Who Controls Social Networks?

Article: Bohannon, J. (2012). “Who Controls Social Networks?” Visited on Oct 9, 2012: This article is about how ideas spread in social groups through peer influence. A theory long debated is that a small number of people who are influencers spread ideas through their peer groups. Critics of the theory argue that is it not how much influence these people have but how susceptible to the new idea people are. The study of peer influence has proven difficult to conduct, but the rise of social networks such as Facebook provide a means for researchers to study a large number of people. One study in the article found that on Facebook there was a clear divide between influencers and those that were susceptible to new ideas. Conceptually, it’s important for any product developer to understand who their product’s influencers are if they wish their product to spread through peer influence. The article suggests that the personality traits of people affect influence. Examples: Women influence men more than women. People over 30 were more influential than those under 30. The article states that the most important finding is that Influencers and those who are susceptible are not traits found within the…

RE: Go Figure: Why we think rituals can influence results

Article: Blastland, M. (2011). “Go Figure: Why we think rituals can influence results.” Visited on October 9th, 2012: Summary: Humans have a strong capacity for pattern recognition. This is beneficial in many circumstances, aiding in our survival and helping us safely navigate our environment. However, the same cognitive mechanisms can also cause us to make incorrect associations between cause and effect. One example is a sports fan believing that a ritual like wearing “lucky” socks during an event will increase the chances of success for their favorite team. In statistics this over-interpretation of random events and correlations is known as a Type I error. The same type of behavior can be seen in animal studies, where pigeons will repeat an action that they have incorrectly assumed is the cause of food being delivered to them, when the timing was actually random. Conceptual Design: When designing a new product are we utilizing our users’ strength for pattern recognition?  Often humans can tease complex patterns from noisy data far more effectively than computers.  Can users effectively see the link between using our product and having the positive outcomes that they desire? If our product has benefits, we would definitely like our users…

RE: Perfectionism May Not Be Optimum

Tugend, A., (2011). “It’s Just Fine to Make Mistakes.” Visited on October 8, 2012: Experiment: A study was conducted comparing the productive abilities of participants testing high and low in “perfectionism”. The task was to rephrase a passage without interpretation for a panel of judges who were unaware of the status of the participants. The Outcome: Those rating high in perfectionism were judged to have passages “significantly poorer in quality”. This surprising finding can be attributed to a shortened process of learning in perfectionists, due to fear of failure and the loss of respect should a mistake be found. This isolation from feedback inhibits development. Additionally, the stress of perfectionism can be psychologically detrimental, further inhibiting learning especially in the face of failure. Interaction Design: For products with a high learning curve, built-in feedback could be considered when the product is not used as designed, and alternately when ideal conditions of usage are met. This would perhaps encourage experimentation and calibrate use. Interface Design: Friendly tone or customizable interface might also help to attract continued use. This could give perfectionists and non-perfectionists a positive working arena.

RE: Preloading and The Above-Average Effect

Valdesolo, P. (2010). “Flattery Will Get You Far.” Visited on October 8, 2012: A study suggests that flattery is effective, illustrating that even obviously manipulative comments play into the an individual’s high self-regard, affecting later behavior. This phenomenon, called the above-average effect, can be found for example in advertising. When a person views an advertisement showing an exaggerated response to a product’s use, their response in the aisle when making a choice, is measurably swayed. Sunlight, breezes, and smiling people in light sweaters walking through green pastures create a positive impression we remember when buying liquid laundry detergent of a certain brand, even if we know there is little rational correlation. Conceptual Design: The principle of the above-average effect could be used strategically. Research into a population’s background might give a picture of how to articulate a product; or, similarly, the idea of preloading expectations through associations in a programmed environment could be used to aim a particular audiences preferences or choices, or make rational jumps easier when transitioning from one experience to another. Interaction Design: “I want to be special!” Letting the user interact and uniquely configure their use of the product. Research into cultural background should be…

Social Media Election


The creative folks at invited me to share the following informational graphic with the readers of this blog. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has probably noticed an increase in the number of political postings over the past few years. This is due, in part, to the explosive rise in social media outlets and users. But voters are not the only people who use social media; among politicians, 9 out of 10 Senators and Representatives have Twitter accounts. However, many are starting to wonder if social media is becoming less a reporter of political races and more of a predictor of the results. In Senate races, the candidate with more Facebook friends than his or her opponent has won 81% of the time. And one email sent to 60 million Facebook users prompted an additional 340,000 people to vote in the 2010 election. This infographic illustrates just how politics and social media are affecting each other.

RE: Mac vs. PC gap is the narrowest since ’90s.

Gross, D. (2012). “Mac vs. PC gap is the narrowest since ’90s.” Visited on October 9, 2012: This article focuses on the recent trend that the ratio of Windows-based computers sold to Apple’s Macintosh computers is tightening to a 20-1 ratio. The article attributes this trend to the rise in use of portable computing and a perception that MacBook laptops are a superior product. Factoring in other portable devices from Apple such as iPods, iPads and iPhones decreases Microsoft’s sales advantage to a 2-to-1 ratio. Conceptual Design The article suggests that an integrated mobile device (laptop or hand held) that is perceived as a “better” product has led to the turnaround in sales for Apple in relation to Microsoft’s widows based PCs. When accounting for Apple’s smart phones and tablets the sales ratio tightens dramatically suggesting a post-PC era that will require product designers to think of new ways to take advantage of this portable computing trend. People spending more time on these non-PC devices threatens Microsoft’s Windows platform that has dominated the software industry for decades. Interaction Design The sales trend in a post PC world where devices are with you at all times suggests that people…

Echo Chamber of Search Results

The other day I got an email urging me to check out the search results for “completely wrong” on Google Image Search. Here they are: The results are clear: it seems like Mitt Romney dominates the “completely wrong” search results! But look closer: Eight out of twenty results shown are just screen grabs of the search results! The more people notice and talk about the search results, the more data points they generate for the search results… and here’s my contribution!