All posts by Miki

Get smarter when procrastinating.

There is this assignment to complete before Sunday midnight. You write, and you write, until you want to take a “ 5-minute ” break. Which website are you going to procrastinate on right now ? Facebook ? 9gag ? Unilad ?
You keep on scrolling down, and down, and down. After 40 minutes of not being productive whatsoever, you realise how much time you have just wasted. Now, let’s draw up a report of what you have learnt through this activity :
1. Cats are still very cute.
2. Everybody is watching Game of Thrones.
3. Oh wow, how drunk was I on that night ?

Well, you have not spent your time efficiently. Since you are going to spend another half hour browsing through the internet, why not doing it in a much more effective way ?
What if I told you that, on a website, you could learn many things quickly about any topic ? There might be a solution to your problem.

Quora was created in 2008 by two former Facebook employees Charlie Cheever and Adam D’Angelo. The idea of this website was based on the fact that on the internet there is a big consumer demand for knowledge, but existing solutions were missing. Thus, they created a social network where deep questions could be answered.

If you sign up on Quora, you will realize how similar it is to Facebook – what a coincidence, isn’t it ? First, you will have to create a profile with a photo, but also with your past experience. Indeed, unlike YahooAnswers, Quora wants the answers to be reliable. Thus, the website asks its users to display their expertise – in order to allow other users to know more about the sources that used.
Also, readers can upvote or downvote questions, in order to highlight the best answer. Furthermore, Quora encourages thoughtful discussions which means that users can not answer with a simple “yes or no”.

Quora could be called an online user-generated source of knowledge. How does that differ from Wikipedia then ? Well, the platform enhances interactions between users. Indeed, individuals tend to Google everything, and not ask their family members, or acquaintances anymore. As opposed to this process, users can now share their knowledge with each other, rather than relying on the technology only. Also, when posting a question, you can ask one user directly. Indeed, according to the topic the question is related to, Quora recommends you users, based on their past experience.
Thus, knowledge is now accessible in a fun way, as it is built as a social network. Therefore, Quora has its own community. However, it does not restrain its target audience and is therefore not a niche. Indeed, unlike MySpace, Dogster – or even Catster – , the platform allows any topic to be discussed. For instance, you can follow some interesting subjects such as Tips and Hacks for Everyday Life, Chemistry, Marketing, or Cats.

To sum up, Quora is an accessible platform where knowledge is shared by numerous people who – in most cases – have expertise in the field. It is a community where users help and respect each other ; thus users create the value to allow the website to function properly.

In case you want to have a break, and procrastinate a little bit, get on Quora, and find out why your cat put a dead mouse in your shoe, or how to get over your habit of procrastinating.

If This, Then That. Wait, what ?

You just got back from your trip to Australia, and there is this cool picture of you in Australia you really want to share with all your friends. You know you will have to share this photo of you riding a kangaroo on-every-single-social-network you are on. How many is that again ? Oh, definitely more than three.
Do you know what this means ? Yes. You are going to repeat the exact same step every-single-time.
Now I am asking you : aren’t you tired of constantly repeating the exact same task ?
It would be great if in one, and one action only, all these repetitive and boring tasks could be done all-at-once.
Well, IFTTT – If This, Then That – would be the solution to your problem. IFTTT – pronounced like lift without the l – is an app that manages links between your different accounts and actions.
Many linked actions, or recipes, are displayed on the app.
The only thing you need to do, is to select one of these recipes, and let IFTTT do the rest of the job for you.
Clever isn’t it ? But what happens when you cannot find your perfect recipe ? Well, this is when the trick comes.
As a matter of fact, IFTTT is an Application Programming Interfaces – API – which allows different applications to interact together. This, allows every user to turn into a programmer and develop their own app, which facilitates the app-creating process for everyone. Also, experts in programming can use this service as well : indeed, they do not have to share their codes with the community, and therefore risk their codes to be stolen. Users can therefore develop their own recipes after selecting two accounts, or channels, and linking them to two predefined actions, or triggers.
In reality, channels are not online accounts only. Indeed, some of them can control certain internet connected devices such as Philips Hue light bulbs, Dash – which tracks your driving data – or WeMo – which allows you to switch on/off your light from anywhere – for example.
Thus, you select the channels you want to program and the predefined triggers.
Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 18.12.45
These triggers are predefined actions that you ask the channel to execute. The actions can be :
  • Active : actions are executed by yourself, if you post a new photo on Facebook for example
  • Passive : actions are automatically executed by the channel itself i.e weather forecast.
Creating a recipe is not about building an action you wish existed only. Indeed, it is also about personalizing, and being more accurate on your trigger and the action you take. For example, you might not want to receive all the photos you post on Facebook in your Dropbox, or maybe you do not want to receive the weather forecast every day by text, but once a week by email.
This, is the recipe I created for myself. Thus, I do not have to check all my forecast websites every day, but just wait for my iPhone to tell me when it is time to go surfing !
To sum up, IFTTT is an extraordinary application which allows Applications to interact with each other. Many recipes are available and, if none matches your needs, you can create it yourself, just like a developer ! This, will avoid you to do repetitive boring tasks, and therefore, make you gain time !

Which one do you think I should pick ?

Today is Saturday, it is sunny and warm outside. Perfect day to go shopping ! You are obviously going to spend this afternoon with your favorite side-kick. Your mission is to find the perfect outfit that will fit your shape, your personality, and evidently match your preferences.

You finally find these really cool jeans, but you are still hesitant about the top : the blue and black, or the white and gold one ? The retailer comes to you and says that the jeans and the blue and black top would be the perfect match. On the other hand, your friend who has similar tastes as you – so similar you have a couple of clothes in common – votes for the second option.

What would you do ? Who would you trust ? How to make sure which one is the right choice ?

As a matter of fact, when you are browsing the internet, you might encounter the same problem-resolving process.

When a Youtube user surfs on Youtube, they first type the title of the video. On the right side of the video, a section displays other videos. In this section, two types of recommendations are presented :

  • Featured / Related videos :

They are based on the Youtube’s product network ; that is to say that they are based on the site recommendation algorithm only.

  • “Recommended for you” :

These are based on the Youtube’s social network. In fact, another user marked the video you just watched as favoriteas well as another one. Therefore, the second video will be “recommended for you”.

Thus, which of these videos matches users’ preferences the best ?

In a study, participants were asked to watch videos on Youtube, and rate each of them from one star – Poor – to 5 stars – Awesome. One group had access to the product network only – Related-Featured videos – the second group to both product network and the social network – Dual Network – and the third group to user-generated links only – Recommended for you.

What emerges from the study is illustrated in the graph below :

The fact that the second group curve is the lowest shows that finding a liked video takes less time when using the dual network than any of the other networks. Thus, rather than proposing either one or the other, offering both at the same time gives the user more possibilities, more choice, and therefore, more opportunities to reach the right video.

Therefore, the most efficient way for Youtube to satisfy its users, is to offer them as many choices as possible using different methods : the product network as well as the social network.

So, next time you will go shopping and do not know what choice to make, try the clothes on in the fitting rooms ! – or buy both.

References :

Jacob Goldenberg, Gal Oestreicher-Singer, Shachar Reichman, The Quest for Content : How User-Generated Links Can Facilitate Online Exploration, Journal of Marketing Research, August 2012, 462-468, 17p.

Yang Sok Kim, Ashesh Mahidadia, Paul Compton, Alfred Krzywicki, Wayne Wobcke, Xiongcai Cai, Michael Bain,People-to-People Recommendation Using Multiple Compatible Subgroups, AI 2012 : Advances in Artificial Intelligence, 2012.