SXSW: Real-Time Data Changes Consumption Habits

Posted by Tejus Parikh on March 13, 2012

This session covered how access to real-time data changes consumption patterns. I know this is true, since where people check into Foursquare can change who I call to bring me back lunch.

This was an open conversation and it seemed that the talkative attendees of the session were weighted towards the healthcare industry. Many were seeking to use realtime data to drive better preventive health. One individual would like to reward individuals for attending the gym. However, the information from the gyms is only available once a week, so the effectiveness of the program is reduced.

A few others were working on applications that tracked user behavior through smart phones. They had much more success in changing their users behaviors towards positive outcomes. For instance, knowing how many calories one consumed caused users to reduce their calorie load.

There were a few cognitive scientists in the room. One of which raised the point that immediate feedback loops have been shown to improve performance but not learning. So if one were given a simple task, that person would get better at with immediate feedback. However, after some period of time of not doing the task, that person would revert to the mean. In contrast, delayed loops have been shown to increase the mean.

The final core component of the discussion was feedback fatigue. While many in the room agreed too many notifications created insensitivity, there was a healthy discussion about whether automatically configurable or user-configurable options were desired. Most of the non-programmers in the room would have preferred that the system figured out that it should not contact them.

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: