Monday, 29 April 2013

[weSPOT] Personal informatics, workshop, chi conference and weSPOT

This weekend weSPOT (as myself on behalf of the project) attended to the workshop of personal informatics at Chi conference. It was nice how the organizers set up this workshop in a hackaton kind of way.

First we participated on the workshop madness session, a series of 2 minutes presentations where participants could introduce themselves and their work. 2 minutes is a really short period of time but enough to make the others understand what are you working on and what do you expect from the workshop. Sure! It requires pragmatism, simplicity and left aside a bit of the narcissism that characterize to every good (and not so good) researchers ;).

In fact, it was one of the issues that Mara Balestrini brought to the discussion, are personal informatics promoting narcissism? Personal informatics are pretty much about self-knowledge, but this tools also should promote empathy among the users... it is not a matter only to understand yourself, it's a matter also to understand the others. I really liked this kind of reasoning, because in our topic, learning is also important. In fact, we expect that students understand themselves through understanding their peers in the social context.

After this workshop madness session, we started our hackaton. We started to work in a project that we previously discussed through email. The members of my team were Mara Balestrini, Jon Bird, Christian Detweiler, and Mads Mærsk Frost. Basically, our team focused on how truthful are the answers when people replied to a survey due to a sociability bias. It has been a long topic discussed along the years and some people already proposed a simple solution for yes/no questions [1][2].

Jon Bird proposed to develop an app with this system. Basically the system relies on a very simple methodology, the user before answering a question has to flip a coin. If it's tail, you have to say the truth, if it's head, you have to reply yes by default. In this way, nobody knows if you has replied truthfully or not. However, statistically we know how many 'yes' we can drop from the sample and the rest are reliable 'yes'. The theory says that in this way, we can know the real percentages of the answers.

In order to demonstrate whether this system could be integrated in an app, we are going to deploy three different kind of surveys. One survey where the flipping coin methodology is not applied. Another where the user has to flip a physical coin. Finally, a third one where the user has to flip a virtual coin integrated in the system.

The ideal result would be that a social bias exists in the first one but not in the other two. But we'll see the results... we hope to deploy tomorrow during the conference.

Does someone wonder what kind of questions will be? We'll try to balance between very personal ones such as "have you ever had an affair?" and less personal ones where the social bias should be less.

We'll see what comes up from this very interesting workshop! Hope we can report something soon!

In the meantime, let's see if we can get some inspiration from this amazing conference!

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