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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Global Voices (which has a brand new look, btw) is looking for interactions between bloggers from different countries in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar or Maldives). Does anyone know of any such interactions? Are there conversations taking place across the region? Do you read blogs from across the region? Which are your favourites? Please drop in your thoughts. Many thanks.


Rezwan from Bangladesh, who has a very good blog called The Third World View sends me his views and an exhaustive list - he couldn't post this as a comment, nor could I on his behalf - perhaps the number of urls made the Radio Userland server filter it as spam?

Here's what he says :

I could not post a comment in your blog hence I am writing to you. You wanted to know about the interactions between the bloggers of the South Asian countries. I am from Bangladesh. I follow the rich variety of some of the wonderful Asian blogs regularly through rss reader. Occasionally active conversations happen between Indian, Bangladeshi & Pakistani bloggers in some of the blogs like The Acorn, Sepia Mutiny, Chapati Mystery, Desi Pundit etc. (e.g. http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/001795.html). I personally have conversed through email with a number of Indian and Pakistani bloggers. The Sri Lankan blogospehere is rather quite small to quote(so far I know). The annual Asian weblog awards promote more blogs from the region. The global voices has a wiki of "bridge blogs" where blogs by country is listed.

Some of my favorites:


* Dak Bangla Intelligence scan - http://dakbangla.blogspot.com/

* Imtiaz's Weblog - http://blog.imtiaz.info/

*Inspirations & creative thoughts - http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com/

* The color of rain - http://nashat.beheshto.ca/


* Sepia Mutiny - http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/

* The Acorn - http://opinion.paifamily.com/

* India Uncut - http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/

and lot more


*Chapati Mystery http://www.chapatimystery.com/

* Off road Pakistan http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/

* Pakistani Perspective - http://www.pakp.com/


* United we blog: - http://www.blog.com.np/

Sri Lanka:

* CSF group blog has a couple of Sri Lankan authors



Another blog which concentrates on Asia is

AsiaPundit - http://www.asiapundit.com/

Thanks Rezwan.

12:55:41 PM    comment []  trackback []

I enjoyed reading two contrasting perspectives on market research and focus groups. Interestingly, both refer to Blink, the premise if which is thin-slicing and rapid cognition, which seems to knock conventional market research on its head.

Lee Shupp of Cheskin shares thoughts on focus groups and why they are valuable as a counterpoint to Malcolm Gladwell's argument "that focus groups are dead;that they focus (pun intended) on rational, stated behavior, which is rarely in play as people make purchasing decisions"

"Focus groups are valuable when you want to understand perceptions rather than behavior. Focus groups are a good tool for ideation and brainstorming. Focus groups are a good research tool when you want to observe the interaction within a group of people, and discover where there is consensus and where opinions differ. Focus groups are a great venue for projective techniques that get at underlying emotion.

Now to counter Malcolm's argument against focus groups. First, focus groups don't just focus on rational, stated behavior. We use a variety of projective techniques to understand underlying emotion, techniques that require right brain thinking and creativity rather than left brain thinking and logic. In fact, projective techniques often lead to our most interesting insights. Second, rational thought and behavior is important to understand, because we don't always kowtow to our emotions. We often override our emotions when making purchase decisions. And when we don't, we want a rational justification for our emotional behavior after the fact."

For a completely different perspective, Johnnie Moore says "I used to make a very nice living from qualitative research, but became more and more disillusioned. More and more often, I realised how little value businesses were getting from it." In a thought-provoking post, The perils of market research at Brandshift, he makes three points, illustrating them with rich examples:

1. Avoidance not curiousity : So often research is commissioned as an act of politics ........... Scratch many research briefs and you'll find a conversation that needs to happen inside the business. An elephant under the table that's not being talked about. And when research is done to prove a point, as a substitute for a "fierce conversation", when there isn't genuine curiosity, I think it's likely to be a waste of time and trouble.

2. A fake conversation : Boy did I become tired of focus groups. How weird that the nearest some marketing teams get to customers is to observe them from behind the safety of a one-way mirror in a focus group facility. And that's assuming they are observing, rather than knocking back the beers, checking their emails or continuing their internal politics while the conversation goes on next door.

3. Obsession with the explicit : The third problem is that market research fixates on what can be made explicit in a relationship. Yet there is so much evidence that way more happens in real human conversations than might appear from the words exchanged. For a crude example, just consider the difference between reading email and meeting someone over coffee.

Each one resonates with me - I'm pretty certain most experienced market researchers would have their own stories around these issues. I prefer methods that make you step out of the focus group, onto the real field. With the marketer as observer.

Johnnie advocates real contact and conversations as opposed to structured and 'manufactured' research :

"What this seems to miss is that all human relationships, however "scientifically" managed, are two-way streets. When we set ourselves up as objective researchers we delude ourselves, for we ourselves are affected and influenced by what we do in a myriad of ways. And what happens inside a marketing department that treats customers as objects? I think you'll find that they expect each other to be treated as an object too... and think what that does to the quality of conversations inside an organisation. When we go out and actually talk with customers, cutting out the middleman, we expose ourselves to more than just an exchange of information. We allow ourselves to be changed, to be moved, perplexed, provoked, saddened, cheered and to experience a real connection. Perhaps that's what some marketing deparments are afraid of ?"

While nothing beats face-to-face contact, blogs can be a great space to have conversations with customers - Scoble does it every day. In other cases, customers are the ones encouraging marketers to engage in conversation - SkypeJournal is a great example of heavy users of Skype providing constructive feedback both positive and negative, observations and ideas. They're even writing poetry in the form of a Skypku :)

Are marketers listening and engaging in dialogue? Maybe. Maybe not. Are marketing departments afraid of this? I think they are.

Blogs may be one such tool available to us - there are so many more that can reveal and understand the motives and the process of emergence in conversations as they manifest in conversations between marketers and users. I met Jim McGee in Chicago last year and we had a lovely discussion about how blogs might change the nature of market research and how the notion of oral culture in organizations might help explain the relatively slow take up of blogs in the firewall. From his post after our meeting :

"In the marketing research context, blogs are a disruptive technology. Instead of having to generate data by way of surveys or focus groups with whatever artifacts the process introduces, blogs provide direct visibility into customers. Instead of having to connect potentially artificial samples back to the actual market, now you have to filter real market behavior, interpret it, and make sense of it. That presents two challenges to market research functions. First, market research staff have to develop new skills. Second, management of market research needs to spend some quality thinking time what to do with access to this new kind of market data.

The opportunity that blogs introduce into the marketing research equation is to create the opportunity to identify and run multiple micro-experiments in the market. Those that succeed get the resources to scale, those that fail to generate some useful data are quickly shut down. There are challenges, of course, especially given how quickly ideas spread in a connected world, but that should be offset by the speed with which experiments can be identified and run. Worth thinking about."

Worth thinking about for sure!


12:45:06 PM    comment []  trackback []