Category Archives: Tech

science you can use without thinking

Persuasion without Consequences for ObamaCare Counting

In the continuing analysis of ObamaCare . . . let’s continue to count the change.

The administration did not release two other crucial statistics that would help determine the success of the law: the number of people among the eight million who bought insurance for the first time and the number who paid their initial premiums.

The number of those who were previously uninsured is important, since many people could simply have been moved from plans that were canceled by the law. Administration officials have promised to release that information when they have it, but they have said it is not data that is collected by the government.

The count now stands at 8 million enrolled which is even better than the 7 million previously counted. But, that’s a count which includes many people who don’t truly count for ObamaCare. People who already had health insurance, but then enrolled for ObamaCare because the law killed their previous policies do not count. ObamaCare aimed at the uninsured, right? And, it sure would be nice if enrollees also had paid premiums because enrollment without payment is fantasy insurance. But:

Administration officials have promised to release that information when they have it, but they have said it is not data that is collected by the government.

How is it possible that the government does not have this information? I’m not talking politics here, I’m talking straight persuasion and counting the change. I’ve designed and implemented a new computer-based system that people must enter to count and I cannot count at every nanosecond variables like prior insurance, age, or health status? That is astoundingly unbelievable on the face of it, like catching your children with their hair on fire while swearing they weren’t playing with matches.

Who designs a Big Data system that cannot instantaneously and continuously count things like that? Such an assertion bears no scrutiny because of the implications for either (or both) competence and character. You cannot be that stupid or that dishonest. I think that Team Obama knows to the fifth decimal place exactly the count on these variables and is maneuvering. Consider these three paragraphs from the NYTimes account.

President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, including what the White House said were a sufficient number of young, healthy adults, a critical milestone that might counter election-year attacks by Republicans on the law’s success and viability.

In the early months of signups, the number of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 — who tend to be healthier — hovered around 25 percent. But as White House officials predicted, many young people appear to have waited until close to the March 31 deadline to enroll, increasing their participation.

The administration said Thursday that 28 percent of those who bought policies were between the ages of 18 and 34, but some analysts said the optimum level would be 40 percent.

So. Team Obama asserts there is a “sufficient number” of young and healthy first time enrollees because at first only 25% of this target enrolled, but now it’s all the way up to 28%. Do a cold hearted persuasion analysis on this.

Team Obama can say that 28% of the enrollees are young and healthy, but cannot say whether anyone is previously insured. They can say that 28% of the enrollees are young and healthy, but cannot say whether anyone paid their premiums. Again, I shout, are you serious? What kind of Big Data system permits a public number as specific as 28% young and healthy, but doesn’t permit any number for prior insurance or payment status?

This is the kind of counting you would expect if you were protecting the Idiot Niece or Nephew in the Corner Office running a new Big Data Initiative. Only someone who enjoys kindness from strangers or a rich daddy or a good looking momma can say things like this and survive.

Quickly now, draw a sharp contrast in this Local and most others. Team Obama holds their position until January 2017 and can get away with such obvious political machinations. They face no existential consequences. For everyone else who lives in a Skinner Box, this kind of Big Data design, implementation, and public comment is a shock box.

As always with a persuasion campaign, especially one still on-going, is the problem that you rarely have all the crucial information you need to critique it. Thinking as the persuasion guy in charge of doing ObamaCare, I’d be having heart failure today even with the limited public knowledge about it. Sure, I’ve got a number like “eight million” that everyone around me agrees is a safe public number, but that I know is only a General Semantics Persuasion Play©™® where we’re fooling Other Guys into confusing the number for the reality.

I’d also be worrying over the next round of enrollments which begin in a few months. Will I still have a bazillion dollar media budget? Will Mr. Obama still play irony between the ferns? How am I going to motivate the nearly 40 million remaining uninsured to get into my system? And my prior experience in the Fed would worry me more. Even when there’s enough money, somebody can always just change their mind and a campaign gets dropped, neither a failure nor a success, but politically useful.

Man, anyone who thinks persuadin’ is easy don’t know sand from ice.

Counting the Facebook Change: WATtapping

Let’s use Facebook to shoot fish in a barrel. Instead of trying to get Other Guys to hit a TACT that requires them to leave their app ‘n iGizmo, get dressed, and go out in the Local called reality, let’s hit the WATtapping TACT. While sitting in their preferred Digirati attire with their favorite app ‘n iGizmo, let’s run a Facebook persuasion campaign that only requires WATtapping for everything including your product or service. Everything about this persuasion is only digital.

Consider this convenient case.

20 Dollar FB Ad Experiment

An online marketer discloses how he counted the change with only a $20 ad campaign with Facebook. While he calls this an experiment, it is not. There’s no treatment group that gets Something and a control group that gets Something Else or even Nothing. He runs the same ad for everyone then observes what happens. If anything positive happens, you can call the intervention some kind of success, but compared to anything else, who knows? But, to his everlasting credit, he does offer details of his study and I think he’s telling the truth.

He begins with a population of Other Guys who are already his Facebook fans. They follow his work through Facebook. Already. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, might put it, they are Leaning In. For this intervention he wants his fans to hit the TACT called “enrolling in my 7-Day Free MLM Boot Camp.” This boot camp is apparently an online text description of how to be more successful at marketing. He creates an ad for this TACT through the Facebook Sponsored Ads program and the ad goes out to his existing fans (approximately 7700) and their friends (about another 17,000 people). Here’s what he gets.

