Nielsen, they of the ratings, is roughing it in the information age. When they announced on-line tracking tools, Wired quipped: "It's looking like online video policing companies will have to make room for another deputy." Last year, cable companies revolted over a service measuring the effectiveness of commercials.
Via the Data Mining blog, I learnt about yet another new on-line offering, called "Hey! Nielsen" for obscure reasons. (Perhaps Hey! Nielsen is the new Yahoo! !)
The site is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. The official description says:
Hey! Nielsen is the place to make a name for yourself while trading opinions on TV, movies, music, personalities, web sites and more.
How does one "trade" opinions?
According to the FAQ, the "Hey! Nielsen" score, the cornerstone of the site, is:
a real-time indicator of a topic's impact and value and you play a major role. As the site evolves and users submit their opinions and commentary, the score will rise or fall based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, user opinions, news coverage, and raw data from our sister sites Billboard.com, HollywoodReporter.com, and BlogPulse.com.
Sounds like a product aimed at marketers to help them track public opinion but offering little control over sampling.
The "Hey! Nielsen" buzz chart (below) captures the change in "Hey! Nielsen" score over time.
This chart is an unfortunate case of flipping background into foreground. What grabs our attention are those hideous white circles with numbers in them. The legend explains that these are the daily numbers of opinions on the subject, in other words, the daily sample sizes. As they stand now (with the site still in beta), they serve to expose the low level of participation, leading to small sample sizes, and irrelevance. But what when the site became super-popular, would the circles say 56234, 19245, 90257, etc.? Why would visitors care about daily sample sizes anyway? Mousing over these circles reveal text but in most cases, they are blocked by neighboring white circles.
In the meantime, the circles obscure the line which shows the trend in the "Hey! Nielsen" score over time. This chart reminds me of that Google toy known as Google Trends. The Googlers provide no vertical scale so the graphs are unreadable. "Hey! Nielsen"ers provide a vertical scale -- kind of -- but the graphs are still meaningless: what does a score of 881 mean? how about 724? what is the maximum score? what is the minimum? Beware numbers without context.
The vertical axis does start from zero but has an odd spacing of tick labels. The gridlines are distracting and serve no purpose. The orange area under the curve also makes little sense.
We look forward to seeing version 2.0.