Monday, December 31, 2012

Breaking News: Simple is important

Here's a link to a giant research paper.  Don't click it.

The researchers were studying how someone's altruism is effected by the effort involved.  They categorized the two types of effort into "active" and "passive" groups.  What they found was that people were much more likely to cheat when effort was required to not cheat, instead of the other way around.  Surprise.  Glad we've got empirical proof now.

The interesting thing was that they also tested how requiring active effort impacted someone's willingness to help others.  The researchers asked volunteers to assist a special needs student.  The trick was that half of those studied were given a simple "yes/no" decision and the other half had to click n times to reach that decision.  The first group was five times more likely to click yes (if the decision page was reached at all).

Any guesses as to what n is?  How big a number would be needed to eliminate 80% percent of potential signups?  It must be huge, 10, 20, perhaps even 50 clicks.

Nope.  This drastic change was caused by requiring only two clicks.  Yikes.  Now, all of the participants in the study knew what the "yes/no" box was for.  Real life is often much more complicated than a study.  While marketing-driven companies may want to push potential users to click on things to inflate (useless) metrics, real organizations need to inform the user.

I'm a programmer, first and foremost.  I'm also a guy who loves open technologies.  Often, there are many competing technologies that I need to choose from.  For example, there's a LOT of NoSQL database solutions out there.  I'd been pointed toward MongoDB and CouchDB.  Both are excellent solutions with a lot of users.  They're reasonably fast and work well with Node.js, my language/platform of choice.  Both of them even have websites!  However, Mongo has me one click away from an interactive tutorial.  Awesome.  I get to play with the look and feel of your product without installing or configuring anything.  CouchDB has plenty of information but it's (relatively) difficult to find the tutorial.  While I'd love to learn both, MongoDB has become the database end of my latest project and I've yet to install CouchDB.

I need to stop complaining about things I don't like on the internet.  Got a better topic idea?  Drop a comment and let's talk.

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