20 Dollar FB Ad Results

He gets 19 new leads and converts 4 to hit the TACT. And remember, to hit the TACT all the Other Guys have to do is WATtap a couple of times and they are enrolled in the Free 7-Day Boot Camp which they can then WATtap through at their leisure. They don’t have to get dressed and leave the house or even put down their iGizmo. They don’t even have to pay for anything whether with PayPal or BitCoin or a credit card number. Just point and click, WATtap. And these guys were Leaning In.

This marketer then repeats his experiment several times with pretty much the same results. A handful of Other Guys (existing fans) who got a persuasive message to hit a WATtap TACT actually exert enough energy to click a mouse button a few times. He asserts that he does make money from this activity through affiliate sales which means he takes the new contact information he garnered and sells that to someone else who then bombards the hapless new Other Guy with emails for products and services that have nothing to do with the Free 7-Day Boot Camp. The marketer does not detail how much money this generates, but confidently asserts that he will recoup his advertising cost within a few weeks. Past recouping the advertising cost, the online marketer is silent.

As I noted earlier, I believe this guy largely because the results are so bad that anyone who would fess up to this has got to be honest.

Consider the Local.

Start with Other Guys who already know you and “like” you.

Hit them and their friends (hey, friends with benefits, right) with a simple message making a free offer.

All anyone ever has to do is click on a link. That’s all the energy behavior of this TACT requires.

For twenty bucks you get four or five new contacts you can then monetize through the work of somebody else. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably.

That’s Facebook persuasion for you. For 20 dollars you can hit nearly 25,000 Other Guys (your fans and their friends) who are already leaning in your direction and get 4 or 5 clicks with a new email address. And, if all goes according to plan, somebody else will someday send you some money that will cover your $20 persuasion budget.

Let’s enjoy this case study as persuasion panthers. You’ve convinced guys like this online marketer that Facebook persuasion works. He gives you $20 right now regardless of any outcome. You put that in your bank along with the thousands of other marketers like this guy. This guy comes back several times with these small budget persuasion experiments. You always cash his check before anything happens and regardless of what happens you get his money.

And, guess what? You get to watch the results of this guy’s experiment (and all those other marketing guys doing these small budget persuasion experiments) and you have even more data about it than you give him and the others. You get to learn about Facebook persuasion without having to pay anything for it. In fact, you get paid to observe this! Most importantly, you learn how to set the price point for small budget Facebook persuasion experiments so that you attract and keep these guys coming back for more. You run your own experiments with the kind of information you provide and what kind of Pretty Pictures you give and you automate this process so that every hour of every day you get a ticker tape feed.

Then you take the results from all these small budget persuasion experiments, combine them into types and segments and case studies and use that information to demonstrate the effectiveness of Facebook persuasion to other Sauds and Aleuts with larger budgets, showing them what works and doesn’t work.

Then the bigger fish put down larger budgets, doing pretty much what this one independent online marketer does but with Kate Upton or Jay-Z or a riff from a Rolling Stones or Beatles song and probably gets slightly better results than this experiment because the Big Boys at the Big Marketing Cool Table are a lot smarter than this online marketer.

That and Kate Upton.

Count the change, vampires. Count the change. Even in this small, homegrown example, a Facebook persuasion play should be shooting small fish in a small barrel, yet you can’t find a sardine in the can. Good grief, you couldn’t construct a better test of the persuasion power of Facebook than this beautifully simple, direct, and almost sincere application. And you get trivial changes that are coming in at break even costs. This online marketing guy is humping a lot of expense himself in this operation and is not including them in his calculations.

You see the persuasion with Facebook. It’s what they do to you to get the change they can count. And this only occurs because Facebook enjoys a jungle with few competitors. Right now, Google is still the lion with Facebook barely a hyena in the advertising hunt. And the existence of just these two killers is destroying the price structure for their advertising rates. A third killer would only further erode price and profits. Twitter, anyone?

Now we’re talking competition or else getting caught in price-fixing which Do No Evil Google will never do. Ad prices fall farther and maybe our online marketing guy and the dentist make a real penny of profit on a twenty dollar persuasion campaign.

Everyone keeps believing that apps ‘n iGizmos are a persuasion machine just like newspaper ads and radio ads and TV ads were and, while reduced, still are. iAds never count much change when you do a hard count on that change. I’m sure that Facebook has a couple of amazing slides on experimental persuasion campaigns they ran, but that’s taking the top of the distribution out of the meta-analysis. Add in all the Facebook experiments and give me that mean.

If you are buying persuasion, the last thing you can permit is for the Other Guy to run persuasion on you. Count the change.

An Acxiom to Grind

While reading the morning papers I found this interesting paragraph.

In March, Acxiom published a white paper describing this process, along with the results of a study it conducted of banner-ad campaigns by more than 50 companies over roughly two years. It found that, on average, the ads drove $9 of sales for every dollar spent – primarily in physical stores.

Hey, some real live research on digital marketing from a Big Marketer we’ve seen before, Acxiom. Sure, it’s only a White Paper for Thought Leadership, meaning it is a General Semantics Persuasion Play®™© wherein you eat the White Paper thinking you’ve consumed Thought Leadership when you’ve just had a glass of Peitho Diet Water©™®. But, still. It’s getting quoted in the Wall Street Journal and it is available online.

Except it isn’t.

On Monday April 14, 2014 I repeatedly tried to access this White Paper along with various other examples of Acxiom Thought Leadership and kept hitting a 403 Access Forbidden page. Then I noticed something even more entertaining. Consider this screen shot (click to enlarge).

Acxiom White Paper Comments

This from the White Paper landing page at Acxiom. On this page Acxiom quietly extols its Thought Leadership on all things marketing with an emphasis upon digital while leading you to 403 Forbidden Access and an active comment function that markets . . . other marketers!

Shaego! Breastpumps! BillionaireBrains! And some even have active links to spam farms!

Acxiom provides an advertising platform for the lowest kind of persuasion on the web. No human edits the comments, apparently that function is handled by a super secret Acxiom PHP script adapted from its marketing system. All digital, all the time with no human intelligence ever needed! Just like Acxiom marketing. Or Thought Leadership!

You could call this a Persuasion Engine . . . running in reverse.

Yeah. Big Data. Big Analytics. Big Social Media. Big Marketing. This. Changes. Everything.

P.S. The WSJ article describes Acxiom experiments which follow the Cascade from Exposure to actual purchase Behavior in a store. Acxiom randomly (!!!) assigned Other Guys to either Ad or No Ad and then tracks out to purchase. Acxiom has so much data from so many sources that it can measure most of the stages of the Cascade with linked data (anonymous, of course!) making it possible to follow persuasion from beginning to end. The article asserts from reading the 403 Forbidden White Paper that $9 of in-store sales flow from every $1 of advertising. Really. Pay $1 and get $9 in sales. Really.

I’d like to believe that all of this is true, the experiments, the tracking through the Cascade, the 9 to 1 return, but then I see that White Paper page that leads to 403 Forbidden Access and a comment function that delivers more spam than Hormel sells in a year. How can Acxiom be all things wise and digital and present a web page that functions this badly? And, if this is what their own web work looks like, can you trust their databases, their experiments, their analyses, their White Papers?

P.P.S. Or, maybe Acxiom truly knows the Queen of Tomorrow and behaves this badly to throw everyone else of the scent? I’m the persuasion genius who looks like the persuasion idiot so you don’t realize just how dangerous I really am!

Data, Big; Analytics, Big; Persuasion?

Persuasion is in the details, but not in the minutia, and most of the Big Data with Big Analytics is minutia. All that Big Minutia allows you to make bigger persuasion mistakes. Like this.

Office Max Big Data Car Wreck

In the confused stream of building Big Data with Big Analytics someone entered that car wreck fatality in a database and off it went into Big Persuasion. It happens.

Such incidents are inevitable—part of the cost of doing business in collecting and collating information on millions of individuals, said Steven Sheck, owner of customer-data provider On rare occasions he has seen obscenities find their way into mailing addresses, likely entered by angry customer-service representatives during a contentious telephone call.

For this specific case, no one knows how it happened.

OfficeMax said it doesn’t know how the information got there.

“We would like nothing more than to tell the world what happened,” said a spokeswoman for the Naperville, Ill., chain, which merged last year with rival Office Depot Inc. “We don’t know what happened yet. We haven’t been told. It was not our data and we don’t have access to the original information.”

Think about this for a moment. You’ve got the smartest technology run by the smartest people in the history of the planet with more data and more analytics than ever, and yet you cannot detail how the details are collected, entered, databased, shared, or analyzed. Consider the Rule:

If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It.

Normally we apply that Rule to understand the impact side of persuasion, but you can move back upstream in the persuasion Cascade with this Rule, too. If you can’t count your persuasion plays, you can’t control them! Here we see that Big Data with Big Analytics can’t even count itself. We’ve seen this lack of control in Big Data as with my hyphenated last name or the big feet of Facebook or the wildly untrue data profiles of Other Guys. Big Data with Big Analytics makes a lot of stupid mistakes that cannot be controlled, predicted, or explained.

While I do not operate with a palantir from Sauron, I do cast a wide search for information about persuasion, particularly scientific information, information that is generalizable knowledge with practical impact. And, I’ve yet to find a reasonable literature that scientifically tests Big Data with Big Analytics to determine whether it changes anything, how big that Windowpane is, and how the change occurs. Almost everything we know about Big Data with Big Analytics is only persuasive: Selling sand and ice to Sauds and Aleuts. The cold hearted counting of a persuasion scientist is not easily available.

You know why?

Big Data with Big Analytics doesn’t work for persuasion. In its own way Big Data with Big Analytics is exactly like those trendy, stylish, and useless activity bracelets the tragically hip and worried well wear to collect the physical activities of their daily lives down to the calorie in Personal Big Data with Pretty Picture Big Analytics.

FitBit Bracelets

Hey, stupid. You eat too much or you move too little. You need Big Data with Big Analytics to know that? And chances are great that if you are a Digital Aesthete wearing one of those bracelets, you don’t need the damn thing anyway.

Do you see the Bolivian Banks here? A few very smart werewolves have packaged faux science in a name – Big Data – or a bracelet – FitBit – and sold a bucket of steam. The persuasion play is the Authority Cue and you know this is all a Cue because we’ve noted the absence of a reliable scientific literature on these inventions and the presence of no effect and little control in their application. Lots of Other Guys go Low WATT, observe the trappings of Expertise or Science or Authority, and hit the TACT without thinking.

