Monthly Archives: January 2011

Fun Trolling Facebook Polls (For Science (Actually Lulz)!)

I saw a Facebook Poll late last night that a friend had voted on. The question was something like “Which pair of shoes should I get?” The poll had twitpic.com links as answers, so the idea was that people look at the pics and let the guy decide which pair of shoes was better.

Apparently in Facebook Polls, you click on the answer to vote. And there’s no unvote (you can vote for another choice, but you can’t abstain after clicking). So people ended up clicking on the twitpic link thinking they’d see the image, and ended up accidentally voting on the poll. I fell for this, too. There were something like a couple thousand answers on that poll. I believe it’s been removed now.

I figured I could do better with a more salient question, so I made one up myself. “Which pair of glasses look better on me?” I made the question have two twitpic links, which you can view here and here if you actually copy and paste them in. I figured people are naturally judgers, and something like helping someone choose glasses to wear is an easy task (plus you theoretically get to see pictures of faces, which people just love, consciously or subconsciously).

I started the poll late last night, which probably didn’t help, but a few friends took the bait. I hope they forgive me as I did this for science the lulz! When I woke up this morning, there were currently 51 votes, from people I know, friends of friends, and even people two degrees out of my social network! I think it would be really interesting to see how this poll spreads through Facebook (assuming they don’t shut it down first).

I guess now that this post is published, any scientific value is gone (since you could be reading from anywhere and vote for my poll non-virally). The main point is that when you design systems very rigidly (in Facebook’s case, not letting people abstain from a poll, which believe it or not is a valid bit of information), interesting consequences pop up.

I’ll keep checking the status of the poll and see if it actually blows up, whimpers and dies or gets taken down quickly.

Analysis Edit:
I think another reason that this poll is so effective is that it makes it seem that the person who voted is the originator of the poll. Check out the newsfeed formatting:

The voter’s name is prominently displayed (though I blurred it) and the person who asked the question is nowhere to be seen.

Edit #1: The time is now about 12:40PM and the total number of voters has doubled to 99!

Edit #2: It’s about 1:10PM and the number has doubled again to 201!

Edit #3: The time is around 1:24PM and there’s 304 answers.

Edit #4: Alright, it’s 1:35PM and there’s 406 votes.
Edit #5: Wow. It’s 1:41PM and there’s 502 votes.
Edit #5: It’s 1:48 and there are 621 votes.
Edit #6: I’m just going to simplify my updates now…
1:53PM – 716 votes
1:58PM – 811 votes
2:02PM – 904 votes
2:07PM – 1031 votes
2:16PM – 1282 votes
2:22PM – 1442 votes
2:27PM – 1619 votes
2:38PM – 2013 votes
2:46PM – 2393 votes
2:50pm – 2604 votes
2:54pm – 2811 votes
2:58pm – 3038 votes
3:04pm – 3408 votes
3:11pm – 3861 votes
3:14pm – 4142 votes
3:23pm – 4761 votes
3:39pm – 6169 votes
3:47pm – 6806 votes
3:51pm – 7198 votes
3:56pm – 7693 votes
4:00pm – 8010 votes
4:06pm – 8624 votes
4:10pm – 9038 votes
4:19pm – 10,013 votes!
4:28pm – 11,007 votes
4:37pm – 12,009 votes
4:46pm – 13,046 votes
4:53pm – 14,009 votes
5:04pm – 15,216 votes
5:09pm – 15,886 votes (dinnertime)
5:45pm – 19,764 votes
5:55pm – 20,722 votes
6:06pm – 21,829 votes
6:30pm – 24,104 votes
6:40pm – 25,013 votes
6:51pm – 26,001 votes
7:02pm – 27,014 votes
7:14pm – 28,013 votes
7:26pm – 29,001 votes
7:42pm – 30,373 votes
7:53pm – 31,124 votes
(mini break)
9:41pm – 38,332 votes
10:14pm – 40,175 votes
10:34pm – 41,360 votes
10:50pm – 42,232 votes
11:38pm – 44,690 votes
12:12am – 46,761 votes
12:51am – 47,677 votes
1:48am – 49,358 votes
Day 2
10:10am – 53,601 votes
10:31am – 53,812 votes
12:48pm – 55,418 votes
1:07pm – 55,598
1:36pm – 55,923
2:32pm – 56,470
4:41pm – 57,559
10:36pm – 59,078
1:51am – 59,426
EDIT: Facebook finally deleted the poll, with something like 60,000 votes last time I checked.

Instascriber: Automagically Add Content to Instapaper

I just “announced” a little web app that I’ve been developing off and on called “Instascriber.” It’s basically a tool to help you populate your Instapaper reading list with stuff using an RSS Feed subscription model. If you use Instapaper a lot and use it to keep track of your reading list, you might want to automatically add new items, say from the New York Times Book section, into your Instapaper reading list. If you already know you’d like to read the content on Instapaper, it’s a pain to manually add each thing you want to read.

