The others are paying more. Or not.

Earlier this week, I got a text from this lady, who comes round to our house about once a week, to clean and do some ironing. She was asking for a raise, arguing that her other clients pay her more than I do. You see, instead of going down the route of mentioning value or costs, she told me what others were doing. The norm.

Cue feelings of worry that she might drop me because I was paying less than others, and a certain amount of guilt that I wasn’t matching the others’ valuation of her work. And I promptly called my friends to check the new, higher rate that they were paying to her.

This article on Fast Company shows the effectiveness of descriptive norms. The article compares the effectiveness of two types of messages left on hotel rooms, encouraging guests to reuse their towels. Message one described the problem (i.e., waste of water). Message two described what previous guests had done (namely, used their towels more than once). The result? Around 25% more guests reused their towel with message two than with message one, as illustrated below:

The twist in this story is that, when I called my friends, they told me that they were paying exactly the same amount I was paying. Moreover, they told me that they had received the same, or a very similar, request from her.

So, now, I am wondering whether she was referring to other clients (she does have more, after all), or just trying her luck.

PS – For what it’s worth, I do understand her desire to get more money for her work. And I do very much value her work.

Why I edited an Wikipedia entry

It seems that mentioning that I had edited an entry in Wikipedia raised some questions marks (and, possibly, an eyebrow or two). To be clear, I wrote a very, very small sentence, in the Wikipedia entry for ‘Co-Creation’. If you had checked it just before and after my addition, you would probably not even notice it. It’s the part in bold:

Co-creation is a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.[1]

There is no denying that Wikipedia is a very popular reference source. Despite its problems with quality, Wikipedia can be a great starting point for research on a topic. I, for one, use it for both work and personal ends. So, I recently decided that, instead of moaning about its quality, I should do something about it. The deal (between me and myself) is: every time I submit a paper to a journal, I add something to the related entry on Wikipedia. This time, I made a minor tweak to the definition. In the future I may consider adding an example, discuss the origins of the term, or mention a recent development. Only time will show.

In addition to taking an active role in correcting a perceived problem, editing Wikipedia also helps me give something back to the community. Martin Poulter explains it perfectly in this recent blog post in LSE’s The Impact Blog:

Wikipedia is also the ultimate in open access: not only does it aim to make the sum of human knowledge available to the world for free, but all its content is freely licenced (either public domain or a suitable Creative Commons licence) for anyone to adapt and reuse.

It does require a different writing style to that we are accustomed to in academia. It also requires a particular frame of mind. Again, in the words of Martin Poulter:

Wikipedia is intrinsically collaborative, and while many of us find it hard to relinquish control of something we’ve spent serious time on, the experience has taught me that I can make a better end product in collaboration than I ever can by working purely alone.

Martin Poulter’s blog post can be accessed here. You may also find this post by Deborah Lupton interesting. Finally, for information on how to contribute to Wikipedia, check this.

Over to you: What Wikipedia entry have you edited or would consider adding to?

November round-up

This month was super-busy on the work front, with lots and lots of marking (dissertations), teaching, and planning for the next semester. Still, I managed to submit the journal article I was working on at the end of last month, and made good progress on two other projects. So, it was a good month, overall.

These are some of the highlights for November.


This month was all about digitalisation in SMEs, in particular interviewing managers in micro, small and medium organisations in retail, services, tourism / leisure, manufacturing, and agriculture / fishing.

This is a project with Sarah Quinton and two of the visiting fellows at Oxford Brookes University, and we are collecting data in the UK, Spain, Italy and Malta. Do let me know if you would like to get involved. Your organisation needs to be an SME as defined by the EU, and have a digital external presence (e.g., a website).


Phew. This has certainly been a busy writing month. I worked on a paper about co-creation in R&D, and reviewed chapters for a book on the Dark Side of CRM due out next year. I also put the final touches on a small bid, and edited the co-creation entry in Wikipedia.


I wrapped up teaching on the market insight and consumer behaviour module, and ran a session for a colleague’s class on using Social Media in job search.


I attended the “Turning Data into Strategy” event, organised by and learned a lot about how marketing practitioners derive insight from our online behaviour, and use it to inform targeted action. Conveniently, the presentations are available here. I also learned about this great little resource about the customer profiles of various products and brands: YouGov Profiles. A big thank you to Dan Bianchini for sharing this great resource!

On a completely different area, I have been learning a lot about the universe and its components. How? Well, the 7 year old and I have been reading, first, George’s Secret Key to the Universe and, now, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, at bedtime. These books are authored by Lucy and Stephen Hawking, and are a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, adventure and information. We started reading these books quite randomly, but the timing was quite fortunate as on November 12th, Philae detached from Rosetta, and landed on a comet. It generated really interesting dinner time discussions. What an amazing time to be alive!

What were November’s highlights for you?

Some notes on Identity and Identification

Here are some excerpts from the identity article that I mentioned yesterday, in case you find it useful for your work. For context, I should say that, at the time, I was working on my PhD investigating money laundering detection systems, and that I wrote an opinion piece about identify fraud detection systems.


The term ‘identity’ refers to a set of attributes that define a person.


