Monday, February 22, 2010

50th Delicious bookmark

Delicious is a social bookmarking service, but I didn't know they had a Twitter account.

We just got our 50th Delicious bookmark. Thanks, er .. delicious-etizens!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Screencast of Thinkmeter

DemoGirl made an unsolicited screencast of Thinkmeter in action:

I'd rather listen to her than me anyway. Thanks DemoGirl!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How To Choose a Domain Name (Flowchart)

Choosing a domain name is hard.  Luckily, there are tools that can help.  Having recently chosen a few domain names, we've learned a little (mostly, how frustrating it is).  Without further ado, a flowchart to guide the process:

 Here are the links:
Good luck! It's a big decision :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Zombies or Helpers?

"We have limited foresight into the future. Most of us lack the ability-- and the desire-- to make sophisticated cost-benefit calculations.. And we often let emotion affect our judgement. Yet despite all these limitations, when our imperfect judgments are aggregated in the right way, our collective intelligence is often excellent."

-James Surowiecki, Wisdom of Crowds

"None of us is as dumb as all of us."

So which is it? Smart or dumb? Actually, Surowiecki describes both. On the one hand, a crowd at a county fair most accurately estimates the weight of a cow, and a stock market on who's going to be president is better than the experts. On the other hand, a group of people judging whether the space shuttle should take off make a tragic mistake.

Surowiecki claims one difference is how independent the members of the crowd are. If people follow each other instead of contributing their own independent thoughts, they form an information cascade which can wash away good judgement.

And yet when people are making decisions, they often want to know what others think. Ideally, then, there are two separate pieces to the system: crowd members who stay independent, and an "aggregator" (possibly a decision-maker) who puts together the information into a result.

No zombies were harmed in the making of this blog post. Seriously, don't worry, those people are not really zombies. Photo by ioerror.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Toothpaste & Communism

Today, we have a guest post from Melissa.

In the early 1990s, a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I lived in Budapest, Hungary, a recently Communist place which that was letting go of its collectivist ways. Some trappings remained. Few people owned property or cars, Hungarians were never on time, and product choices were few. When you went to the store to buy toothpaste (fogkrém), there was one brand, and that's what you bought. It seemed like a drag at the time, but wasn't important enough to complain about.

Things are different in the US in late 2009. On the toothpaste front, the number of choices is overwhelming to the point of mental paralysis. Go to the average big box store. You don't have to understand combinatorics to know that the numerous axes of choice produce a dizzying array. First you've got the brand: Colgate, Crest, Aim, and more. Then you've got paste vs. gel, whitening vs. not, tartar control vs. not, mouthwash/breath additives vs. not, spearmint vs. peppermint. Though not all possible combinations are represented, there are well over 50. This is just among the mainstream toothpastes. They don't easily differentiate by price, so I don't have that to go on. I've gone to Target with the goal of buying toothpaste, and, faced with more choices than I could handle at the end of a long workday, I've left without. This is madness. Choosing toothpaste should not be so hard.

To cut down on choices, I enlisted the aid of my dental hygienist. "Should I be getting all that tartar control, whitening & breath freshening?" In a word, no. According to Marcia, the whitening doesn't really work, breath freshener is a waste, and the tartar control is bad for your enamel if you don't have a tartar problem. So now I'm down to brand. If I go with the plain jane toothpaste, I still need a little help with 3 brands times 2 formats (gel vs. paste), but six is manageable. Especially if my friends can tell me what they like in some organized fashion. Without communists around to tell you what to do, friends are a good second choice.

Got a favorite toothpaste? Vote here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quiet People Have Opinions Too


Groups can make great decisions together, but it's hard to ensure that everyone participates.  Quiet people may not contribute as much, and you miss their unique perspective or expertise.  The most assertive group members drive the dialog; their opinions have the most influence.

We believe Thinkmeter can help. Thinkmeter leads groups to better decisions by ensuring that everyone's opinion is counted.  Thinkmeter is an easy way to set up a decision and quickly see which options are the winners and the losers.  This can help to focus discussions: you can quickly eliminate the poorly rated options, and help make participants feel they've had a voice.

And, just to be clear:

Thinkmeter helps you make better decisions.
Thinkmeter helps you make better decisions.
Thinkmeter helps you make better decisions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making choices is tiring

Imagine, for a moment, that you are facing a very difficult decision about which of two job offers to accept. One position offers good pay and job security, but is pretty mundane, whereas the other job is really interesting and offers reasonable pay, but has questionable job security. Clearly you can go about resolving this dilemma in many ways. Few people, however, would say that your decision should be affected or influenced by whether or not you resisted the urge to eat cookies prior to contemplating the job offers. A decade of psychology research suggests otherwise. Unrelated activities that tax the executive function have important lingering effects, and may disrupt your ability to make such an important decision. In other words, you might choose the wrong job because you didn't eat a cookie. [bolding mine]

This hypothetical story starts an article in Scientific American that says making choices is tiring. The theory is that you have limited resources for executive function (for example, making a hard decision) and self-regulation (self-discipline, like not eating a cookie). A study by Kathleen Vohs et al. claims "choosing is more depleting than merely deliberating and forming preferences about options and more depleting than implementing choices made by someone else."

Maybe that's why people like to talk about choices instead of making a choice.