I understand why so many Other Guys glide down the Peripheral Route with FitBit, but can the Guys running Office Max be this stupid, thoughtless, and gullible? What’s great about this is that peace and prosperity has created such a large cushion that Other Guys can blunder like this and still survive. You wonder where bubbles come from?

As I’ve noted frequently on the Persuasion Blog this is the greatest time in the history of persuasion to wear a white lab coat, flash a Pretty Picture infographic, and call yourself scientific. Persuasive Science cannot fail big enough, often enough, or obviously enough to kill that Cue in this Local. A lot of Other Guys will remain easy, ripe, and luscious for the beat of the coldest heart in human thought and action: Science.

Kids, the dangerous 1% are not that wealthy 1% despised of the 99%, but the 1% who operate beyond good and evil with persuasion. They get more than your money.

Death, Taxes, and Help Centers

In the midst of the annual agony I experienced a novel moment with the TurboTax help center. I’m trapped in the exquisite torture only technology can deliver where two different computer systems communicate perfectly but for one discrepancy that destroys all prior activity. The Fed and TurboTax say they hold hands, but, alas, for me they do not. So, I call the Help Center.

While speaking to the Agent I notice long periods of silence. Since this transaction is unfolding on my cell phone and her call center, I worry that the long silence means a satellite has closed its window on my narrow stretch of the mountain. I prompt her by name and she quickly replies, “I’m here.” Reassured I wait through the next silence thinking again of windows and satellites until I’m sure this time the connection is gone and prompt her, only to receive a quick, “I’m here.”

This pattern repeats for several minutes until the Agent discloses:

“I’m just waiting for my help line to answer.”

I’ve called a Help Center and the Help Center puts me on live-hold . . . to call her Help Center?!?


TurboTax has a Help Line for its personnel in the Help Center!

I view every service interaction as a golden persuasion moment. You are live with the human face of Corporatism. When Other Guys contact Help Centers they are often verging on murder or suicide. In other words, they are deep in the throes of emotional responding. In persuasion terms, such Other Guys are Bolivian Banks, easy, ripe, and luscious for persuasion plays. A panther can convert all that incipient violence or despair into a change you can count.

And TurboTax makes me wait on live-hold while my Help waits for her Help.

This means, of course, that TurboTax is beyond persuasion and has more change than it can count. Hurrah for them and their successful occupation of a niche that needs no assistance from Peitho or competence! Monopoly forever!

For the rest of the vampires and werewolves in the coffins and forests, see the persuasion lessons. Certainly your Help may need assistance, but you can never let Other Guys see the help your Help needs. Talk about the man behind the curtain and yet another man behind a curtain.

Past that commonplace, I still maintain all service interactions are rich persuasion chances. You can own Other Guys with persuasive Help.

Unless you think you have a monopoly. Then you can layer your Help Centers like the organizational chart for the Federal government.

Persuasive Science for Brain Games

You either have to be British or a compulsive reader to know this, but here’s the kind of science that the vampires at Lumosity and the rest of that brood will love.

Cognitive Myths

A European research team proves that old people do not experience cognitive decline from aging, but because they have too many memories! Here’s how the first sentence of the Abstract gives it up.

As adults age, their performance on many psychometric tests changes systematically, a finding that is widely taken to reveal that cognitive information-processing capacities decline across adulthood. Contrary to this, we suggest that older adults’ changing performance reflects memory search demands, which escalate as experience grows.

The researchers knowingly use a computer metaphor to explain the mechanics here. Build a huge database and the computer slows down whenever it has to seek, search, or save that database. Mere size kills processing speed. With a computer. And, so the researchers argue, too with people. As you age, your database gets bigger and it requires more time to access and employ. The researchers then design and test several interesting computer simulations of learning, databasing, and accessing, and discover exactly what they know – computers that learn more have bigger databases and that produces slower processing. Your mind isn’t getting older, baby, your memory is getting bigger!

What a fabulous and persuasive science. Never observe Other Guys doing anything, just simulate their behavior in computer algorithms that produce exactly what you want them to produce. If you read the literature created from the Four HorsePersons of the iPostModern Apocalypse – epidemiology, economics, evolution, and environmental studies – you see the persuasive science. You don’t have to observe or manipulate anything in reality, just make models that exactly reproduce reality, down to as many decimal points as it takes to tell the Tooth Fairy Tale. Then, argue that everyone else who employed random selection or assignment to controlled conditions with comparison and careful counting did not do science because it doesn’t fit the models of reality you’ve proven! Such thinking allows conclusions like this.

The results reported here indicate that older and younger adults’ performance in psychometric testing are the product of the same cognitive mechanisms processing different quantities of information: Older adults’ performance reflects increased knowledge, not cognitive decline.

Now, if you cannot see the persuasion implications of this assertion for Lumosity and other Brain Traps, I’m throwing you out of the werewolf pack. If true, the assertion means exactly that people need to be playing Brain Games so that they become more efficient and effective processors of all that data they acquire with age and, presumably, experience. Just add a new metaphor to the old metaphor and you can count some change, baby.

Start with that old metaphor of mind and brain as computer software and hardware. That proves it’s the bigger database, baby. Then switch the metaphor to mind and brain as a muscle. That proves you need to exercise your mind and brain just like your pecs and quads! Gee. Instead of buying new computers or iGizmos with faster processors and operating systems, why don’t you just exercise your old device?

