Lackluster veteran: Bias, much?

So there’s a big new Pew report that includes an Official Typology on how connected we are and how we feel about it.

There’s even a quiz.

I took the quiz. And scored as a “lackluster veteran”–which means I know the stuff, I’ve used it for a long time, but I’m not enthusiastic enough for the Pew writers. (Funny. I generally answered very positively to the usefulness and value of the tools that I do use–I just don’t use as many of them as Omnivores. I guess if you’re not using everything, you’re lackluster.)
Lackluster veteran? How about “Experienced skeptic” or, maybe–given that Pew seems to treasure those who are online all the time with umpteen different devices operating simultaneously–“balanced user”?

Lackluster veteran. I can’t get enough of that phrase. It speaks so soundly to Pew’s whole set of biases when reporting on their studies. How dare I know the technology and not be a wholly enthusiastic twittering texting always-on cell-phoning participant?

I’m not linking. As with all things Pew, it’s not exactly hard to find. All the Omnivores are busily linking to it. (I have no problem with Omnivores. I do have a problem with Pew’s snide label for those of us who are less enthusiastic.)

34 Responses to “Lackluster veteran: Bias, much?”

  1. Can we start a Lackluster Veterans club? ‘Cuz that’s how they scored me too.

  2. walt says:

    Seems to me that’s a candidate for a section of the Library Society of the World, although perhaps a small section.

    And given the extent to which both of us enthusiastically use appropriate technology, and rely on technology to get our work done…well, your getting that same label says even more about Pew. I’d twitter you about it, but, you know…

  3. I appear to be an “Omnivore.”

    Hmmm. Not very fond of that, either.

  4. walt says:

    Ah, David, but that’s the hot category. Just look at the bloggers who’ve linked to the report: Omnivores one and all.

    I have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen Pew use an actively pejorative term for technologically-knowledgeable people. Usually those terms are reserved for people who decide they don’t need the internet (which then raises all sorts of Digital Divide alarums, because, you know, it’s impossible to LIVE without the internet).

  5. Diane says:

    I am a sucker for this type of quiz and admit I scored as an Omnivore as well. However, I am not “young, ethnically diverse” or male, and I really don’t like my cell phone.

    Go figure.

    I am guilty of considering linking to this pew internet quiz (because it’s fun, though obviously not infallible) and already sent it via email to my boss.

  6. walt says:

    And why shouldn’t you link to it? Just because I don’t… The quiz is fun; it’s the terminology that offends me.

  7. I don’t care if it is “hot,” Walt. It implies that I am undiscerning in my consumption behaviors.


  8. walt says:

    David: You’re right, of course. Thanks for pointing that out. Amazing: Pew manages to offend two of the most technologically-savvy groups. That takes real skill.

  9. John Dupuis says:

    I’m a Connector, which I can live with as a label, but I also feel a lot of affinity for Lackluster Veterans and Omnivores. I also find I have Indifferent days and Connected but Hassled days and a whole other range of reactions to technologies. I love blogs and online video and just try and pry my mp3 player from my cold dead hands (not an ipod, btw) but if all the cell phones in the world suddenly disappeared I would probably find myself only slightly annoyed.

  10. caleb says:

    As a lackluster veteran myself, I note from reading the report that I’m still an “Elite tech user”. But for the market for “Information and communication technologies”, I am certainly a lackluster target. I’m skeptical about how information is used and misused, about my privacy on and off line, I don’t confuse ability with opportunity, I’m very happy to unplug for weeks at a time, and as for whether or not these devices improve my “productivity”, I don’t even know where to begin to explain that production just isn’t something I value or even track. I think they pegged me pretty good.

    Another thing I noticed about the report and questionnaire is that there isn’t any discussion of these types’ attitudes towards privacy.

    I’d love to hear you elaborate on your statement “It speaks so soundly to Pewรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs whole set of biases when reporting on their studies”

  11. Greg says:

    I’m also a lackluster veteran, which apparently means I hate my cell phone. Hard to argue with that.

  12. Mark says:

    Turns out I’m a bit “lackluster,” too, although we already knew I was a veteran. Oh well.

    I agree with Walt that this just shows a bit of Pew’s biases. C’mon already, from the 1st question on: I’m either overloaded with info or I love it ALL. That simple dichotomy is simply ignorant!

    Yes, I promised myself I would try and “sell” my opinions more carefully. But, honestly, “ignorant” is as subtle as I can get with that one.

  13. walt says:

    Geez, what a bunch of lackluster readers. (OK, who’s going to do the Cafe Press tshirt? “Lackluster Veteran” on the front, “Online 24/7” in a red slashed circle on the back–or, heck, one of you can design something better. I might even buy one.)

    Caleb, I’ve discussed this in discussing various Pew reports in Cites & Insights, although I downplay it both because I admire much of what Pew does and because, well, no reason to make more enemies than necessary. Pew pretty clearly regards More Online = More Desirable and has trouble with the idea that anyone could elect to spend less time online and be involved with fewer forms of connection–there’s something wrong with us/them.

    Sometimes the wording reflects those biases. Rarely quite as obviously as here. And, as Mark notes, this time the questions are also somewhat biased: I found the overload one annoying. I marked no, I’m not overloaded–but only because I control my “info intake” pretty carefully and am good at skimming. (Well, that and my lack of Connectedness: I’m just lackluster.)

    Personally, I believe Pew’s reports would be more valuable if they weren’t so pro-internet. Maybe they could investigate the valid reasons that some people drop off the net altogether and the gains (for some of us) in real life experience by spending a little less time online. I’d love to see a Pew Internet and American Life that was more *about* rather than *pro*. But that’s just me.

  14. Iris says:

    I’m a disgruntled Omnivore, slightly insulted (for the same reasons as David) and also confused (because I don’t own a lot of gadgets). So I thought, “Ah hah! It’s because of my age,” and I went back and put down that I was 75. No change. Oh well. I guess I’m an undiscriminating, pampered, borg-ish creature after all.

    Looking at the categories, I’m guessing most Pew people are Connectors and Productivity Enhancers. Those seem to be the most complementary names.

  15. I’m an Omnivore too, and surprised. My cell phone may have a camera (which I generally use to take pictures of the cat when I’m bored) and text messaging (which I use approximately once a year to notify my sister when the plane’s leaving NY at the holidays, so she can guesstimate when she needs to be at O’Hare to pick me up), but frankly, half the time I leave it on my dresser and I much prefer my land line. Don’t have a PDA. Not sure I want one. I’ve had an iPod since they looked like bricks and came free with the purchase of an iBook. I’d guess that the cell, the cheap digital camera, and my iPod are my only gadgets…not that many, really. So who knows.

  16. Pete says:

    It all comes down to ‘if other people aren’t like me, maybe I’m a bit wrong, and that can’t be true, so they must be wrong.’ Validation by survey ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I don’t think I’ll do the survey. I have a phone I use to call and text people; I use the net at work but have no connection at home; I’m in one social software style group. I can guess how I’d come out…

  17. Pete Smith says:

    OK I weakened and took the test. Connected but hassled. I don’t avail myself of all the wonderful things the web can offer me; how dare I.
    What a very poorly constructed survey too.

  18. Jenica says:

    I have no argument with anyone’s comments on Pew’s bias, or the offhandedly insulting names they chose for their categories — I wholeheartedly agree, and also wish they’d put their resources to a more nuanced and less slanted use.

    But… guys… attacking a *web quiz* for not being a strong survey tool? Sure, the questions are black and white, and some of the choices are ignorant, and overall, it’s irritating to those of us who have some background in good data collection processes — but it’s a WEB QUIZ.

    If we’re going to start holding web quizzes up to a critical lens, then we all need to find something better to do… like discussing Pew’s implicit and explicit biases in the reports that they disseminate, maybe.

  19. Anne Knight says:

    Another L.V. here – if I understand correctly, my downfall is that I do not want to be at the disposal of anyone who cares to contact me about whatever whenever.

    We had an early form of instant messaging at my LPOW : you would be completely engrossed in what you were doing and suddenly your screen would light up HOW ARE U? WHAT R U DOING? etc. etc.

    How about Selective Veteran?

  20. So, Jenica, should I not write a post complaining about the “What Tarot Card Are You” quiz? Because I’m a bit peeved that I ended up as the High Priestess.

  21. Angel says:

    At least you got “lackluster veteran.” I got “connected but hassled.” I guess if you don’t go “gaga” over tech, you just don’t get a “high rating” on the thing. Like some of your commenters, I am not the one who enjoys being plugged in so every Dick, Jane, and Harry can contact me when they feel like it. But what else is new? Pretty predictable survey it seems. Best, and keep on blogging.

  22. walt says:

    Two quick notes on what is becoming the Best. Comment Thread. Ever (on this lackluster blog, at least):

    Jenica: I would normally never even mention the quality of a web quiz (and didn’t really do so this time), but given that Pew Internet & American Life’s whole business is doing surveys and publicizing the results and Pew’s interpretations, well, I think you hold them to a higher standard.

    Do most journalists and bloggers study the survey questions in Pew reports carefully to see whether they’re methodologically sound or whether they elicit certain answers? I doubt it; I’d guess most of us–myself included—just work from the summary, not the fairly long full reports. (When I have looked at the details, the questions are usually OK–but there are the usual problems of either phone or internet surveys.)

    Just as, when putting together Cites & Insights, I now quietly correct spelling and grammar errors in blog text that I quote (to the extent that I catch the grammar problems) without [sic]ing or anything (I may still [] when I capitalize what wasn’t really the first word in a sentence), because blog posting and commenting tends to be casual…BUT if somebody makes a big thing out of their writing skill, then I might feel free to [sic]’em.

    OK, that wasn’t such a quick note. This one is: So far, I think Velociraptor Neff gets the best short comment award. (If that reference makes no sense, go check See Also…)

  23. Weirdly, I scored as an Omnivore and don’t particularly think of myself as being one.

    And the terminology is downright odd. Ominivores? Lackluster Veterans? Connected but Hassled?

    Ah, well….I suppose they were trying to be amusing. And they certainly got our attention, didn’t they?

    And to Josh….I’m envious. I wanted to be the High Priestess. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. Diane says:

    It seems the quiz is more what you have than do you use it, hence my Omnivore status. Though Pew is known for surveys, I did not give this particular quiz much more credence than when determining what kind of cake I am (chocolate cake), what my pirate name was (Iron Sweetwaters), or when learning that I am 77% tortured genius.

    But, dang, I’ve never been a High Priestess either.

  25. Jenica says:

    Neff, maybe you could tackle the burning issue of why all the superhero quizzes only feature male answers. I want to be Batgirl, dammit.

    Walt, I’ll acquiesce to the idea that we should hold Pew to a higher standard, as data collection is their job. But I’m still standing firmly on the size of “web quiz, people, web quiz.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. walt says:


    And you’re not wrong. The web quiz itself is mostly just nonsense.

    But those strange terms, including Lackluster Veteran, are the ones they use in the Big Survey Report as well. Now the question is: How many true Omnivores will actually sit down and read through a 65-page PDF to see whether the terms make sense, as opposed to glancing at the press release?

  27. Jenica says:

    I would hope that anyone who noticed that the terms are a bit wonky would study the whole PDF at least a bit before using the data in any way… but I’m an eternal optimist.

  28. Sign me up for the Lackluster Veterans Club! I realize it’s just a quiz, but I find it puzzling they didn’t have a question on MP3 players and podcast listening.

  29. mdoneil says:

    I too am a lackluster veteran, and me just now into my forties. It is not that I don’t embrace technology – a luddite I am not. However I just don’t want to be too connected. Sometimes I’d rather just take a walk with no phone or blackberry or any other tether.

  30. The survey was an uneven blend of practice and behavor. I read the whole report right after I took the quiz, and was a bit puzzled. For one thing, an omnivore doesn’t necessarily *produce* anything, and yet the questions that drove one to omnivore status were very obviously production-related. I also felt the question about producing web pages was seriously dated, because it’s my hunch most omnivores use blogs for their online presence… blogs are the new website, etc. As others apparently did, I went back and changed some answers to make them more emphatic about my belief that technology does not necessarily make life easier or better, and my score didn’t change.

    On the other hand, I wish most library surveys were that easy to take. Imagine if Libqual folks redid that survey…

  31. Ruth Ellen says:

    Sign me up as an LV as well.
    Wish I could be a high priestess tarot card. Apparently I’m a Tower, which seems to be a disaster waiting to happen. Of course, that quiz was even more poorly designed – didn’t just compare apples and oranges – compared apples and astronomy. Very weird.

  32. Sign me up for the Lackluster Veterans club too and thank you for saying what you did! I was really put off by the label. I like technology but don’t think it necessarily makes my life any easier (probably the opposite). I also don’t want to be reachable at the end of a cell phone at any moment… I leave mine off except for conference travel.

  33. K.C. Sacra says:


    I admit the term “Lackluster Veteran” is a back-handed compliment, however, it makes me feel better about not being able to compete with the Omnivores I work with. I don’t go home and spend another 2 or 3 hours programming in the latest MS beta visual studio. It’s just nice knowing that I’m not alone in my lack of “Passion”. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but I don’t spend that much time on blogs either. ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. walt says:

    K.C.: I rescued this comment from Spam Karma. Thanks. I’m planning an essay on this issue for a future Cites & Insights; the title will be “Pew Do You Trust?” and the first sentence, “Pew Internet & American Life owes me an apology.”

    May get me in trouble (but with who?), but I think the clear move of Pew from observer to advocate is noteworthy and troublesome.