Authorities micro-study, pt1

Philip Morgan

Are there "localized authorities"?

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I'm reporting back to you on a "micro-study" I conducted last week.

The starting point question was simple: who is an authority to you, and on what topic? I asked 2 additional questions about what kind of business (marketing vs. IT, for example) and asked about business maturity (just starting vs profitable and growing, for example).

I asked my email list, 42 of you responded (thank you!), and I used only simple tools to analyze the data (I loaded it into a Google sheet, scrubbed responses about the philosophical nature of authority, and set up a few pivot tables to group data in interesting ways).

There are three simple ways to slice this data, and in aggregate they lead me to interesting conclusions.

I was quite curious whether there are "localized authorities", meaning people who are authorities to folks with only a certain kind of business or at a certain stage of business maturity. The pivot tables helped with this.

And of course I was curious about the relationship between topics and people regarded as authorities on those topics.

And finally, I was curious about the popularity of various authorities.

If I squint too hard at data for too long I can convince myself that almost anything is there, kind of like looking for faces in clouds. So I'll try to avoid that and just take shorter glances and allow myself to be moved by only obvious clear patterns.

 • • • 

What do we see in the data?

131 people were listed as authorities. Here's the top 5, along with how often they were cited as an authority:

  • Philip Morgan - 18 (sampling bias, anyone? :) )
  • Jonathan Stark - 11
  • Seth Godin - 11
  • David Baker - 6
  • Amy Hoy - 5

Authorities are not authorities-at-large, they are authorities on a topic or small range of topics. For example...

Jonathan Stark, topics he's cited as an authority on:

  • Authority / hourly billing
  • Building a consulting business
  • Consulting & pricing
  • positioning, marketing, freelancing
  • Pricing
  • Pricing, marketing
  • Pricing, Positioning
  • Solo consultant pricing
  • The business of software consulting
  • Value based pricing
  • Value-based pricing

I avoided cleaning up that list of Jonathan's topics so you could get a sense of how folks express this stuff. Those 11 topics would collapse down into ~6 if I did normalize the list.

I looked at two other slices:

  • Authorities grouped by business type (ex: marketing vs. IT, for example)
  • Authorities grouped by business maturity (ex: just starting out vs. profitable and growing)

In tomorrow's email I'll present the full summary of data for you, and further explore those latter two slices, which are where I'd hope to find an answer to my question "are there certain people who are considered authorities by certain types of businesses?".