Funny how metaphors work when you think about them.

See all the foolishness and the persuasion. The science is silly because it eats the menu when it pretends that the model is the reality when the model is just a map you’ve drawn that you can sell to reviewers and trusting Other Guys of a certain age. While you can model mind behavior with math (why no citations to Professor Estes?) that’s what you do after you’ve done the science to get the data with randomization, control, comparison, and counting, not before.

But, the persuasion here is fabulous for the aforementioned Other Guys of a certain age. This makes sense and requires none of that ridiculous reading of something called a research literature. Good Grief. These researchers actually can talk to real people about what’s really going on in that aging body and brain and mind. Of course. My mind and brain is exactly like an app and an iGizmo! And, of course, my mind and brain is exactly like a muscle that needs exercise!

Tell Me A Story works with Tooth Fairy Tales, too. Begin with the General Semantics Persuasion Play©™® and the rest is narrative.

Ramscar, M., Hendrix, P., Shaoul, C., Milin, P. and Baayen, H. (2014). The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Non-Linear Dynamics of Lifelong Learning. Topics in Cognitive Science.

doi: 10.1111/tops.12078

P.S. The New York Times was surprisingly slow to pick up this story. The research paper was published online on Jan 13, 2014, then first picked up in the media about a week later. And a week after that the Times provided its first notice and stupidly adored it along with most of the commenters. Man, talk about a Bolivian Bank here. Easy, ripe, and luscious.

P.P.S. Read Tim Salthouse’s work.

P.P.P.S. But see the continuing effort with persuasive science for this Bolivian Bank.

P.P.P.P.S. Last one. Vampires, panthers, werewolves and all those who are beyond the perimeter of good and evil! Aim this at the under 50 crowd who are scared to death watching their parents. Those kids will fall for this play without any effort on your part while their parents either can’t understand it or know it won’t work.

Buffett Twerks Bracketology

If you are groovy, gear, and fab today you are smart and bright, an Other Guy who knows how to count the change . . . as long as there’s no math. You read Nate Silver’s 538 website for the statistical truth on sports, science, politics, life, whatever. Silver and that Big Data with Big Analytics Journalism tells you the story before it happens with the story behind it, making a little money along the way (from ESPN??? When did anyone read ESPN for news about life and science and politics?).

And then along comes Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha.

Buffett famously made an offer to Big Data with Big Analytic brights to make their March Madness picks for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Pick them all and win a billion bucks!

So. Hit a Big Data with Big Analytics website like Silver’s 538 and you’re on your way!


Buffett Twerks Big Data

Within the first three days of the tournament every one of the 10 million entrants held busted brackets. Think about that. Over 10 million people using the best pop press statistical science available got killed in three days of a three week tournament. Big Data. Big Analytics. Yeah, baby, we’re in the Third Millennium.

Buffett generated millions of dollars of free advertising with this offer, most of it benefiting Quicken Loans who served as the source for entering the contest. And, it also helped Yahoo, which functioned as the web portal for online submission of the brackets.

Here’s the persuasion twerk.

Lots of pop press muggles offer statistical science (like Nate Silver) who, in theory, should be giving everyone a great chance at actually winning this bet. However, the persuasion panther, Warren Buffett, made them all look stupid, by making a fool’s offer that over 10 million Other Guys fell for. Who truly knows how the count the change here? An old codger like Warren Buffett or the New New Thing like Nate Silver?

Buffett and Quicken Loans made an offer of $1 billion dollars – just an offer – and got millions of dollars of free publicity. Guys like Silver provided statistical science that helped bust 10 million bets in three days.

I’d argue that Buffett understands both the Falling Apples and the Fallen Apples. He knows how to count the change on bracketology and how to make an offer 10 million Other Guys cannot refuse. And Buffett put his money where his count is. If anyone had hit the winner, Buffett would have paid out a billion of his own dollars. And, he’s still going to pay out at least one million to the 20 best brackets.

Mr. Buffett may be one of the best counting panthers in the history of persuasion.

Comparing Kisses and Satire; Fashion and ObamaCare

So, a President walks into a satiric interview . . .

Between Two Ferns Zach and Obama

. . . and ignites Exposure for ObamaCare.

An interview of President Barack Obama by the comedian was watched online more than 11m times on Tuesday and appeared to drive significant traffic to, the insurance portal.

Traffic to jumped 40% on Tuesday, as the website racked up more than 890,000 visits total, a White House spokesperson said. Direct click-throughs from the Galifianakis interview, however, appeared to account for only a small portion of the added traffic. The click-throughs were tallied at 32,000 by 6pm Tuesday.

You can see why I joked tongue-in-cheek that even a guy like Bill O’Reilly would have signed up for ObamaCare if the President had done this in the Surge at the start in October 2013.

But, perhaps, my evaluation was premature and ungrounded. Where’s the comparison, Professor Poopypants? So, traffic jumped after the interview. Compared to what. How about this truly viral video on YouTube from a very small fashion designer.

“Hey my dears,” Ms. Pilieva wrote. “I wanted to share our little film with you.”

The email’s recipients had starred in a video that Ms. Pilieva had recently directed on a shoestring budget for a small clothing company.

The three-and-a-half-minute video, shot in black and white, showed 10 pairs of strangers kissing for the first time.

“Here are the links,” she wrote. “Feel free to share as you wish.”

