose obligation. The expectation is that we will reciprocate. When a cause approaches us in this way, of course, the expectation is for a monetary donation.

I want this stopped. And since the public nuisance happens through the mail, federal authorities can end this practice. That will force good causes to become more innovative in their fundraising. That will provide more assignments for us in marketing communications.”






























But there was no reason to go on a guilt trip or try to change the law. The existing one is adequate, and it says there is no legal obligation. A web page at the U. S. Postal Inspection Service titled Receipt of Unsolicited Merchandise explains in plain English that after you open it you can treat it as a gift and either:

A]  If you like what you find, you may keep it for free.

B]  If you don’t like what you find, you may throw it away.


They also refer to the law (Section 3009 of Title 39 of the United States Code). I found it amusing that Jane, who likes to name drop about having attended Harvard Law School, didn’t even bother to look up the law on this topic. (She also cross-posted this same story at her Law and More blog).

I suspect that Jane didn’t spend much more time writing her blog post than I did reading it. She’s a bad example, as I discussed previously on December 28, 2016 in a blog post titled Shallow versus deep research about how much Americans trust their mass media.

Return address label sheets from charities are a useful gift, and thus are my favorite type of ‘junk’ mail. 
 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Is expertise really the enemy of innovation?




























I think not, but is tip #15 from Stephen Shapiros’s 2011 book Best Practices are Stupid. He blogged about it in an August 31, 2016 post titled Innovation Minute #20: Expertise is the Enemy of Innovation. (Titles of his posts appear at Alltop Speaking). Stephen explained that:

“The reason why is, the more you’ve thought about a topic, the harder it is for you to think differently about that topic.

So, if you’re an expert in a function, like HR, finance or sales, it’s going to be hard for you to think differently about that. If you’re an expert in an industry, like hospitality, financial services or manufacturing, it will be difficult for you to think differently about that.”
 

Alexander Pope’s old adage that a little learning is a dangerous thing likely is more correct. I instead think that expertise is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for innovation.  

If you are dogmatic and rigid, then expertise MAY be the enemy of innovation. But those of us who have done research for a living know how to be flexible and creative. My first career included seven years of applied research at the Climax Molybdenum Company lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There were lots of creative people in that lab with a wide variety of expertise. Two stories illustrate how expertise leads to innovation.

One of our older technicians, Bob Besore, had once designed production tooling at Garwood Industries. In our mechanical testing lab we had a fracture test apparatus that (as is common in research) had been adapted from other tooling we already had around. But setting it up took repeated measurements and several minutes of adjustment with a wrench to align the differently sized and shaped upper and lower plates mounted on the fixed and movable heads of the electrohydraulic testing machine.





























A supervisor asked Bob if he could make an easier to use version. He said sure I can, but I need to start over from scratch. A top view of what he designed is shown above. The new precision-ground plates were the same size and shape. A precision-ground U-shaped coupling fixture slid over both plates to locate them in perfect alignment. Then a series of cap screws were tightened with an air wrench, and in under a minute it was ready to use. These days what Bob had designed is described under the topic of lean production as a Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED).   

Another example is the 1989 U.S. Patent # 4,832,757 by Thomas B. Cox and me (Method for producing normalized Grade D sucker rods). Sucker rods are what connects between the horse head pumping jack you see in oil fields and the pump mechanism located at the bottom of the well. The high-strength Grade D usually is produced from plain carbon steel via a heat treatment  involving austenitizing, quenching and tempering. Lower strength rods are normalized - austenitized and just air-cooled. We showed that carefully chosen normalized manganese-molybdenum alloy steel compositions also could produce acceptable properties. This research was begun during the 1980s drilling boom, when there was a high demand for rods. We wanted to let rod producers who were set up only for heat treating lower strength rods (and thus didn’t have a quench tank and tempering furnace) make high-strength rods too. 

The general approach of replacing a carbon steel with an air-cooled alloy steel had previously been used at the Climax lab for other products, like dual-phase steel sheet for automotive applications. We used our lab’s collective expertise in hardenabilty to select the right steel compositions. 

The image of a wizard was adapted from a 1901 Puck cartoon at the Library of Congress, and the painting of a laughing fool came from Wikimedia Commons.