“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” is the caption of the most-reproduced cartoon in the history of The New Yorker magazine, which is famed for its wryly humorous graphic jokes.
“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” is the caption of the most-reproduced cartoon in the history of The New Yorker magazine, which is famed for its wryly humorous drawings.
The cartoon by artist Peter Steiner appeared in 1993, at the dawn of the internet. A dog sits on a chair in front of a desktop computer, one paw on the keyboard. He turns to a canine buddy and explains how it lets him infiltrate human society undetected: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Here’s a Washington Post article that shows the cartoon.
A few years after the cartoon ran, market research began to gravitate toward the internet with the introduction of online surveys. They arrived just in time to solve the problem of dwindling response rates and prohibitive costs of telephone surveys. Online research was a sensible and effective compromise – a way to stay in touch with consumers at a reasonable cost. But panelists’ ability to remain incognito online, like the dog in the cartoon, has spelled trouble for data accuracy and reliability ever since.
The biggest threat comes from survey bots, computer programs that zip through surveys while cleverly mimicking human respondents – all to pocket the incentives panel providers pay in return for supposedly honest answers. An update of the classic New Yorker cartoon might replace the dogs with evil-looking robots, above a caption that reads, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a fraud.”
Online research providers are starting to openly acknowledge the bot problem, and they’re trying to assure their clients that they’re on the case with various validation processes designed to detect and root out online panel fraud. That may be fine as far as it goes. But as any decent military strategist would tell you, the key to winning a battle is to seize the high ground so you won’t have to charge uphill, and to arm yourself with weapons that really work.
The high ground in the fight for data quality is the smartphone. The weapon that will defeat fraud and keep data accurate and clean is the mobile survey app. Only a real, human panelist can own a phone and download an app to it. Only an app can load an entire survey into a phone, so each panelist can answer it offline, in a secured space that’s removed from the online realm where survey bots hunt their prey. There’s more to tell –about the data-validation qualities inherent in each smartphone’s unique device ID, for example, and how a survey app that delivers great user functionality becomes an engagement magnet. The result is a consistent panel that can fill research quotas without desperation tactics such as river sample and multi-sourcing.
For starters, all you need to remember is this: when your panelists participate in advanced, app-centered mobile research, everybody knows they’re human. For a productive conversation about how bot-proof in-app mobile can meet your specific research needs, just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for a fast, entertaining video introduction, just click here.