Online actions with offline impact: how online social networks influence online and offline social behavior

the morning paper

Online actions with offline impact: how online social networks influence online and offline user behavior Althoff et al., WSDM 2017

You can go to a lot of effort to build social networking features or support into your app or website. If the goal is engagement directly within the app then at least you have something you can measure, even if cause and effect can be hard to untangle . But if the goal is to drive user behaviour outside of the app this becomes a much harder problem. An e-commerce example would be the desire to drive foot traffic into retail stores (see e.g., Facebook’s dynamic ads for retail). A more direct example is fitness apps want to drive physical activity outside of the app. In today’s paper, Althoff et al. analyse a dataset uniquely qualified to help us get a handle on the benefits of social networking features…

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Does the online card payment landscape unwittingly facilitate fraud?

the morning paper

Does the online card payment landscape unwittingly facilitate fraud? Ali et al., IEEE Security & Privacy 2017

The headlines from this report caused a stir on the internet when the story broke in December of last year: there’s an easy way to obtain all of the details from your Visa card needed to make online purchases in seconds (4 seconds to be precise). Using the discovered card details to make an international money transfer took just 27 minutes from creating the transfer account to cash in hand (in this case in India, from funds initiating in the UK). That’s fast enough that there’s very little time for a bank to detect fraud and reverse the payment.

Digging a little deeper though, there are also some interesting lessons to be learned about unintended emergent behaviours in complex systems, misaligned incentives, and the state of card payment security in general.

How the…

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Dynamics on emerging spaces: modeling the emergence of novelties

the morning paper

Dynamics on expanding spaces: modeling the emergence of novelties Loreto et al., ArXiv 2017

Something a little bit left field today to close out the week. I was drawn into this paper by an MIT Technology Review article entitled “Mathematical model reveals the patterns of how innovations arise.” Who wouldn’t want to read about that!? The article (and the expectations set by the introduction to the paper itself) promise a little more than they deliver in my view – but what we do concretely get is a description of a generative process that can produce distributions like those seen in the real world, with new / novel items appearing at the observed rates and following observed distributions. Previous models have all fallen short in one way or another, so the model does indeed seem to teach us something about the process of generating the new.

Novelties are part…

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The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: a pragmatic guide to assessing empirical evaluations

the morning paper

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: A pragmatic guide to assessing empirical evaluations Blackburn et al. ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems 2016

Yesterday we looked at some of the ways analysts may be fooled into thinking they’ve found a statistically significant result when in fact they haven’t. Today’s paper choice looks at what can go wrong with empirical evaluations.

Let’s start with a couple of definitions:

  • An evaluation is either an experiment or an observational study, consisting of steps performed and data produced from those steps.
  • A claim is an assertion about the significance and meaning of an evaluation; thus, unlike a hypothesis, which precedes an evaluation, a claim comes after the evaluation.
  • A sound claim is one where the evaluation provides all the evidence necessary to support the claim, and does not provide any evidence that contradicts the claim.

Assuming honest researchers…

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