In June 2009 Jonathan Zimman and Eric Ztizewitz from Dartmouth College published an interesting study called Snowed: Deceptive Advertising by Ski Resorts. In the report they present extensive research that demonstrates a level of deception in how ski resorts are skewing the data they post to their websites, which are “collected by aggregators and then rebroadcast over the Internet and via print and broadcast media.”
Among other things, they found that on average, “ski-resorts self-report 23 percent more snowfall on weekend [but] there is no such weekend effect in government precipitation data.” The reason? People are more likely to go skiing or snowboarding if the snow is good. The report goes into a range of risks and benefits in using this practice – while they may end up with more people turning up and paying to ski, they also risk angering people with their dishonesty, resulting in bad PR and a low rate of returning customers.
One of the most interesting findings of the report is that, where reception exists, the use of the iPhone forces resorts to be more honest about their reporting. Increasingly, skiers and snowboarders are using their iPhones to comment on weather conditions on the slopes in real time. This does two things:
1. It forces the resorts to keep their data in check so that it doesn’t look blatantly false compared to other reports.
2. It gives skiers and snowboarders a source of weather information from other users who do not have a vested interest in making money off of them.
Just another example of the value of user generated data and content. It keeps the money makers honest.
Snowboarding – 326 image by Boolve.