Using Twitter to value online information

I have recently noticed an interesting trend among the people I follow on Twitter. It appears that my network is dividing itself neatly into 2 camps: those who care deeply about the content they publish, and those who use it more casually. Let me explain…

Saying “good night” to everyone you know

Twitter users who casually update their status without thinking about it too much continuously say things like “Yep,” “Good night tweeple,” and “Banging my head against the desk.” Cryptic information that can be quite difficult to figure out. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just clear that some people view Twitter as a broadcast medium mainly meant for people they know in the real world, and that’s fine (I tend to think that’s what Facebook is for, but let’s not split hairs about this).

I’m also not suggesting that all tweets should be serious — the odd random or exasperated update can be interesting, enlightening, and often very funny, and it also shows that there’s a real person at the other end. I do follow a lot of these casual users, but I know all of them personally so their updates are meaningful to me. And of course there is always the option to stop following someone, so you only have yourself to blame for the content you receive on Twitter.

But then there are those who care a lot about what they say…

The dangers of “test and learn”

A recent discussion on a user experience forum I participate in turned to the topic of A/B testing.  I really enjoyed the conversation so I wanted to reiterate some of the points I made, and expand on it a little bit as well.  It’s not my goal to define A/B testing here but to share my opinion on its use.  I believe that even though A/B testing can be extremely valuable to help identify the best iteration of a site or a particular page, it should never be used in isolation.

Since A/B testing is relatively cheap to do and the results are so compelling, companies are in danger of adopting a “test and learn” culture where pages are just A/B tested with no additional user input.  That would be the wrong way to go.  A/B testing shouldn’t be used on its own to make decisions, it should always be used in conjunction with other research methods — both qualitative (such as usability testing, ethnography) and quantitative (such as desirability studies).



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