Earlier this month, someone at Facebook mentioned running a news feed experiment to see how people respond to positive and negative posts. What they found out was how people respond when they find out that they’ve been manipulated in the name of social science.
There was much ranting and raving, angry virtual mobs and the FTC was called upon to investigate this abuse of power.
Seriously – this is the internet people, not a hospital. Besides, once you signed the Terms of Service agreement (you know, the one you didn’t read) you gave Facebook permission to manipulate your data as they see fit.
Whether Facebook was in the right really doesn’t matter though, does it? Because once the public gets angry, there’s nothing to do but apologize and back away until the storm passes. . .
Or, they could own it just like dating app OkCupid.
This morning’s post on the OkCupid blog is titled “We Experiment on Human Beings!” Clearly, it’s an attempt to ride the coattails of the Facebook trend and I’m okay with that because the blog post is truly interesting! Forget the sensationalism, the lies, the manipulation, and look at the data.
Early on, they conducted an experiment called Love is Blind. They removed all the photos from the dating app then compared that day’s activity to the activity on a typical Tuesday. What they found was that people responded to each other more often, had deeper conversations and they were quicker on the draw with their contact information. When they turned the photos back on, conversations dropped off.
Conclusion: “people are exactly as shallow as their technology allows them to be.”
OkCupid learned something about their users from that experiment and they can use that data to make their app more enjoyable. A enjoyable app makes for a better user experience which in turn leads to more users and more app revenue (upgrades, ads, etc.).
Ipso facto: user experimentation is a good thing for everyone.
The reality is, we’re all just guinea pigs in this giant internet experiment. Who will click on this versus that? Will you watch the short video or the long video? Will a smiling child be more effective than a cute puppy? It’s all trial and error and that’s how great, new things are born. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?
What do you think? Should companies have to declare their intentions before manipulating user data or is this just a lot of noise about nothing?