71 useful articles on online behavior change you can choose not to read

From Twitter: @matseinarsen December 27th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Some of the most interesting things happening in 2013 was around recommender engines. Amazon.com won an Emmy for their video recommender and Netflix algorithms got mainstream coverage with every mention of the movie Sharknado. Also, Arjan Haring presented some interesting thoughts about social proof in framing of recommendations.

Another interesting trend is more insights into the effects of user generated content like reviews and online comments. Sinan Aral demonstrated how reviewers are shaped by social contagion and the trend of shutting off comments is (thankfully) growing.

On the less exciting side, last year I hoped for more insights into online loyalty and stickiness this year, but little surfaced in that regards. The only thing I noticed was an article by Arie Goldshlager on predicting repeat customers, but even that was just referencing research from 2008. Maybe people just keep their cards too close to their chest on this.

Here’s the top material I found and tweeted in 2013 on everything related to online behavior, from conversion optimization and psychology to recommender systems, data science and AB-testing.


Online behavior change

“When you want to motivate someone to exercise regularly, a first push up is a great start! The same goes when you want to sell products.”

Maximizing conversion with micro persuasion
(Arjan Haring, Econsultancy.com)

Why We Overestimate Technology and Underestimate the Power of Words
(Arjan Haring, Copyblogger)

7 Principles From 7 Years Of Landing Pages
(Scott Brinker, Search Engine Land)

5 Dangerous Conversion Optimization Myths
(Linda Bustos, GetElastic)

The One (Really Easy) Persuasion Technique Everyone Should Know
(Jeremy Dean, PsyBlog)

The Recipe for a Perfect Landing Page
(Amy Hardingson, Yahoo)

How to Know When You’ve Done Too Much Conversion Optimization
(Chris Goward, Wider Funnel)

How to Use Personalized Content and Behavioral Targeting For Improved Conversions
(Ott Niggulis, ConversionXL)

Nine conversion techniques from the 1920s to try today
(Dave Gowans, Econsultancy.com)

Persuasive Psychology for Interactive Design
(Brian Cugelman)

URLs are for People, not Computers
(Andreas Bonini, Not Implemented)

5 Principles of Persuasive Web Design
(Peep Laja, ConversionXL)

Use of Pricing Tables in Web Design – Starkly Comparison
(Nataly Birch, designmodo)

32 UX Myths
(Zoltán Gócza and Zoltán Kollin)


Social Media

“we have mapped the brain regions associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious”

How the brain creates the ‘buzz’ that helps ideas spread
(Stuart Wolpert, UCLA Newsroom)

Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach
(Schwartz et al., PLOS ONE)

Your casual acquaintances on Twitter are better than your friends on Facebook
(Clive Thompson)

How To Get People To Do Stuff #5: What makes things go viral?
(Susan Weinschenk, The Brain Lady Blog)

LinkedIn Endorsements: Reputation, Virality, and Social Tagging
(Sam Shah, LinkedIn)

So you think you can go viral? Three reasons you may be kidding yourself!
(Sangeet Paul Choudary, Platform Thinking)

Do you fear you are missing out?

Measuring International Mobility Through Where People Log In to Commonly Used Websites
(David McKenzie, blogs.worldbank.org)


Reviews and comments

“someone invented ‘reader comments’ and paradise was lost.”

This Story Stinks
(Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele, New York Times)

The real reason for rotten online reviews on TripAdvisor (Rory Sutherland, The Spectator)

“Positive comments tended to attract birds of a feather”
(Tim Harford, the undercover economist)

The pitfalls of crowdsourcing: online ratings vulnerable to bias
(Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston.com)

The Problem With Online Ratings
(Sinan Aral, MIT)


Offline Behavior

“Is Starbucks missing out on millions of dollars in revenue because its coffee prices are too low?”

Is Starbucks coffee too cheap?
(Roger Dooley, Forbes.com)

You looking at me? Making eye contact might get you punched in the face (John Ericson, Newsweek)

Top 10 bargaining tricks in China
(“judaicaman”, eBay buying guides)

10 Dirty Negotiation Tactics and How to Beat Them
(Barry Moltz, Open Forum)

Drinking with your eyes: How wine labels trick us into buying
(Michaleen Doucleff, The Salt/NPR)

Slot machines: a lose lose situation
(Tom Vanderbilt, The Guardian)

How Memories of Experience Influence Behavior
(Peter Noel Murray, PsychologyToday)

No windows, one exit, free drinks: Building a crowdsourcing project with casino-driven design
(Al Shaw, Nieman Journalism Lab)

The Psychology of Effective Workout Music
(Ferris Jabr, Scientific American)

Restaurant menu psychology: tricks to make us order more
(Amy Fleming, The Guardian)


Dark Patterns

There’s an entire industry of exploitation that relies on fear and shame as motivators for business.
What Fear-Based Business Models Teach Us About User Motivation (Max Ogles, FastCompany)

What happens when you actually click on one of those “One Weird Trick” ads? (Alex Kaufman, Slate)

How to Instill False Memories
(Steven Ross Pomeroy, Scientific American)

The psychology experiment that involved real beheadings (Esther Inglis-Arkell, io9)

If you text a lot, you are probably also racist and shallow
(Annalee Newitz, io9)


Recommender Systems

Are your recommendations any good?
(Mark Levy, Data Science in Action)

The Science Behind the Netflix Algorithms That Decide What You’ll Watch Next
(Tom Vanderbilt, Wired)

Why There Are So Many Terrible Movies on Netflix
(Meghan Neal, Vice)

Shit Recommendation Engines Say
(Lukas Vermeer)

Why You Should Not Build a Recommendation Engine
(Valerie Coffman, Data Community DC)

Online Controlled Experiments at Large Scale
(Kohavi et al., KDD 2013)

Recommender systems: from algorithms to user experience
(Joseph A. Konstan and John Riedl)


Data Science

“Robert McNamara epitomizes the hyper-rational executive led astray by numbers.”
The Dictatorship of Data
(Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, MIT Technology Review)

WTF Visualizations: data science

What Does It Really Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us Online?
(Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic)

16 useless infographics
(Mona Chalabi, The Guardian)

Why you should never trust a data scientist
(Pete Warden)

Statistics Done Wrong
(Alex Reinhart)

The Potential and the Risks of Data Science
(Steve Lohr, New York Times)

Data Science: For Fun and Profit
(Lukas Vermeer)

Seven dirty secrets of data visualisation
(Nate Agrin and Nick Rabinowitz, Creative Bloq)

5 ways big data is going to blow your mind and change your world
(Derrick Harris, Gigaom)

‘Neuromarketing’: can science predict what we’ll buy?
(Alex Hannaford, The Telegraph)

Most data isn’t “big,” and businesses are wasting money pretending it is
(Christopher Mims, Quartz)

DARPA envisions the future of machine learning

Obama Campaign Misjudged Mac Users Based On Orbitz’s Experience, Says Chief Data Scientist

(Kashmir Hill, Forbes)


Online Experimentation

“When running online experiments, getting numbers is easy; getting numbers you can trust is hard.”

Online Experiments: Practical Lessons
(Ron Kohavi, Roger Longbotham, and Toby Walker, Microsoft)

The do’s and don’ts in A/B testing
(Floor Drees, Usersnap)

Research Practices That Can Prevent an Inflation of False-Positive Rates.
(Murayama K, et al.)

Effective Web Experimentation as a Homo Narrans
(Dan McKinley)

Theory-testing in psychology and physics: a methodological paradox
(Paul E. Meehl, Philosophy of Science)

The Nuremberg Code for human experimentation

Is your A/B testing effort just chasing statistical ghosts?
(Mats Stafseng Einarsen, Booking.com)

Split-testing 101: A quick-start guide to conversion rate optimization
(Conversion Rate Experts)

False positives and false negatives in predicting customer lifetime value


Let me point out that if you follow me on twitter you are less likely to miss out! And if you share this article you will look smart. I promise!

Mind hacks, recommendations and behavioral heuristics: 2012’s top articles on online consumer behavior

From Twitter: @matseinarsen December 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Understanding consumer psychology and online behavior has become essential and mainstream knowledge for e-commerce development in 2012.  While some of us might regret that the cat is out of the bag, it also means a lot of smart people are figuring out a lot of smart things.  Below are what I found to be the most insightful and actionable articles in 2012.

There’s two things mostly missing: Recommender systems are still exclusively the domain of data crunching and algorithms, while I’d like to see more on inspiration and getting people out of the filter bubble. The other thing I haven’t seen much of in 2012 is any interesting work on stickiness and loyalty.

If you follow my twitter feed, you’ve seen almost all of these articles. If not, now you know why you should follow me, and I’d really love you if you do!



9 Things to Know About Influencing Purchasing Decisions (ConversionXL)

Persuade with Pictures (Neuromarketing)

Secrets from The Science of Persuasion (by Robert Cialdini & Steve Martin)

A – Z of persuasion (Richard Sedley, Loopstatic)

50 Ways To Seduce Your Web Visitors With Persuasive Landing Pages (Kissmetrics)

“Self-Efficacy” = a highly competent persuasion technique (+5 conversion tips!) (Bart Schutz, Online Persuasion)

“Autonomy”: a Super Persuasive Technique (+ 5 conversion tips!) (Bart Schutz, Online Persuasion)

Nine valuable techniques to persuade visitors to buy in 2012 (Paul Rouke, Econsultancy)

Lings Cars and the art of persuading visitors to buy (Paul Rouke, Econsultancy)


The Hard Sell

‘Fair and square’ pricing? That’ll never work, JC Penney. We like being shafted (Bob Sullivan, NBC News)

Pricing Experiments You Might Not Know, But Can Learn From (ConversionXL)

7 Social Psychology Studies to Help You Convert Prospects into Paying Customers  (Gregory Ciotti)

Using Behavioral Economics, Psychology, and Neuroeconomics to Maximize Sales (Mark Hayes, Shopify Blog)

12 brands increasing conversions by understanding human psychology (Kelvin Newman, Econsultancy)

Evolving E-commerce Checkout (Luke Wroblewski)

Win the Pitch: Tips from Mastercard’s “Priceless” Pitchman (Kevin Allen, HBR)



From AB tests to MAB tests (talk by John Myles White)

Three reasons to stop A/B testing (Maurits Kaptein on Econsultancy)

Experimenting at Scale (Josh Wills, Google)

Trustworthy Online Controlled Experiments: Five Puzzling Outcomes Explained (Kohavi, Deng, Frasca, Longbotam, Walker & Xu, Microsoft)


Spotify solves discovery by discovering music ain’t so social after all (Robert Andrews on paidContent)

ACM Recommender Systems 2012: Most discussed, tweeted papers & presentations #RecSys2012. Blog reviews. Datasets. Social Graph. Links (Data Science London)

Evaluating the effectiveness of explanations for recommender systems (Tintarev & Masthoff, User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction)

Building Large-scale Real-world Recommender Systems (Amatriain, Netflix)


Social behaviour

Consumers’ ‘herding Instinct’ Turns On and Off, Facebook Study Shows (Science Daily)

Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong (The Atlantic)

5 Design Tricks Facebook Uses To Affect Your Privacy Decisions (Avi Charkham, TechCrunch)

NYU Stern Professors Develop New Method to Measure Influence and Susceptibility in Social Networks (Sinan Aral, NYU)

Social contagion: What do we really know? (Duncan J. Watts, PopTech!)

Creating Effective Loyalty Programs Knowing What (Wo-)Men Want (Valentina Melnyk, UVT)


Some Offline Learnings

Buy Design: Meet Paco Underhill, retail anthropologist (Metafilter post)

Bizarre Insights From Big Data (New York Times)

The Touch-point Collective: Crowd Contouring on the Casino Floor (Natasha Dow Schüll,Limn)


Design & Other Mind Games

Hacking the brain for fun and profit (Mind Hacks)

61 Behavioral Biases That Screw Up How You Think (Aimee Groth, Gus Lubin & Shlomo Sprung, Business Insider)

If… (Introducing behavioural heuristics) (Dan, Design with Intent)


Can you detect user emotion with only mouse movements?

From Twitter: @matseinarsen June 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Trying to learn more about how emotion affects ecommerce, I came across the book “eMotion: Estimation of User’s Emotional State by Mouse Motions” by Wolfgang Maehr.  Basically, Wolfgang Maehr found that you can correlate certain types of mouse movements with emotional states.  Specifically, he found that mouse acceleration, deceleration, speed and uniformity could predict arousal, disgust/delight, and anger/contendedness, all in a sample of 39 participants.

But… how is this not available to me in a handy javascript library?   I am just dreaming of reading off the emotional state of website visitors per page.  Or per blog post for that matter…

If you know of anyone who has made any implementation of something like this, please please leave a comment!


Full research paper with numbers here: eMotionEstimation of the User’s Emotional State by Mouse Motions.


List of lists of cognitive biases

From Twitter: @matseinarsen June 5th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I just want to share these very cool lists of cognitive biases.  It’s so useful to just have an overview of these on hand – and obviously I’m not the only one thinking so, as there are several useful collections out there:

For the uninitiated, cognitive biases are identified tendencies in human decision making, or as wikipedia defines it “a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situation”.


Psychology talk from YAPC::NA 2010 online

From Twitter: @matseinarsen August 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

The video recording of my talk from YAPC::NA on the Psychology of Perl is online.  It has a very funny beginning when Tatsuhiko Miyagawa walks into the room receiving standing ovations as I start my talk, which is really weird in the video. Still made for a fun start of the talk…

I have to admit I haven’t watched the whole video myself, but word around is that people liked it. Which is motivating for putting together a larger, more detailed talk for a smaller interested audience, rather than a quick overview for a generally less-than-interested audience.

Ending The Long Quiet

From Twitter: @matseinarsen March 8th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

It turns out I’ve done to my blog what I swore not to: Stop updating it. However, I’ve also sworn that if I did I would come back to it and not give up.

So what happened?

Well, it’s been quiet here because the heat turned up a few notches in my day job, and the opportunities to actually apply psychological methods turned plentiful. I’ve been involved heavily in recruitment in a (the) major Perl employer these days, and while I’ve learnt plenty about the minds of computer programmers, I also find myself in the situation where there’s correspondingly little I can write about it. On one side because there’s limits to how much detail I can write about before giving out information best kept confidental, and on the other side because some parts of a recruitment process needs to be kept inside the company to not give candidates unfair advantages (or disadvantages).

Now in a related turn of events, I seem to be heading to the Nordic Perl Workshop 2010 and I’m thinking about putting together a talk introducing the idea of using methods from Psychology to Perl programming.  Alternatively just a general light-weight something about some subject from the world of Psychology of Programming.  Which leads me to, if anyone who’s been reading the blog still follows it,  what was your favourite post? Or what post would you like to seen elaborated on?  Or what would just make a good talk?

Or to put it like the quintessential computer/psychology crossover, ELIZA, would: Come, come, elucidate your thoughts!

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