Click away!

I am actually really glad I don’t have any monitoring equipment hooked up to the computers any more. I suspect I’m still “lost” as far as tracking and being tracked goes, but that little thing seems to help.

July 31, 2016
I’ve picked out a show that I like and I’ve made an effort to see it “live” rather than recorded. I really enjoy Killjoys. It’s fast paced and has interesting characters. They’re working on building up a long term story arc. I’m interested in where it goes.
I’m genuinely hopeful this will have an effect on programming. I’m not sure how much my little contribution will help, but I’m hopeful. I can say that having the rating box connected to my TV has made me more cognizant of tracking shows and when they’re on. There aren’t many things on TV I like, so I really want the ones I like to survive. I’ve also specifically stayed away from things I think are terrible. Even if I’m interested I won’t go and watch them if I don’t want them to get any kind of bump on the ratings. I know the monitoring is working. I know this because we switched my daughter over to her own computer. When we did this we didn’t think to notify the Nielsen people. See, there’s also a little tracking thing that’s plugged into our computer so they can tell if we watch something on a network then go run to an advertiser site we just saw. Well, my daughter spends a fair amount of time on the computer – and when she wasn’t clicking the little computer check box and signing in all the time like she was before, they noticed. They called and asked what was up. Then they set up an appointment and came over to install the same little tracker thing on my daughter’s new system.
I’m thinking about it now and I’m not sure if I’m amazed or horrified at this technology. You’re not clicking away like you used to. We’re coming to your house to check on you. That sounds like 1984 (the book – not the year).
This is one of those incremental shifts. You don’t really notice or worry until one day you’re so far down the road that when you look back you’re not entirely certain how you’ve arrived at your current location. When our promotional TV subscription ends, I wonder if we’ll actually shut it off.

Cold Enough for Television

It’s cold enough outside right now that staying in and doing NOTHING other than staying warm and watching TV sounds like a great idea. It’s been a while since my last installment of my “big secret” posts.

May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th! Lucky for me – I had some free time. I’ve got friends coming over again tonight and you know what? I’m totally not adding them in on the rating box thing. It’s a pain and then they ask questions about it. I have clever friends – I suspect they’ve got an idea of what’s going on but are polite enough to not ask.

I’m also trying to remember the terminology when you’re aware of the results being studied during scientific experiments… because that’s totally the case here. We’re all aware of the fact that people are looking at what we watch and don’t watch. It skews the data. Can’t be helped. We’re aware of the study, therefore the study is changed.

It’s also interesting that as we get further from the “new” feeling of the ratings thing that we seem to be reverting to our old habits and watching less and less television. We put music up (streaming via our smart TV) and then we just let it go. Sometimes even when I go out and leave it running my wife won’t actually be listening, but will just absentmindedly hit the ‘refresh’ button whenever she walks past. I’m not in the house and still contributing to the ratings. I wonder how much they account for that.

I also can’t wait to be able to publish this stuff. Keeping a secret this long is difficult.

Bad Ball

The football season this year is not exactly making for “must see TV”. I’m struggling to put a finger on exactly why this season totally stinks, but there you have it. It’s dull. I HATE the celebrations. They could be a topic unto themselves, but this is definitely one of those cases where the ‘less is more’ rule applies. I know the “No Fun League” brought them back because people thought outlawing the touchdown celebration was draconian but we were better off without them. It’s difficult enough to get through and average play and not have some idiot showboating that he did his job – frequently to the detriment of actually finishing the play.

Along those lines, here’s the next installment of what I wrote about my time as a Neilsen family. It flashes back to other writing I did about television. It’s almost like that part in Deadpool where there’s a fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break (that’s like 16 walls!), but not actually like that at all.

February 7, 2016

So, the ‘big game’ is on and I’m contributing to the ratings (even if I’m only half watching it). While it’s on I’ve been searching an archive for something I wrote in the past and came across something very interesting. Apparently we’d been given the opportunity to fill out a paper survey for Nielsen way back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

July 6th, 2009
How average are you?
02:23 pm
We are apparently average (or lucky?) enough to join the ratings system. Yup, that’s right – it’s the Nielsen Ratings system for July Sweeps. Yipee(ish).

I’ve discovered a few things in this process.

First, while the folks at Nielsen DO apparently have electronic devices for monitoring this kind of thing – they still use a little paper booklet for millions of families. Yeah, you read it right – little paper books. Here’s there statement:

“Diaries continue to be a valuable instrument in our measurement toolbox, and are used to collect viewing information from sample homes in almost every television market in the United States. Each year we process approximately 2 million paper diaries from households across the country for the months of November, February, May and July — also known as the “sweeps” rating periods. ”

Second – the depths of my laziness know no bounds. I can honestly say that the simple fact that I’d have to write it down has kept me away from channel clicking when I might have otherwise. Totally not working the way it’s supposed to for ratings, but there you have it. I’m addicted to the TV, but having to do even the tiniest bit of work to get there and I’m completely put off. How’s that for lazy?

My last observation is actually about the amount of TV that actually gets watched at our house. Not much is the short answer (and it’s almost all me). Since we started this last Thursday we’ve totalled approximately 3 hours of TV time, most of that taken up by a movie that lists it’s running time at well over 2 hrs. Don’t get me wrong, the kiddo has watched a movie on DVD and we listen to our 24 hour digital music channel via the cable, but we haven’t really watched anything “on tv”. I looked at the listings over the next couple of days, but really haven’t seen anything world shaking. I’ll probably try to catch the premier of Warehouse 13 (despite the fact that it’s on the syphilis channel) but we might not be home until around the time it comes on. We have lives outside the box – so if we get there, we get there, if we don’t, we don’t.

Have you ever been lucky enough to be picked?
How much TV do you watch on average?

Interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t in those intervening years.

Back To TV

Having the chance over the holiday weekend to sit and relax a little also gave an opportunity to watch some television. I realized that I just don’t watch that many shows on a regular basis and what I do watch is generally inconsistent but heavily influenced by my friends and those in my social circles.

Here’s one of the moments that I’ve been wanting to share since it happened. I really, really wanted to shut the person in question down, but wouldn’t trade influence for showing off.

December 14, 2015

It’s funny to me that I had just about moved past the annoyance phase and not given much thought to the ratings box attached to the TV when it cropped up in conversation someplace else.

I didn’t give up my secret, but it was horribly tempting. I was sitting in a meeting with a relatively large number of folks in attendance. The topic of discussion (that was not directly related to the meeting but that was happening anyway, in the middle of the rest of the meeting) moved to upcoming television programs and when they were scheduled. People began to debate various aspects of these shows and their relative value when one particularly waspish lady declared, “What difference does it make? Nobody here is a Nielssen family…”

I was sorely tempted to shut her down very publicly, but other people jumped on her declaration and gave me time to consider my desire and quash that flame. That is likely for the best because then I’d have to explain myself and I really had no desire to get dragged through the ashes of that discussion.

Assumptions like that in a crowd are not a great idea. You really don’t know – well, at least you don’t if the person in question can actually keep that secret.

Secrets and Star Wars

I went back to look at where I’d left off with all the “secrets” posts and found something I’d forgotten. It’s fortuitous timing as well, since I wanted to talk about the Star Wars trailer that was shown very specifically at half time of the Monday night football game.

Is that really the target audience? Who gets the most help from that – the franchise or the NFL and their saggy ratings? This is not the first time they’ve done the “event” trailer thing – did it help last time?

October 20, 2015

The human body has an amazing capacity to care for itself. My sleep patterns are not always the best and I end up somewhere on the sleep deprived scale more often than I would like. When that happens, my body does (eventually) right itself.

Last night during halftime of the Monday Night Football game a trailer was supposed to premier for the new(est) Star Wars movie. I had no real interest in the football game and wasn’t even planning to have the TV on last night, but I DO actually have an interest in Star Wars (even if it’s only nostalgic at this point). I did all the work I could before going out and settling on the couch. Hit the little buttons to make sure all my screen time was counted. Paid some attention when the commercials aired, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything… then my body decided enough was enough with this whole ‘not sleeping’ thing and turned me off – like a light switch. I woke up just as the announcers declared that halftime was over and the third quarter was ready to roll. I missed the whole damn thing. It’s not that I couldn’t go see the trailer on the internet the very next morning. I could (and did) more than once. It was more the idea that I attempted to actually make the advertising thing “work” and just conked out. On the up side – it still counts because even though I wasn’t actually awake to see any of the other commercials before or after, the little buttons were pushed and the lights were on recording that I was “there” for the big halftime ad. One to the good for the ratings?

A possible fan?

This is the next up from my series of “secret” posts about being a ratings family.

October 7, 2015

It still bugs the crap out of me not to be able to tell anyone what’s going on. What I find more interesting is that the reps from Nielsen (still not allowed to talk about anything) remember their accounts and the people they work with so clearly.

We had a “check up” session or some such thing (read: audit) where a rep had to come by the house and go over all the survey questions again, reinstall the computer audit app on the computer and check all the channels on the TV to verify that nothing has changed. Took around 90 minutes total – and yes it was totally redundant.

The part that really threw me off was that our rep remembered our conversation from last time she was here (4 months ago) and asked me how my writing was going…

Wow. I can only imagine if I had fans.

The fact that she remembered, and asked is weirdly motivating. I really feel the need to jump onto another doc on here and just keep typing.

Off I go to do just that thing!

Interesting Lesson

Continuing with my series of posts about being a ratings family. I suspect I was over-thinking things, but I have a tendency to do that very thing. I can honestly say the further I get from pushing the button the more happy I am that I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

September 21, 2015

Yes, hitting the little button every 42 minutes is still a pain in the butt. The bigger question is how accurate it all really is. What is their margin of error on any of this stuff? I only ask that because when I got home after 6 hours away I noticed that my wife had simply kept hitting the “OK” button without changing who was actually listed as “watching” or whatever they categorize it as.

Interestingly enough it was still my programmed music channel running through the on-line connection. Different listener, same content… does it make a difference? That’s what our house was doing, so that counts? I suspect they wanted more finite data than that.

While I’m thinking about finite data, part of the deal is programming in whenever a guest is watching with you. I’m not sure how your friends are, but if they’re like mine they pay attention – particularly to new technology. How exactly do you explain your “secret” when it’s movie night?

The first time folks were over I actually turned everything connected to the TV off. Just didn’t use it rather than explain the whole thing. You know what? Didn’t have any kind of negative impact on the evening at all. We played a game, chatted, had some food and generally had a great time that didn’t involve media. Perhaps there’s a lesson here.

Adjusting to “The Secret”

Continuing my series of entries from my time as a ratings family. Adjusting to changes isn’t always the easiest…

September 5, 2015

This is becoming a pain in the ass. I hate the fact this company has set the sensor to need you to “check in” every 43 minutes. I’m certain that time has something to do with how long tv shows on networks are or something like that, but it absolutely doesn’t fit how I “watch” things. Let me restate – It’s a pain in the ass.

Example – I have a “smart” TV (the quotes are because I don’t believe it to be particularly smart – it’s simply connected to the net so I can listen to music or watch YouTube on it). I like to put a music provider service up, pick one of my channels and allow the music to be my background while I do stuff around the house. Never gave it much thought. NOW, every 40 minutes or so all the little blinky lights on the Nielsen box go berserk if I’m not paying attention to them. As part of the deal I’m supposed to hit the remote and “check in”. Yes, I know it’s stupidly simple. All I have to do is hit a button. That’s really the point though – before Niellsen it didn’t require any more thought once I turned it on. I would have it on or I wouldn’t. They have by their nature effected their own data. There have been times I have just turned things off when I might have kept them on before because I was tired of having the little blinking lights going off when I was in the middle of doing something else – or worse yet, at the climactic point of the movie I’m watching in the dark.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to change this. I’m certain they’ve got a stack of folks that routinely put a lot of thought into stuff like this and they’ve not come up with a better answer yet, so I doubt I’ll come up with anything either.

As I look over the mail that came in today something else has occurred to me. I can’t just trash the junk mail.

Yes, junk mail still happens but now I can’t toss it without looking at it first. Why? Because Nielsen is so worried about people influencing me and my watching choices that all of their correspondence arrives in unmarked envelopes. No logo, no name on the return address, nothing to give away our “big secret”.

OK, I get it. I know a number of people connected (loosely and distantly for sure) to the media that wouldn’t mind swaying numbers. So now I have to open all the junk mail – just in case.

Overthinking It

Another post from my secret time as part of the ratings system. Much shorter this time:

July 19, 2015

There’s a testing thing… I’m trying to remember what it was. Something about the simple fact that you’re observing changes the outcome of the experiment. I’ll track that down here sometime.

That is precisely what has been crossing my mind every time I look at the TV now. I think about what I’m watching more than I ever did before. Will they note the fact that I turn the volume to “mute” every time a commercial comes on? Will they realize that 5 minute commercial break is the reason I turned that show off?

I actually turned the TV on, then off again, then on again debating this sort of stuff in my head. I’m clearly thinking things over far more than they want me to. The idea is they want me to just do what I did before without thinking about it. How can I do that? They’ve inserted a step that makes me think about what I’m doing.

We’ll see if that changes as I go forward.

Shhhh! It’s a secret!

I’ve had a secret, but I can tell you now. I think they want me to wait a little longer, but I also think it very unlikely that anyone will actually check up on me. For the past 2 years our house has been a Nielsen ratings family. We’ve had a bunch of stuff hooked up to our TV and our computer to report in on what we’ve watched and how we’ve connected to sponsors. It’s been a long, secret journey but it’s over now. Since it was such a secret I wrote stuff down as we went. Now that we’re done I’m going back and giving up the details!

July 2, 2015

I’d heard of TV ratings for years. Everyone touts that they have the “number one show” or the “number one comedy” for shows that aren’t actually the most watched but come in higher in the ratings than other shows like it. I know about demographics and I understand that I’m really not anybody’s target demo anymore. I just never really knew exactly how it was all figured out.

It was a really big surprise when somebody that works for Nielsen (the TV ratings folks) actually knocked on my door and asked, “Do you want to be a Nielsen family?”. Uh, sure? I guess?

In my head I immediately thought, “OH! I can help out all those shows that don’t get the love they deserve.”

Then I started to think about it a little more. How much do I really watch TV? Truth be told I’ve written a number of times about the paucity of programming despite more channels than ever and the shallow level of thought involved in attempting to grasp for my dollars. I’d actually shut off our cable for about 3 years – and after an initial detox period I didn’t really miss it. Even now that I do have TV again I don’t watch any network shows. Everything I want to see is online, on demand or part of a smaller channel. TV is a time sink and I use it to help clear my head so I can get some sleep most nights. I can’t think of the last regular TV show I watched all the way through, start to finish. I wasn’t lying when I told the rep that I probably wasn’t the demographic he was looking for.

Undaunted, Dave (the rep) told me that was fine. They’re interested in measuring what we actually watch and if our eyeballs looking at a show lead us directly to a website. They’ve started this new tracking bit – they put a small tracking program on your computer that counts if a website that was mentioned in a program is accessed on your computer. We’re going to represent about 25,000 average households for their estimation purposes. Our “vote” counts quite a lot.

There were lots of survey questions to determine where we “fit” compared to other people that are on the program. There wasn’t any actual paperwork for me to sign – so that was a little surprising. Dave the rep did all the work. The cool bonus to him doing all the work? Nielsen likes to thank folks for being part of their ranking system so they give you gifts – like $50 the day they install the tracker thing on your TV. Then a couple weeks later they send you another $50. So we’ll start with $100 and hit a little button when we turn the TV on to start tracking. That’s not a bad deal in my mind.

So, all this cool stuff – all the neat things to talk about and all the thoughts rolling around in my head my next thought was, “This will be so cool. I can’t wait to get together with everyone at Watch The Skies and let them know what’s going on”.

Not so much. Dave the rep told me this is actually a secret. I’m not actually supposed to tell anyone because they’re afraid that other folks will attempt to sway what I watch and when I watch it. He told me to watch the mail carefully because they don’t even mark their envelopes – the mailman isn’t even supposed to know.

Well, crap. Now what? I’ve got all this cool stuff and I can’t tell anyone about it. For a writer and sometime blogger that hurt. It’s interesting, it’s important to some degree and it’s uncommon enough that people will be interested in knowing what’s going on… and I suppose that’s exactly their point. I know (directly or indirectly) independant film makers, script-writers, authors that are looking to sell the rights to their work, entertainment bloggers, book bloggers and any or all of them might be interested in swaying 25K votes on what shows go or what shows get better ratings.

This is just the initiation. It will be about 2 weeks until the installation representative comes to the house and connects up the little box to start counting what we watch.

So it’s a secret. I can’t tell you until it’s all done and over with (and that can be as much as two years if we keep up with it). What to do about it?

Keep a secret journal of course! I’ll keep making notes and tracking how the whole thing goes. Hopefully this will be as interesting when this is all done as it sounds like it could be now.