Archive for June 7, 2012

Machine Learning in Usability Testing

It’s an elegant idea I haven’t run into before: gather data on site preferences by selecting what version to present on the epsilon-greedy solution to the multi-armed bandit problem and just letting it run. You’re looking at a setting where effectiveness can be easily measured, such as by clickthrough, but the contrast is with A/B testing where the effect of a single change is being measured for a time and then a switch is being made, if desirable. Comments suggest tweaks/details like ensuring that a single visitor sees a consistent view of the site, at least for small windows of time.

The technique builds in the idea that, if preferences change over time, the site could automatically detect that – which the blog author and the commenters note isn’t really things work – but it gets me wondering if there *are* choices that work that way. Perhaps not in key navigation, but how desirable a piece of content is might evolve over time – perhaps code like this could be installed under a rotating banner of featured items (we have a rotating slideshow of news items at the top of the College’s website) to figure out which ones get clickthrough and have those persist with less effective ones fading out more quickly. For a place like a College which may not get many repeat visitors nor have profiles on their visitors and their interests the way Amazon and other big eCommerce sites do, this might be a lightweight method for getting some preference learning built in.

Amazing Stickman

Draw a Stickman is just delightful. Go to that page, select Episode 1, and I defy you not to say “Oh cool!” within 20 seconds. It is entirely charming. What else could you want on a Monday afternoon :)

Productivity, Travel and Passwords this week

Things my RSS feed wants me to do this week:

Stay productive after work on my side projects because if work and your homelife are all you’re doing, you’re a bum.

Go to NYC for Manhattanhenge or make plans to go back for it in July.

Buy Travel Blog the Board Game – even though from the description it is unclear where the “Blog” part of the game comes in.

Consider if I am suprised that those over 55 pick more secure passwords than those under 25.

Choosing an Analysis Tool

I’ve been learning some Octave recently and have refreshing my Python on my summer to-do list for a course I’ll be teaching in the fall, plus I’ve been running into a ton of articles about R (particularly for data visualization) that are making me think I ought to give it a look as well. So this comparison of the three from Slashdot was a nice overview from one person’s experience of which tool to turn to when: R, Octave, and Python: Which Suits Your Analysis Needs?. The comments (as always) offer some interesting input as well, including suggestions for other tools to pair up with these three to get the most out of them. I might head back to this article if I pick any of these tools up seriously for pointers of where else to go with them.