Conversational Human Voice

Researchers Tom Kelleher and Barbara Miller have created an 11-item measure of the conversational human voice (yes, the Cluetrain Manifesto one). So, if you’d like to measure the conversational human voice of your blog, website, or automated telephone prompters (OK, maybe not this last one), plug the following items in a survey and ask your public to respond:

  1. Invites people to conversation.
  2. Is open to dialogue.
  3. Uses conversation-style communication.
  4. Tries to communicate in a human voice.
  5. Tries to be interesting in communication.
  6. Uses a sense of humor in communication.
  7. Provides links to competitors.
  8. Attempts to make communication enjoyable.
  9. Would admit a mistake.
  10. Provides prompt feedback addressing criticism with a direct but uncritical
  11. Treats me and others as human.

The items are published on p. 413 of the article (see full citation & link below). For those who wish to get technical, the authors reported an alpha reliability coefficient of .87 for this scale. Which means that the scale has pretty high internal consistency – or that people who rank high on one item in the scale tend to rank high on the other ones, too. If they didn’t, you’d wonder if the items are measuring different things. OK, enough about that.

But why would I want to measure human voice?

I don’t know, why would you? You tell me in the comments. If you’re trying to fake the human voice and want to use this measure to see if you succeed, well… well, you have bigger problems then. But you might want to perform an experiment to assess the different impacts of different levels of conversational human voice. That’s what the authors tried to do in phase II of their study, but the validity gods weren’t merciful with that part and for that reason I’d rather not write about it. I’ll stick with the good part.

I find it very useful to have a validated scale for measuring human voice, but then, my world here in the ivory tower is a weird, weird one (you might say). What does the real world think? Would you use this scale? When? Why? How?

Article citation:

Kelleher, T., & Miller, B. M. (2006). Organizational blogs and the human voice: Relational Strategies and Relational Outcomes. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 395-414.

(it’s one of those few academic journals available for free online)

Making of “A Vision of Students Today”

If you haven’t seen the video A Vision of Students Today, it’s not too late. You’ll certainly enjoy it and it will make you think. If you’re a student, I’d love to know how you relate to the video and what it means to you. Moreover, I’d like you to tell me what you think it should mean to me, as an instructor.

The video’s author, professor Wesch from Kansas State University, explains here the step-by-step process of making the video. I thought students who are thinking about an alternative project for their senior theses would like to see how you can use a video to report research results.

Transcendental meditation in Iowa

Someone from the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) contacted my husband the other day.  MUM is an Indian university that has a campus in Fairfield, Iowa. It turns out that MUM is not your usual (Indian) university. MUM’s philosophy of education focuses on developing pure consciousness and self-actualization, and helping students and faculty achieve their true human potential. They train all students and faculty in transcendental meditation, which is practiced twice a day at MUM. They offer a degree in sustainability. They have an organic farm and serve organic vegetarian meals in the school’s cafeteria. They don’t work on the semester schedule, instead students take one 4-week course at a time. This enables students to focus on one thing at a time, improves learning, and reduces stress from multitasking.

The concept sounds intriguing at the very least, and too good to be true at most. I’d love to visit the place and see for myself how these principles translate in everyday life at MUM in Fairfield, Iowa. But just from reading the website, I find several aspects of this concept very attractive:

  • integrating self-actualization, mind development, self knowledge, and stress management in education. As I learn more about meditation, I think there are so many techniques I’d like to share with my students – to help them, at the very least, learn to manage their attention
  • living a balanced, stress-free life
  • focusing on one course at a time
  • having time and resources (instructors) for practicing meditation, yoga, and pranayama (breathing techniques)

I wonder, is there anything we at “traditional” universities can learn from MUM? Anything we can do, in our own courses, to provide a more holistic education and reduce stress in our and our students’ lives?

good things come in 3’s

It’s been raining advice for students, here’s the third installment:

Todd Defren (@TDefren), principal at PR agency Shift Communications recently wrote excellent advice in this blog post: What I Wish My New Employee Knew.

See also good advice from PRSA on preparing a PR portfolio.

So, students, what do you think? Feeling more motivated? What will you do this semester to invest in yourself and your future?

Interview with Jeremiah Owyang

 Following up on a post in which Jeremiah Owyang, (@jowyang) Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, describes his job responsibilities, I asked him a few questions about valuable skills in the analyst industry. Clemson communication students learn excellent research skills, and Jeremiah’s job is an example of putting those skills to work.

Read his blog post first, then this Q&A:

Dr. V’s comment: Thank you for explaining the nature of your job. I’ll share this with my students, who often find it hard to believe that the research and writing skills we teach them in college will ever come in handy :)

JO’s response: The Research job is laborious, but important in making decisions. Every day analysts and researchers influence how millions of dollars are spent and managed. As a result, they’re well compensated, and are one of the top non executive earners in the industry.

Dr. V: What are the top 3 most useful/important skills for your job?

JO: Seeing the big picture. Numbers and facts are useless without insight, analysis, and perspective. Students need to first get real world experience before becoming a researcher or analyst, I’ve served my time working up the corporate ladder for 7 years (which is considered very fast), I’m 31, and haven’t even reached the mid-point in my career, so work hard and stay focused. When I first started to focus on social computing, people laughed at me, they thought blogs and social networks were silly and for kids, now it’s a major industry.

Dr. V: What are some things college students should focus on/try to learn well if they hope to work as a researcher/analyst someday?

JO: Think strategic, think about the large scope of things. Be very aware and absorb lots of information, including info outside of school, teachers, and class. I read materials online, and made a vow to learn one new skill everyday at my internship.

Dr. V: If/When you interview for a new position or an internship, what are the most important things you look for in a candidate? What are the deal breakers?

JO: Ambition, ability to communicate effectively, and I’ll be checking out their Facebook and MySpace page to understand what they’re really like. The good news is, we want to see the human side of a candidate, but the party pics should probably be in a private folder. Ironically, I was a poor student in High School and College (but I did graduate). I did well in the creative arts, and was never great at math or business classes like accounting or Finance. Fortunately, in the workplace, one can find their true comfort area.

Interview with Phil Gomes

Dear PR & Communication students,

I’ve been saving the interview I did with Phil Gomes for the beginning of the semester, when you’re either more motivated to listen or you’ll listen because you need some motivation.

Phil Gomes, (@philgomes) is vice president of the me2revolution group within Edelman Public Relations. I interviewed him in November 2007 and asked him how you can succeed. One of Phil’s most interesting ideas is that of future-proofing your education – learning things that will still be useful in 10, 15, or 20 years from now. I think both students and educators will find this interview informative and motivational. Enjoy and let me know: How are you future-proofing your or your students’ education?