tinker on

dreaming up a web that works.

Correlation or Causation?

by Santosh

Came across two apt examples of the use of data to demonstrate correlation and causation.

On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels“, WSJ.com

Orbitz has found that people who use Apple Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.

Orbitz executives confirmed that the company is experimenting with showing different hotel offers to Mac and PC visitors, but said the company isn’t showing the same room to different users at different prices. They also pointed out that users can opt to rank results by price.

Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site’s average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.

Private Schooling Myth Debunked“, The Age

Children who attend private primary schools don’t perform any better in NAPLAN tests than their peers at public schools, new research shows. It was the children of a healthy birth weight, who grew up in higher socio-economic circumstances in homes filled with books and had mothers who didn’t work long hours who performed best at NAPLAN.

Children who weighed less than 2.5 kilograms at birth, achieved ”significantly lower” test scores, especially in grammar and numeracy, with the researchers suggesting low birthweight correlated with longer-term developmental delays.

Children whose parents had completed year 12 had higher test scores across all subjects. Students whose mothers worked long hours did worse in all tests except numeracy, yet the working hours of fathers had no impact on test results.

”One explanation for this may be that children of young ages typically spend more time with mothers than fathers,” the authors said.

Like the ideal product practitioner – we’re primarily interested in discovering causation over correlation. You’ll often find instances where two variables show correlation but aren’t linked causally. The latter article wants to say that low birthweight is not the reason behind lower scores on standardized tests. On the other hand, the kind of hours that parents spend with their children do have an impact on how children perform.

The first article on Mac users booking pricier hotels makes the distinction blurry. Is owning a Mac simply correlated to my taste in hotels? Is Orbitz right in assuming that Mac users are less conscious about price to value? Or is there more to it than meets the eye? How you translate this information into your product tells your users a lot about your brand and the difference you see between correlation and causation.

The Lean Analytics Cycle (resource from the book The Lean Analytics)

by Santosh

I picked up the book The Lean Analytics to read over the weekend. The Lean Analytics Cycle is diagrammatically explained in the book and the pdf screen-grab below should be useful for others who have the electronic copy of the book.

The Mantra is – a good metric changes the way your organization behaves.

From the book "The Lean Analytics".

From the book “The Lean Analytics”.

Get the Lean Analytics Cycle in .pdf.

Using a Silent Meta Description with Search Engines

by Santosh

Search Engines automatically highlight display snippets of matched text from web page content to the search user to attract their attention and their clicks.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 16.02.50

In many cases this text may occur in the body and not in the meta description or title. For specific cases it might be wise to have no meta description at all. When competing for adjectives such as best, good, top – a silent description allows user generated content to bubble up to the search engine result page. Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 16.08.42

Collaboration trumps Storage

by Santosh

Although this isn’t widespread public knowledge yet, it is apparent that the next round of usage patterns around services such as Dropbox and Google Drive are going to be determined by how you collaborate.

Dropbox’s purchase of the service Mailbox was a dead giveaway that storage sync alone is no longer relevant. It did serve well to get Dropbox going. Another signal is Google Apps’ integration with Google Drive. Every time you send an email from within gmail with a Google Drive link, gmail will invoke a permission check (what all could they be checking for?).

My own usage patterns are getting clearer. I now prefer to use Google Drive as the collaboration feature around documents. This way I ensure that the receiver need not have a client. For an upcoming event I’d sent out questionnaire’s using Google Drive to the participants. I then shared the complete questionnaire’s with the panelists to help them prepare. The last time I did something like this with Dropbox I had to convince the receivers to install it. Convenience at play?*

*Evan Williams on what users on the Web want.

How “Freemium” was Coined

by Santosh

The web can playback history in a way that was never possible before. When digging through avc.com’s archives on business models I came across a post from March 2006 titled “My Favorite Business Model” where Fred wrote about what we know today as the freemium (tiered) business model. He asked his readers if they had a name for it and somewhere in comments Jarid put free and premium together to create Freemium. Later in another post, Fred declared that he just loved the name and wished that it would stick.

Seven years after his post the name is now in common use. At first I couldn’t believe I was actually watching the word come together. After having looked at the facts a bit I have to say that I’m grateful for the ring-side view.



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