Some of the most interesting things happening in 2013 was around recommender engines. 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,

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,

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,


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,

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,

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,

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!

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

  1. ankur says:

    Another intriguing pattern is more experiences into the impacts of client produced content like surveys and online remarks. Sinan Aral showed how commentators are molded by a social virus and the pattern of stopping remarks is (gratefully) developing.

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