Thursday, July 27, 2017
Probably not representative

Probably not representative

Volume 1501, Number 9

Confused about the sample

“If you survey 10,000 of your customers by email and 200 reply, what will you learn from the responses?

You will probably not get a statistically accurate presentation of how your customers feel. What you will get is an accurate understanding of how customers who answer email surveys feel. Two different things.

People who vote are not always the same as people who answer surveys. People who post Yelp reviews are not the same as people who buy from you. Customers who complain are not the same as all customers.

Sure, sometimes the groups are similar enough that it’s okay to use one as a proxy for the other. But often, that’s just not the case, and we mistake proximity and noisiness for accuracy.”

Seth Godin

Do the dozen folks who routinely preach and pontificate at City Council meetings provide a valid sample of Costa Mesans’ opinions? Or do they represent “noise?”

When a video camera appears at a committee meeting or the City’s video coverage of a Council meeting is required, the attention-seekers are attracted. Some might just be anxious to show their new hairdo, others to prove they are properly angry or grievously victimized.

Maybe the meeting videos are their “Selfies.” How would that relate to the study that showed males who posted “selfies” tended to be narcissistic with psychopathological deficits?

The constant commenters might be considered “public meeting trolls.” Research suggests that internet trolls* are usually bullies and suffer from either three or four serious psyhological pathologies.  If the meeting videos are “selfies” for the constant commenters then some might just be narcissistic with other psychopathological deficits. Others may fall under the shadow of “the dark triad (or dark tetrad).”

It would be wrong to blame the city’s videos for the mental and emotional pathology, though. Videos just attract the narcissists and public meeting trolls, they don’t cause them.

However, the preeners, preachers and provocateurs interfere with ordinary citizens who want to bring matters to the Council’s attention. They intimidate others as well as monopolize time. Perhaps maintaining only a written record might better serve all Costa Mesans. We suspect that being quoted in print won’t be nearly as much fun for the trolls as having a three minute “selfie” posted for all to see.

Comments might come from a more representative sample of Costa Mesans if there were no cameras to draw the performers. Turning out the porch light releases the moths to fly elsewhere.

* Discussed further here and here



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