Measuring Satisfaction - We are a Nielsen Family!
Here in the US (and 40 other countries), for the last 60+ years, Television Ratings have been managed by the Nielsen Media Research company. They have a special magic sauce that let's them calculate "Reach" - the number of unique viewers for any show at any time. There's lots of good details on this at Wikipedia.
They figure there are 115 million TV households and a ratings point is 1%, or 1,152,000ish households. A show might get a 9.2 rating meaning that 10.6 million folks watched that show.
I always figured they had some magic boxes hooked up to televisions, or that they bought data from Tivo, or from my cable company. I mean, my TV knows that I'm watching Dr. Who (love the new Dr. Who), so I figured it told someone else.
Surprise, we're a Nielsen Family, at least this week. An envelope showed up with three US$10 bills and this paper booklet. Ah, how retro. Even the font, color choice and look and feel had a decidedly Mike Bradyesque vibe to it.
Surely since this company has had every American Television network
by the short and curlies as a loyal client for the last half-century, they must have developed an extraordinarily sophisticated system for determining what I watch. Surely there's an explanation why Jericho was canceled (fortunately they've ordered new episodes) and the secret must lie within this mysterious envelope. My expectations are high...
Wow. That's...lovely. Welcome to the late 1980's. Really. I'm supposed to fill this out as I watch? This is the engine that makes the world's television ratings system spin?
This is such a confusing system that Nielsen has actually put up a website dedicated to decoding the paper booklet! I particularly like Step 5, "Returning the Booklet in the Mail" - truly a must-read if you're behind on sleep.Well, now I see why all the good shows are getting canceled. Why isn't this automated? Why aren't our TV's reporting back to the Mothership?
A TV can't tell if you're satisfied with a show, just if you're watching it. Same with a DVR. Presumably if you taped it, you wanted to watch it. This paper system is silly because it's asking me to copy down manually what someone (Tivo, Cable, whoever) must already know.
Or at the very least they could have created a data-entry website, rather than an interactive help website. Seems like if you're not clever enough to fill out this survey then you may not be able to get your computer turned on and browser navigated to http://tvdiary.tvratings.com, but perhaps that's presumptuous of me.
The only way (that I can see) to determine if someone likes a show is by asking them. Now, turning to other things that capture our attention like games. Xbox Live can tell if someone is satisfied because not only do they know when someone is playing a game, but they can see how far and how hard you're trying by looking at what Xbox Achievements you're getting. The Halo team is fanatical about their statistics. So, it seems much easier to glean the "satisfaction" one has for a game, but still, there's nothing better than asking.
Now, for a segue, but a totally honest question. If you have a piece of software that you've written, what's a good way to figure out if the end-user is really satisfied? I mean, Office, Windows, etc, all sell lots, but does that mean I'm satisfied with them? Should software include a star-ratings interface like some blog posts do on every dialog box? Perhaps when you click it, you're immediately asked for comment? Maybe a "Click here to blog about this feature" link?
One of the coolest most out of the box thinking ideas I saw come out of Microsoft last year was the Send a Smile Tool that was used in the Office 2007 Betas. Unfortunately you had to install it yourself - it wasn't automatically part of the beta experience.
However, the idea was brilliant in its simplicity. A number of bug reporting tools like FogBugz have similar tools for reporting bugs and attaching screenshots, but Send a Smile was even simpler.
You just clicked on the happy smilie or the sad smilie, entered your comment, and checked a box to optionally send a snapshot. That's it.
As a developer, I wish this tool was automatically included with Visual Studio and any major Developer Tool. Talk to the Office team, they have a database and UI and everything to manage these screenshots and smiles. A developer version could even optionally include the text of some code you're working on.
To be clear, there's LOTS of great places to give feedback about the Developer Tools, but the lower the barrier the better. Let me get you my opinions and thoughts with one click.
- For VS2008 Install and Setup, there's this forum.
- For VS2008 (Orcas) Releases there's this forum.
- Submit Suggestions and Bugs for the .NET Framework or Visual Studio here. SQL Server here.
Have you built satisfaction measuring tools (other than a "click here for a comments page) into your software?
Now, I want this for my TV so I can send Dr. Who and the BBC a smile.