Is popularity just a matter of simple luck–of some early advantage compounded by human preference for things that are already popular? A paper published today in Science offers some insight into the way that popularity emerges in online ratings. Lev Muchnik, Sinan Aral, and Sean Taylor were able to set up a randomized experiment on a popular Reddit-like message board in which they gave some posts a one-point upvote on publication and others a one-point downvote. Posts that were “born lucky” ended up with 25% higher scores on average than those without modification.
In our latest podcast, Renee DiResta and I are joined by Sean Taylor, Hilary Mason and John Myles White to talk about Sean’s findings and about ratings, rankings and reviews in general. Bits and pieces that come up in the podcast:
- Anchoring and adjustment
- Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow; his Nobel Prize lecture is worth watching, too
- Amazon reviews both satirical and just poorly informed
- Health inspection results can be predicted from online reviews
- Restaurant grades are less effective in the age of Yelp
- Speaking of Yelp: