We’re thinking at the wrong things

Written on 20 May 2016, 02:44pm

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It seems like we, humans, have the strange ability to worry about little things and to procrastinate or ignore the big, important ones. NN Taleb explains this in his essay ‘The Black Swan’:

What are our minds made for? It looks as if we have the wrong user’s manual. Our minds do not seem made to think and introspect; if they were, things would be easier for us today, but then we would not be here today and I would not have been here to talk about it—my counterfactual, introspective, and hard-thinking ancestor would have been eaten by a lion while his nonthinking but faster-reacting cousin would have run for cover. Consider that thinking is time-consuming and generally a great waste of energy, that our predecessors spent more than a hundred million years as nonthinking mammals and that in the blip in our history during which we have used our brain we have used it on subjects too peripheral to matter. Evidence shows that we do much less thinking than we believe we do—except, of course, when we think about it.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Exhibit A: Superbugs

Superbugs will kill someone every three seconds by 2050 unless the world acts now, a hugely influential report says.
A global revolution in the use of antimicrobials is needed, according to a government backed report.
Lord Jim O’Neill, who led the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, said a campaign was needed to stop people treating antibiotics like sweets.
It is the first recommendation in the global plan for preventing medicine “being cast back into the dark ages”.
The report has received a mixed response with some concerned that it does not go far enough.
Superbugs, resistant to antimicrobials, are estimated to account for 700,000 deaths each year.
But modelling up to the year 2050, by Rand Europe and auditors KPMG, suggests 10 million people could die each year – equivalent to one every three seconds.
BBC: Global antibiotics ‘revolution’ needed

Exhibit B: Climate change

In spite of reports, evidence, climate refugees and general consensus in the science world that climate change is starting to affect our lifes, there are still top level politicians arguing that everything is just ‘peer-pressure’ and that ‘everybody is a scientist’:

Ex-Alaska governor promotes Climate Hustle film and calls for intervention to stop the ‘peer pressure’ as world leaders agree global warming is a serious threat.
The former vice-presidential nominee admitted she did not believe scientists about anything any more – and appealed to presidential contenders to intervene, somehow.
The Guardian – Climate change denier Sarah Palin: ‘Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am’

As a side note, there is a nice response to the statement above.
But unfortunately, we’re doing very little to fight climate change. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

Exhibit C: Colonizing other worlds

I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space (Stephen Hawking)
We should do it soon, because colonizing other worlds is our best chance to hedge our bets and improve the survival prospects of our species. Sooner or later something will get us if we stay on one planet. (Princeton professor J. Richard Gott)
In the long run a single-planet species will not survive (Nasa Administrator Michael Griffin)
http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/08/how-and-why-spacex-will-colonize-mars.html/2

Apparently, in this case at least, someone is thinking big. There is hope 🙂

black swan

A/B, MVT testing and usability

Written on 30 March 2015, 10:31pm

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Some quick notes after reading A field guide to usability testing and re-reading the Smashing Book #1:

1. A/B testing

– always test both versions simultaneously
– wait for it 🙂 (use a calculator to determine when to end it, and don’t give up earlier)
– keep the A/B tests for new visitors only (don’t surprise the regulars)
– but make sure that a new visitor gets the same version on consecutive visits
– be consistent: make sure that the variation appears on all pages (ex – if you have a promotional price on version A, make sure that the user will always see the promotional price on all the pages)
– the results might be un-intuitive
– naturally, the higher the number of users, the more reliable the result
More

Who would be involved in an A/B test:
the UI/UX team – to propose the 2 versions and analyze the metric results
the dev team – to implement the metric, manage sessions and make changes consistent across all the interfaces
the network team – to handle various types of redirects (ex – run the A/B test only for users in a given geographical area, or only users on mobile)

2. MVT (multi variate testing)

– it needs a lot of traffic and time
– keep the number of combinations to 25 or less and make sure you preview them all
– global vs local optimum (A/B vs MVT)
– if you don’t have the traffic and cannot use full factorial testing, you can still use partial factorial testing.

3. Some usability rules/principles

(more…)

Human motivation

Written on 30 March 2015, 03:46pm

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Two years ago I was posting 2 Ted talks having as central idea doing the things you believe in. I recently reviewed them and reflected more about the second – called ‘The puzzle of motivation‘ where Dan Pink makes a case on how the current types of activities we’re involved in require different types of incentives.
Dan Pink sees a mismatch between what science knows and what business does: even though there is scientific proof that creative jobs do not work well with rewards, the current business model works just like that.
There are a few exceptions, like the Google initiative to allow his employees to spend one day per week working on an independent project, Atlassian’s FedEx days or – most powerful example – how Wikipedia succeeded and Microsoft Encarta failed:

Encarta’s closing is widely attributed to competition from the much larger online encyclopedia, Wikipedia
Wikipedia page about Encarta (!)

Dan Pink identifies 3 building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses:
Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives
Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters
Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

More:
* What motivates us
* The Motivation Trifecta: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose