Sunday, August 31, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 7 - last weekend before moving !!!!

Huge shout out to Brad and Jake for helping me with my furniture yesterday.  As I have shared before, I couldn’t find any charities that could pick it up before my move date.  I really wanted to bring it all to a charity, but we couldn’t fit more than one piece at a time, even in Brad’s SUV.  So we were forced to pick one and move the other two to the dumpster/curbside alert (which unfortunately gets very little traffic, so is most likely a dumpster drop).

It took us two hours between the trips to the dumpster and the one that stayed in the car.  Unfortunately, the dumpster is ¼ mile from my house and there is a big hill in between (luckily down).  Since we were tossing two of them, we kept joking about just launching them down the hill.  We did slide them for part of the way, but it would have made a great Vine to just toss one of them.

Brad had errands to run and I felt guilty taking up so much of his time.  I don’t think helping me move was his favorite way to spend a Saturday.  So I left him at Global Thrift and I stopped off at the Waltham farmers market.  I picked up ¼ pound of rat cheese – which is really really aged so that it is like quadruple sharp.  If you like aged cheese, you have to try it. 

I took my cheese over to a local vintner’s booth who is a very knowledgeable oeneologist and entrepreneur.  He has a great strategy – focusing on the fact that many Waltham famers market customers don’t really know jack about wine and can be intimidated by it.  So he has these extensive food pairing recommendations that he makes into recipe cards for each wine.  He has about five wines at any given time.  He spends his time explaining how the wine and food enhance each other, making it easy for a novice to choose.  He also puts a lot of effort into traveling around to local grape growers to taste their crop each season – picking only the most appropriate for whatever blends he has in mind for that year.

So I bought a bottle of Pinot to go with the rat cheese and we sat and talked wine and food and entrepreneurship for about an hour – drinking and eating.  I normally take it home, but I didn’t want to have to pack it and move it.  So I walked home a bit buzzed and then had a ton of packing to do.  I didn’t get as much done as I planned and today has been a real bear.  Tomorrow morning won’t be easy either (the movers come at 2-3pm) and then I will probably be pulling an all-nighter cleaning.  I have to turn in my keys before I leave.

So my next journal episode will probably be after I move. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fishie's Little Helper

From the good news/bad news department, a recent study found that the world’s lakes are contaminated by anti-anxiety meds (through sanitation system outflows).  The meds are getting into the fish in the lakes.  I say good news and bad news because the study went a step forward.  Apparently, the meds work on the fish too, making them bolder, more active, and better able to forage for food.  But still . . .

Monday, August 25, 2014

Are you influenced by a free gift?

I have never suffered from allergies.  But lately, I have had a few sniffles that I can’t explain any other way.  Being new to the allergy game, I have no idea what med to try, or even what criteria I should use to choose. 

Wonder of wonders, BzzAgent and Claritin came to the rescue.  In exchange for reviewing their Claritin-D product, they were nice enough to send me a free supply.  Since it goes through BzzAgent and not directly from Claritin, there is not even a hint of a quid pro quo.  If you are familiar with BzzAgent you will know that they have a very peppy and positive brand image, but they are careful not to suggest that positive reviews get you more rewards or samples.  It is purely based on volume.  Posting the review on my blog, on BzzAgent’s site, on Claritin’s site, tweeting it, facebooking it, etc all earn me points.  And they “remind” me quite frequently to do so. 

So here is my question today.  Even though there are no extrinsic benefits of skewing my review positive, is there an unconscious bias?  Many studies have shown that we have an instinctive social need to reciprocate when we get a spontaneous, no-strings-attached reward.  This has been shown in pure economic contexts such as the Ultimatum Game and more nuanced contexts such as anonymously walking down the street.  In fact, many studies have shown a stronger need to reciprocate when the reward has no strings attached than when it requires payback. 

Just this weekend, there was a pay-it-forward chain of 378 people at a Starbucks in Florida (in Florida!) until a woman from out of town broke it.  The fact that the chain was broken by someone from out of town is actually important.  The closer we feel to someone, the more powerfully we feel the urge to reciprocate.  This has been found with similarities in career (“Hey, you’re a physicist too?  Let me buy you a beer!), education (“You went to Michigan too?  Let me buy you a beer!), race, religion, and where you live.  Even very subtle things like being assigned to the same team in a 15-minute psychology experiment that is ostensible about something else can induce it.

A fantastic study by Dan Ariely (or at least I read about it in his book) found that when you admit your potential bias, you are even more likely to be biased.  In this study, financial advisors who revealed that they were being paid to promote an investment were more likely to promote it.  The hypothesis is that the admission frees you from any guilt about it, so your urge to reciprocate gets unleashed.

So will my review of Claritin-D be skewed positively because I got the free sample, even though it was through a third party and there is no quid pro quo?  Since the effect is largely unconscious, I won’t ever really know for sure.  The only way to really know would be a double blind study with some carefully constructed control groups.  Especially since relief from allergy symptoms is highly subjective.  


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 6 – Big Donation

Today I trucked a carload of items to Global Thrift, the charity I talked about last time.  As part of my donation, I gave them two bronze statues that I am pretty sure are quite valuable.  My grandparents got them in China back in the days when going to China was a really rare kind of thing to do.  At first, I thought it was kind of a waste to donate this to a thrift store that would probably undervalue it and sell it for a fraction of what it is worth.  If I donated it to a charity art auction or something like that they might net a better take for the charities.  But I don’t have time to figure that out since I move in a week.  When I gave them the statues, I mentioned that they were valuable and they seemed really psyched to have such cool looking statues.  But I have a feeling that my fears will come true.  Part of me wants to go in to the store next week and see what they price tag is.  But I think maybe I shouldn’t or I will probably have an odd sort of buyer’s remorse.

I still have a lot of stuff to donate because my car can only fit so much.  Plus I have the three big things that I can’t fit in the car at all, nor can I lift them myself.  I am hoping that Brad and his trusty SUV can help me bring those in.  But he decided to go on vacation to NYC with his wonderful family.  So I have to wait until next weekend, the day before I move.  That will stress me out to no end, but what can I do?  Practice my coping skills I guess :-). 

Friday, August 22, 2014

This Week in EID - Episode 17

Delight is one of the best things you can add to a user experience.  After you have achieved the UI costs of entry (easy to learn, easy to use, easy to recover from errors), this is the competitive advantage that separates the winners from the losers.  Doesn’t matter if you are talking about the cozy restaurant on the street corner or the high tech big data visualization dashboard.

The EID blog is like a quarter you find on the street. It may not be enough to change your life, but it is a nice small benefit that can make your day.  Do analogies work to get a point across?  

Do you shy away from information that you don’t really want to hear?  The cheesecake has enough fat for six days.  Your 401(k) will never be enough if you don’t put more in.  Of course, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, but it does make it go away for right now.  

My point about the militarization of the police was not a post about Ferguson, it was about the media and their lack of statistical literacy.  They do this over and over.  Remember the 10,000 hour rule of practice?  It drove the researcher who did the original work to post on his web site that “we should never delegate science reporting to the media.”