With Instascriber, you can just set the feed you’d like to subscribe to. Instascriber will periodically check the feed for new items and add it to your Instapaper reading list automatically in the background. That’s it. Boom!

For now, I’m considering the web app to be in beta. So let me know if you find bugs or anything.

U of M 2010 Mobile Apps Competition – FTW!

Continuing in my tradition of winning contests that I entered with very little expectation of actually winning, I got an email a week or two back about the University of Michigan 2010 Mobile Apps Competition that I entered in November. The competition is open to students, faculty and staff at the university. Since I’m working on a part time basis at the university, I figured I would enter a few of my apps. I chose Checkmate and ♥s Threadless, and made some awkward demo videos of each (warning, don’t play these simultaneously or your head might explode from too much Hung voice):

Checkmate ended up winning third place out of many many competitive entries (leaders and the best!), so I’m super happy about that. Here’s a story in the University Record about it. The HiJack project that’s been getting a lot of press was the grand prize winner. Props to those guys!

Winning a prize in this contest was a really nice way to start my year. It’s really encouraging me to continue doing mobile apps and exploring what’s possible.

When Interaction Design Goes Bad: Airport Terminals

I recently flew into the Detroit airport McNamara Terminal, and I made an observation that most of my fellow travelers probably made as well. That particular terminal consists of two long sides that branch out of the middle of the terminal. Our flight taxied to just about the farthest you can possibly be from the exit of the airport. Everyone had to walk across the furthest path (or take the tram) to get to the baggage claim and the airport exit. Why?

I read somewhere that airports used to get a lot of complaints about the baggage claim taking too long to get started. Travelers would have to wait at the carousel thing and probably got really bored. To fix that, the airports would drop people off at further gates, making them walk further. This longer walk caused the “wait time” at the baggage claim to be shorter, and they got less complaints. Perhaps that’s what happened to me and my fellow travelers.

I would argue that the particular “fix” I described probably shouldn’t be used anymore. Since most airlines charge people to check in bags, I think many don’t even need to wait at the baggage claim anymore (myself included). The fix is an interesting psychological trick, but it doesn’t actually buy anyone time, and it just makes me take longer to get out of the airport. I’d argue that this is interaction design gone bad, but I don’t have a way to confirm that this strategy is the reason we were dropped off so far from the exit. The flight was getting in at 10:30 and we passed numerous free gates, so I can’t think of any other good reason (maybe to save the plane some fuel?).

Impressions of Android From an iPhone User/Developer

I just got an Android phone, the HTC Hero, to play around with and perhaps develop on. It was only $55 on Ebay (including shipping) which seemed like a steal to me. I’m currently using it on WiFi without any phone service (the phone has a bad ESN, so that’s probably why the price was so low).

My first impression as an iPhone user is that the interface is really clunky. There just isn’t as much attention payed to detail. For example, there are often measurable delays between pressing a button and seeing something happen. This happens when I try to add a widget to the home screen or open an app that hasn’t been opened into memory. If I press a button and I don’t see something happen immediately, I will assume I missed the button and press it again. This is extremely frustrating since the iPhone animates immediately upon user interaction. The iPhone may not be any faster than my Android phone, but it at least gives the illusion of it (which is probably just as good in terms of usability).

Another thing I noticed is the lack of “back” buttons in the Android apps. Even Twitter lacks the onscreen back button. I assume this is following some kind of standard Android paradigm of favoring physical buttons over onscreen ones. It took me a while to get used to hitting the physical back button (and home, menu and search for that matter) instead of looking for navigation on the screen. While this is a different paradigm, I’m not sure I’m in a position to say it’s worse, better or on par with the iPhone. My suspicion is that the lack of onscreen navigation requires the user to go through more context switches (screen to physical button back to screen) which is disorienting. This is made worse by the fact that there’s seven fuckin’ buttons on my particular phone! I’m sure people adapt and get used to it, but I’m personally used to having just one button that takes me to the home screen (oh, and the volume and lock buttons, but they don’t serve dynamic functions in applications (unless they want to break the App Store terms)).

About the only positive thing I can say about the Android platform is that Google is integrating the shit out of it with their own services. I only have to sign in once with my Google account and I get Voice, Talk, Maps, Search, Goggles, Places, Latitude, Market, Contacts, Gmail, YouTube and probably some other things I’m forgetting. The voice commands are incredibly cool, though I wonder how many times I’d actually use them instead of doing things the normal way. Oh, another positive is that Angry Birds is free on Android, though my device is way too slow to run it.

I’m currently using a ROM with 2.2 on my HTC Hero, so that might account for some performance issues (though I thought it was supposed to be faster). I’m still kind of unimpressed by Android as a whole though, especially in terms of end to end usability. I originally got this device so I could test code on hardware, but I’m not so sure I even want to develop for Android anymore. I’ll probably end up writing some simple code, at least.

Does anyone with a newer Android phone want to debunk or argue with anything I’ve written?