That wish was the Internet’s command. By Thursday afternoon, the video — titled “First Kiss” — was a bona fide viral sensation.

A YouTube link had about 42 million views. A Vimeo link had been watched an additional 1.5 million times. (By comparison, President Obama’s appearance on the popular online comedy show, “Between Two Ferns,” posted Tuesday morning, had about one-third the traffic.)

Pilieva sent that email to 21 friends which contained the YouTube link to First Kiss. The rest is Exposure history. In four days the video got 40 million hits. Obama’s Between Two Ferns video – which aimed at a very similar audience – got about 15 million hits.

Persuasion Analysis.

According to the relentless logic of the Cascade, you can’t get downstream TACTs unless you first get Exposure which produces Reception. The Other Guys have to get the play before it can play them.

The ObamaCare website at got a lot of Exposure and Reception in October 2013. That was unfortunate because as we know the remaining elements in the Cascade – Processing and Response – didn’t work very well. Tons of Reception producing the Direct Experience Persuasion Play®™© and failure!

So, Team Obama mounts a comeback and now, deep in the fourth quarter with time running out and trailing very, very, very badly, they score with that fabulous Between Two Ferns interview that spikes traffic and hits and click-thru and . . . still can’t beat a virtual unknown fashion designer sending an email to 21 friends with a YouTube link.

Pilieva doesn’t have a target audience of 45-50 million (the number of uninsured who must go through ObamaCare eventually) much less the even smaller number of 7 million enrolled after a massive and expensive six month persuasion campaign from Big Fed and Big Insurance. Yet, she got more hits from one persuasion play in four days than Obama did with his fabulous interview with Zach. Remember the first Rule of Persuasion.

There Are No Laws of Persuasion and If There Were Why Would Anyone Tell You

Team Obama has the kind of persuasion resource you can only dream about and they can’t get a positive persuasion play that beats a small fashion designer starting with 21 friends. Who would have put money on that proposition? There Are No Laws and that’s why you get these weird and completely ridiculous outcomes.

Of course, simply because Pilieva got 40 million hits doesn’t mean she sold 40 million dresses or hats or shirts or anything. She’s got a ton of Exposure and Reception, but the TACTs?

Unfortunately, that’s the same problem facing ObamaCare. Even with pretty good Exposure, they still are not hitting their TACTs. And, they probably feel pretty bad about that.

But, here’s a persuasion play (YouTube) I think will make almost anyone feel better, if only for a moment.

First Kiss

Counting the Change with the ObamaCare Case Study

For better or worse, when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, they did so with public statements of numerical goals. Please understand that when you express yourself with numbers, it makes it a lot easier for Other Guys to count your change. For example, about 15% of Americans were uninsured (that’s about 45-50 million people) and ObamaCare was supposed to change that. So starting with a total of 45 million folks who don’t have it, should, and will once we pass this law, when Team Obama announced a numerical goal of 7 million new insured Other Guys within 6 months of implementation, you’d be pretty confident.

Good grief. Nearly 45-50 million people don’t have insurance and we publicly announce a target of 7 million. We’re only aiming to get 1 out of 7 of the uninsured in the first six months of implementation. How hard can that be? It’s not like we said we’d get all 45-50 million. Here’s a chart from the New York Times that count that change as of March 13, 2014.

ObamaCare Enrollments by Month

The Times nicely includes indicators of monthly goals which makes it a bit easier to see the shortfall. The graphic also demonstrates the continuing damage from the failed launch of ObamaCare in October. Those first two months not only missed their targets, but also appear to have destroyed the momentum you could get from a well-done Surge. It’s like what happened to the Denver Broncos in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. They screwed up on the first drive and first quarter and never got in the game.

Again, regardless of your political preference here, please think like a panther.

1. Never give a number in front of your persuasion.

Team Obama (meaning Democrats in general since all of them in the House and Senate passed this thing) thought they had this one easy. With nearly 50 million uninsured, of course any fool can get 7 million in six months given this law and how smart we are. Go ahead. Low ball ‘em. Shout, 7 million!

They are going to miss that 7 million which is then going to produce not only catcalls of failure, but also generate more attention to just what those numbers mean. Hey, how is an enrollee considered insured unless they’ve paid? Hey, how come there are still 38-42 million uninsured?

2. Get it right the first time when you Surge.

The Times graphic shows the continuing load you have to drag when you don’t get out of the gate fast and clean. It looks like Team Obama is starting to hit its stride here in the last couple of months, but then by law, they hit the legal deadline of March 31, 2014 for enrollment or else face fines and penalties. I’m sure that no one on Team Obama thought that anyone other than some tricky Republican would ever face an automatic, required, and unavoidable fine from the IRS for 30 or 40 million adults of voting age. But that’s where they are headed.

3. Failure has no friends.

President Obama looks like he is going to take a big one for the team. He’s let this become known as ObamaCare rather than DemocratCare which means that all the guys who voted for this thing in 2010 from the House or Senate can now run away from it because it doesn’t have their name on it.

Hey, you remember the 15 hour Senate Democrat persuasion play a couple of nights ago? Right, a bunch of Democrats took to the Senate as a group persuasion play. Gee, what was the topic? ObamaCare, right? I mean, hey, we’re right up against the March 31, 2014 deadline. Grab a little free media coverage with an Up All Night In The Senate persuasion play aimed at health care insurance.

Oh. What? They talked only about Climate Change? Climate Change?!? An issue that is not a passed law or even on the floor for passage, but just something 30 guys who hold safe seats want to talk about?

As President Harry Truman observed a long time ago, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.

4. Run the Third Campaign when you are involved in a corporate persuasion.

On April 1, 2014 and continuing through election day November 2014, most Democrats running for office will be maneuvering their persuasion over, under, around, and any way but with ObamaCare. Only those in the Bluest districts will run with ObamaCare as an Argument for their election. And that takes no courage or sense.

Corporate persuasion means you are sitting at the Table of Brother and Sister Hood with every fool of every stripe. Unless you can persuade them out of the room (the Cool Table!), then you’re gonna have to include their persuasion whiz-bangery and live with it. ObamaCare is a fabulous case study of the pitfalls that await any persuasion-by-committee campaign.

I’ve noted before that corporate campaigns like this always require Two Campaigns. The First Campaign persuades all the idiots who think they know what they are doing and distracts them with prizes, prawns, or prestige. The Second Campaign is the real campaign that targets the Other Guys and aims at the TACTs you really want to hit.

To this list we now add the Third Campaign. You’ve always got to protect yourself from the rest of the committee. No matter how well or how poorly the Second Campaign goes, you need a Third Campaign so that you can operate independently. See this as a nuance to the Persuasion Rule:

Great Persuaders Don’t Need Kindness From Strangers

With corporate persuasion you are guaranteed to get more kindness than is healthy, safe, or effective. It’s Blanche Dubois at a conference of Good Samaritans. Even if you run a great First Campaign and lure all the idiots into an NIH luncheon buffet or award ceremony, you still need a Third Campaign cooking in the background.

Let’s get out of here.

Hey, kids, there’s still over two weeks before the March 31 deadline. A leaked Joe Biden sex tape might appear! Putin might invade Canada! Team Obama might yet hit 7 million enrolled. I’m doing analysis during the game and calling the end and I’ve been wrong before (took the Broncos and GAVE points!).

Just had an interesting thought. I wrote a post about Richard Nixon and how he always ran a race figuring it would be real close at the end, so he always made sure he had enough to burst through the wire at the end and not stagger across the line. I wonder if Team Obama has got something cooking for the week before March 31?

Why not an Internet version of a Jerry Lewis telethon? Get a bunch of Hollywood stars to man the help line. Let a bunch of politicians sing and dance and tell jokes and sit on the sofa with President Obama. And, through the magic of the Internet, no one has to be in the same physical room at the same time – nothing but tweets and likes and cut to live streaming video.

Let’s end on that wildly hopeful, yet unlikely thought . . . but, you know. It. Could. Work.

Getting Smarter at the Speed of Persuasion

CBS News reports. You decide.

The time-consuming task of reading literary tomes like Moby Dick is about to change. Boston-based software developer Spritz has been working on a program that will be launched side-by-side with Samsung’s new S5 smartphone and Gear 2.

The reading technology could easily outpace traditional reading methods — such as skimming, scanning and detailed reading — allowing readers to read at speeds that would enable them to finish a novel in an hour and a half.

This is the young person’s version of Lumosity. With this new App ‘n iGizmo combination you can read faster and faster until you are approaching the speed of . . . persuasion.

If you define “reading” as moving your eyes across a field, then something like this does increase your speed. Your eyes will travel faster. But, if you define “reading” as not only moving your eyes but also comprehending then something like this is impossible.


Look up Keith Rayner and read, not eye scan, his work. There is no such thing as “speed reading.” You cannot train reading speed to increase. Reading is a function of general intelligence and information processing; it is not a muscle that can be exercised for greater strength, endurance, or speed. Rayner’s research (along with others) demonstrates that speed reading cannot be attained because of the limitations of human information processing. Here’s how he put it in his 1998 Psych Bulletin review paper.

In general, the results of research on the characteristics of speedreaders’ eye movements are consistent with the idea that they are skimming the text and not really reading every word.

Of course, Rayner’s review was done without fMRI or molecular genetics or climate change or SM2.0 and while sitting and drinking soda pop, so it’s probably not true! And, good grief, note the date of that publication: 1998. That was a lifetime ago and technology has like totally changed our brains, rewiring them into iBrains 2.0, man!

And, if you believe that, have I got a toy for you.

Hit the SpritzInc website for the details. And, note. They’ve even got a link you can tap that explains their science.

Spritz Reading Reimagined

Spritz has been working for nearly 3 years in “Stealth Mode” to perfect our reading methodology. We’ve learned a lot in that time and developed our findings into the core technologies that you see here today. As an introduction to how and why Spritz works let’s start off with a few basics about reading.

Yeah, science in the Stealth Mode. That’s how it works. You do your science in private, sharing it with no one, not publishing it in the peer review literature, then you make it available to all those public scientists in the Local we call, Other Guys.

There are lots of other reading techniques out there such as skimming (not reading every word), avoiding sub-vocalization (talking to yourself while reading) and enlarging the peripheral span (reading an entire page at a time by mental “snapshot”) that attempt to increase reading speeds. While these methods can be effective, achieving significant improvement requires intensive, continuous training and dedication. By contrast, spritzing can be learned in less than 5 minutes and, if you don’t spritz for a month, no practice is needed to return quickly to your previous speed or skill-level.

Spritz tries to argue that by controlling how text is presented to you, you can read faster as the control program speeds up.

