Tailoring vs. Targeting

One of the chapters in a recent book on surveying hard-to-reach populations looks at "targeting and tailoring" survey designs. The chapter references this paper on the use of the terms among those who design health communication. I thought the article was an interesting one. They start by saying that "one way to classify message strategies like tailoring is by the level of specificity with which characteristics of the target audience are reflected in the the communication."

That made sense. There is likely a continuum of specificity ranging from complete non-differentiation across units to nearly individualized. But then the authors break that continuum and try to define a "fundamental" difference between tailoring and targeting. They say targeting is for some subgroup while tailoring is to the characteristics of the individual. That sounds good, but at least for surveys, I'm not sure the distinction holds.

In survey design, what would constitute tailoring under that definition? Groves and Couper used "tailoring" to describe how interviewers might change their introduction based on comments from the sampled person. But the training giving to interviewers focuses on a few types of comments. By the definition posited by the health communication paper, would that be tailoring or targeting? There are a few subgroups (not enough time/too busy, don't do surveys, confidentiality concerns).

I think it might be more helpful to think of these as synonymous terms where the specificity of the tailoring/targeting varies. In any event, this is a useful concept for surveys to employ. I believe this has been an innovative idea that does tie back to Leverage-Saliency theory.

1. Thanks for the article.Much thanks again. Cool.

"Responsive Design" and "Adaptive Design"

My dissertation was entitled "Adaptive Survey Design to Reduce Nonresponse Bias." I had been working for several years on "responsive designs" before that. As I was preparing my dissertation, I really saw "adaptive" design as a subset of responsive design.

Since then, I've seen both terms used in different places. As both terms are relatively new, there is likely to be confusion about the meanings. I thought I might offer my understanding of the terms, for what it's worth.

The term "responsive design" was developed by Groves and Heeringa (2006). They coined the term, so I think their definition is the one that should be used. They defined "responsive design" in the following way:

1. Preidentify a set of design features that affect cost and error tradeoffs.
2. Identify indicators for these costs and errors. Monitor these during data collection.
3. Alter the design features based on pre-identified decision rules based on the indi…

An Experimental Adaptive Contact Strategy

I'm running an experiment on contact methods in a telephone survey. I'm going to present the results of the experiment at the FCSM conference in November. Here's the basic idea.

Multi-level models are fit daily with the household being a grouping factor. The models provide household-specific estimates of the probability of contact for each of four call windows. The predictor variables in this model are the geographic context variables available for an RDD sample.

Let $\mathbf{X_{ij}}$ denote a $k_j \times 1$ vector of demographic variables for the $i^{th}$ person and $j^{th}$ call. The data records are calls. There may be zero, one, or multiple calls to household in each window. The outcome variable is an indicator for whether contact was achieved on the call. This contact indicator is denoted $R_{ijl}$ for the $i^{th}$ person on the $j^{th}$ call to the $l^{th}$ window. Then for each of the four call windows denoted $l$, a separate model is fit where each household is assum…

Goodhart's Law

I enjoy listening to the data skeptic podcast. It's a data science view of statistics, machine learning, etc. They recently discussed Goodhart's Law on the podcast. Goodhart's was an economist. The law that bears his name says that "when a measure becomes a target, then it ceases to be a good measure." People try and find a way to "game" the situation. They maximize the indicator but produce poor quality on other dimensions as a consequence. The classic example is a rat reduction program implemented by a government. They want to motivate the population to destroy rats, so they offer a fee for each rat that is killed. Rather than turn in the rat's body, they just ask for the tail. As a result, some persons decide to breed rats and cut off their tails. The end result... more rats.

I have some mixed feelings about this issue. There are many optimization procedures that require some single measure which can be either maximized or minimized. I think thes…