Release Management Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, David H Deans, Liz McMillan, Jnan Dash

Related Topics: PowerBuilder, Agile Computing, Release Management

PowerBuilder: Article

How to Circumvent the Seven Deadly Biases

Tap into the wisdom of your silent majority

More is better, right? Wrong. In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz explains how too many options actually cause more psychological distress. And nowhere is the overabundance of choice more prevalent than the Internet, where any given website can present us with an overwhelming number of alternatives at once.

The solution is not carrying fewer products or content. One of the beauties of the online world is that there's something for everyone. As Chris Anderson explains in his popular book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, "You can find everything out here in the Long Tail." It is within this plethora of options where the content and products that truly meet people's needs are found, and where companies ultimately make more money.

If carrying less is not the answer, what is? The online world has devised numerous strategies in an attempt to guide users to products and content that will best meet their needs. Many large sites employ the efforts of skilled merchandisers or editors armed with aggregated analytics data to help point the way, and others rely on crowd-sourcing techniques such as ratings and reviews to narrow down the choices.

While the above methods can be valuable in navigating the quagmire of choice, they all suffer from one major problem: bias. Bias comes in a number of guises, and we will walk through seven of the most common and detrimental here. In the end there is hope, though, as there are new technologies capable of largely evading these biases.

Personal Bias
The human brain fundamentally approaches the world in a self-centered way; we see the world through the filter of our past experiences and knowledge as well as our own interests and attitudes. But since we do not have access to all of the information that drives another person's attitudes and behaviors, we are often wrong when we attempt to predict what another person or group of people will find interest in.

One way to mitigate the problem is to run a focus group. Though this can help remove the biases of the expert, members of a focus group suffer from personal bias as well, such as when a dominant opinion influences the entire group. In addition, you will never have a truly representative sample of people and so will be swayed by the luck of the draw on the attitudes of the specific people you have chosen. The bottom line is, whenever you use a small sample of the population - be it an expert or a focus group - to predict the greater population, you need to recognize the influence of personal bias.

Squeaky Wheel Bias
Crowd-sourcing, such as ratings and reviews, has become a popular technique for creating recommendations online. In theory, this approach has few flaws: if every single person who came to the site weighed in with their opinion on every product, you would get a perfect representation of consumer attitudes.

The problem, of course, is that not everyone contributes. The tendency is for certain kinds of people to make their voices heard, particularly when effort is involved (such as in a review).

The most vocal and misleading group of contributors is what I like to call the "squeaky wheels," for example, those people who simply like to complain. But it can also be any one of us when we have a negative experience. Negative experiences tend to stand out more than positive ones and also encourage us to take action.

Overly positive reviews happen too, but again what happens is that you get a representation of the community that is biased to the two extremes - five scathing reviews, three glowing ones, a few people who just like to be heard. At the end of the day, 99% of the population remains unspoken for.

Contextual Bias
Another challenge with relying on explicit user feedback is contextual bias. Imagine, for example, reviews of a digital camera. One person might say that the "resolution is incredible" and another that "resolution sucks." They may both be right. Perhaps one person uploads pictures to the web, where the resolution is great, and another likes to print them out where higher resolution is needed. The two reviewers are using the camera and rating it from two different contexts. Ratings have no way of reflecting such nuances and reviews only do if the person writing it is aware of their contextual bias.

More Stories By Scott Brave

Scott Brave is a founder and CTO of Baynote. Prior to Baynote, he was a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and served as lab manager for the CHIMe (Communication between Humans and Interactive Media) Lab. Scott is an inventor of six patents and co-author of over 25 publications in the areas of human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. Dr. Brave is also an Editor of the "International Journal of Human-Computer Studies" (Amsterdam: Elsevier) and co-author of "Wired for speech: How voice activates and advances the human-computer relationship" (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). Scott received his PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, and B.S. in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University, and his Master's from the MIT Media Lab.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...