This won’t work.

You will not be able to read any faster with Spritz than you could without it. Please read Rayner’s review. The human mind cannot be made to process information any faster (with comprehension, not the Brooks Effect).


Spritz would probably help Other Guys process text on their iGizmos, but not because Spritz is causing you to read faster or with better comprehension. Rather, Spritz is a dimmer switch that you can turn to activate your WATTage while reading. Most people do not carefully read and think about information they get from the screens of their various iGizmos. When you activate Spritz, it will require you to go higher WATT and actually read the words presented to you. In other words, Spritz is a behavioral task that makes you do what you could have been doing with your iGizmo: Read with comprehension.

Spritz provides no peer review publications and instead offers many playful metaphors, stories, and examples. Like this section on their animal testing studies.

Spritz Animal Testing

Let’s do our analysis through Falling and Fallen Apples. Fall through space.

First, the human brain, whether from Your Father’s Oldsmobile or your iBrain2.0 cannot exceed the built-in information processing limits. You will never be able to read faster with Spritz than you could without it.

Second, Spritz can increase both your willingness and ability to think as you read. It cuts your visual field, forces you to focus, and limits any other tasks you can perform on an iGizmo. Spritz takes the attractive and distracting features of an iGizmo and turns it into a teletype machine from the 1930s. If you use your iGizmo like a teletype machine without Spritz, you will obtain the same effect.

Third, because you will read with greater comprehension with Spritz, you will think that Spritz makes you a speed reader. You will not notice that you are reading about as fast as you normally can when you focus only on reading and remove other distractions. You will misattribute your “better” reading to Spritz and not to your focus and concentration.

Now. Fall with persuasion.

First, baby, this is great iScience. Since people doing real science put up their work in much the same fashion as does Spritz, the look and feel of the Spritz app looks as scientific as real science. They call themselves scientists and nowadays if your website look scientific, that’s enough, aided in part by PR hungry scientists peddling their work online. Spritz has and will fool a lot of people with this. Just like Lumosity.

Second, please re-observe the persuasion impact of the Falling Apple third point. People will read “better” with Spritz than without it, but the effect is purely from the science of persuasion. Other Guys will notice that they are doing a better job of understanding text through Spritz. They will not, however, notice they are still only reading as effectively as they would while sitting alone with a book in a quiet room. Finally, they will incorrectly attribute their “better” performance to Spritz, not their increased focus and attention.

Third, Other Guys with Spritz will have a positive direct experience with the app. They will have proven the pudding by eating it and liking it. Except, we know from Falling Apples, that they are not eating the pudding, but pudding spread around their own willingness and ability to think. When you get Other Guys to try it and like it, you’ve run a killer persuasion play, one of the strongest observed. Sure, you can listen to word of mouth or watch a Kate Upton endorsement or read a long and detailed list of Arguments. But, nothing beats the impact of your own direct experience.

Predicting the future of Spritz is trickier than it appears. You’ve got to determine the TACT here.

If you target TACTs related to improved comprehension of iGizmo text you will find no change to count.

If you target TACTs related to demand for and usage of Spritz, you will find a good count. This is scientific science that proves itself. People will fool themselves with Spritz. However, this will be a very short-lived change. After using Spritz for a second or third time, Other Guys will begin to realize, hey, this requires a lot of WATTage and kills all the other fun, useful, and iPostModern features of an iGizmo. They will stop using Spritz within weeks, if not days.

If you target TACTs related to more VC money for the vampires at Spritz Inc., then you will probably find a nice piece of change to count. They’ve already got Samsung running this app in new devices. Spritz needs to keep busy on the persuasion side of this, as with that phenomenally stupid CBS story. It reads like a slightly rewritten Spritz press release. I’ve looked hard at the story to find signs of Native Advertising, but it appears that this is presented as straight news and that Spritz did not pay for play. (I can report that on March 7, 2014 when I visited the site for the story one of the ads on the page was from . . . Lumosity!)

Let’s get out of here.

Science explains what’s going on here, but the science is all from the peer review lit of persuasion science and not scientific science. You cannot increase your reading speed. This app changes your WATTage which allows you to hit your normal best speed which you rarely achieve on an iGizmo because of all the distractions and multiple functions. It’s a relative increase that you will mistake for an absolute increase.

But, when you employ persuasion science, you can sell Spritz and make some money if only by fooling some of the people some of the time . . . just long enough to cash the check. I admire the guys at Spritz Inc and give them a Peitho Award on the spot. They are hiding persuasion with science to sell something Other Guys already possess.

Rayner, Keith. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 124(3), Nov 1998, 372-422.

doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.124.3.372

You might be able to access a pdf of this paper through Google Scholar. It should pop to the top of the page. Look to the right side. Then load it in your Spritzer for a real treat!

P.S. I love that Spritz tagline, Reading Re-imagined. The persuasion irony leaps as they literally tell you that this is all an act of imagination even as they sell it as science.

P.P.S. In the interests of full disclosure . . . I met Keith Rayner when we invited him to participate in our See The Light persuasion series when I was running the Health Communication Research Branch in NIOSH. We were building a eye tracker lab and Keith’s work with eye trackers was state of the art. Keith advised and also did public presentations and various greet and grips along the way. He killed everyone in the room over the speed reading research, most of them Real Scientists in math, physics, chemistry, biology, heck, even the epidemiologists were impressed!