A distinction is made between the ‘I’ (the perspective accessible only by the individual self) and the ‘Me’ (referring to the social attributes). The ‘Me’ can be further divided into an implicit and an explicit component, the former referring to how a person perceives herself and the later referring to how this same person is perceived and represented by others. That is, identity is composed of a living person (the ‘I’) and her relation to the external environment (the ‘explicit me’), the two being modulated by the (un)conscious perceptions a person has of herself (the ‘implicit me’).


So, we can say that identify has a private and a public layer, and that it is context dependent.



The term identification refers to the process of representing someone’s identity. It is limited to the ‘explicit me’.


There are many possible sources of identity information. Some are permanent such as one’s DNA, and some temporary, such as one’s employment status. Additionally, the attributes used to identify someone in a given context, say someone’s legal identity, may be utterly irrelevant in another context, such as someone’s biological identity. Someone’s financial transactions are irrelevant for the purpose of establishing the biological identity of a person, but may be critical in establishing that same person’s criminal identity.



Identification plays a crucial role in social life. It mediates access – to a building, to a social benefit, to privileged information… And it allows the monitoring of access to, and use of, resources. As a result, failures in identification carry risks for the person being identified, as well as the person or entity that seeks the identification.


Reliable identification must possess the following characteristics:

  • Refer to attributes that are relevant for the context – e.g., psychometric tests may be a better predictor of a person’s ability to cope under pressure than, for instance, that person’s self-assessment
  • Acknowledge that the attributes will not represent the whole of the person’s identity – the identification will only represent a subset of the person’s explicit ‘me’
  • Rely on explicit attributes – Implicit identification processes are charged with social and technical biases
  • Use artefacts that are difficult to falsify – e.g., someone’s professional skills are more reliably assessed by a test or that person’s known past professional successes (if in a relevant area) than by an entry in the person’s CV.


For a more elaborate distinction between the terms identity and identification see the report “Identity management systems: identification and comparison study” available at

Of tea and serendipity

FullSizeRenderToday, over tea, I was talking with someone about how the way that others see us can be so different from how we see ourselves. The focus of the conversation was national identity, and what place we call ‘home’.
That conversation reminded me of an article that I wrote nearly 10 years ago, where I discussed the concept of identity, and reviewed mechanisms of identification. Out of curiosity, I decided to re-read that article. First, I cringed at the writing style – so elaborate and, yet, so clumsy. But when I got over the style issues I, actually, saw that what I was talking about in that paper is extremely relevant (and helpful) for something that I have been working on for some time now… and that I have been struggling with.

There you go. I have been struggling with this particular piece of work for about a year. And, eventually, the clue to the answer came in the form of a conversation, over tea, about anything but work.

It was a delightful stroke of serendipity.

And it was a delightful reminder of the value of slowing down and connecting with other human beings.

October round-up

This month I did not manage to finish (and submit) a journal article; I learned that I was not shortlisted for a fellowship that I had applied for, and my inbox has practically exploded. But, it wasn’t all bad news. These are some of the highlights from October.


I may have failed to be shortlisted for the fellowship, but I managed to secure a travel grant to present a paper at a conference in the US, next year. So, October brought some good news on this front.

The other good news is that Sarah Quinton, Thom Oliver and I concluded stage one of data collection for our Digital Citizenship project, and the recordings from the interviews are now being transcribed.

At the start of the month, I also spent some time analysing student performance data, for a small project I am working on.


As mentioned, I failed to finish and submit a journal article, but… I am nearly there. I have also been reviewing and editing chapters for a book that I am working on.

I am very happy about the writing group, and chuffed with the publication of the book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’.


I have been busy teaching a market insight and consumer behaviour module to our MScIMG_6144 Marketing students. It’s hard word but great fun because there are so many interesting things to go over, and great examples to refer to. Plus, we have been having some amazing guest speakers, both in the class and via skype.

In addition to my regular teaching, I did a session for a colleagues’ class on Sentiment Analysis.

Simulation 2014At the end of the month, my colleague Neil Brooks and I took a team of students for lunch, as a reward for doing so well in the Marketing Simulation exercise. It was really nice to celebrate the students’ success and talk with them about something other than module content or course work.


It is not easy to get published in a top academic journal, in general, and it is particularly difficult to do so with qualitative research. One of the challenges is that it’s very difficult to present the findings from your study in a clear and convincing manner. So, this month, I spent some time studying the structure of successful qualitative papers – that is, studying how papers that got published in top academic journals even though they were based on qualitative research develop an argument, present the data, and communicate the key findings (e.g., how they use matrices to summarise the findings).

What were October’s highlights for you?

New book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’

Today is the day. It’s the launch of the book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’, to which I contributed a chapter on using social media for qualitative research.

The book was curated by Kandy Woodfield and is original in that she invited a broad range of social research experts to contribute a blog post each on various methodological issues of using social media for research. What started with a tweet is now a book with 53 chapters, considering issues as broad as scoping your study, to the dark side of using social media in social research. The chapters are short and written in a conversational style… just like a blog post.

I contributed a chapter on ‘Issues to consider when using social media to collect qualitative data’. In this chapter, I identify how the characteristics of social media platforms impact on research design, the type and quality of the data collected, and the approach to data analysis and reporting.

Book of Blogs Canhoto


UPDATE: And on the same day that it was published, the book was #1 methodology book bestseller :-)