First page of the study
I love this idea. It's true everyone likes to predict things; it's a great "in" to the masses, and their competitive urges, I believe, will really cause a lot of folks to do their "homework" in order to win It reminds me a lot of a game that The Motley Fool financial service did on AOL in the 1990's called "Today's Pitch." Each day they told you about a company and asked which of two to four things you thought was going to happen to that company's stock price over some future period. Then they'd see if you were right or wrong and it would impact your "batting average." The players who had the best batting averages were interviewed by the Motley Fool guys in a Vanity Fair Proust questionnaire-type format as if they were the next Warren Buffets (with some fun silly questions like "Burger King or McDonald's? Original recipe or extra crispy?" thrown in). The game was wildly popular--the only reason I can think of why they stopped doing it is that the technology for managing something like that in those days must have been pretty hairy. But that's changed now, and this concept covers a much broader range of interests, with a lot more opportunities for players to get recognition, a lot more opportunities for them to contribute content--I think it's a great 'version 2.0' of that idea.
There's another service out there that is a bit like this, called Blubet. Here's an article on TechCrunch about it. My take is that Blubet is going to be the Twitter version of Longbets, which has been around for some time. Meaning that it's cool, it works for the cognoscenti, but for the average Joe/Jane who, when confronted by the proverbial 'blank slate,' has no idea of what to predict, it's not going to go anywhere. The article on Blubet says 5-6% of tweets are predictions, which could mean an even smaller % of people actually making them. "Science Swami" sounds like it's "predictions for the rest of us," giving people very simple questions to make predictions on, and giving them a lot more ways to "win" or get recognition than either Longbets--which is just kind of a death match arena for pundits and academics--or Blubet. The fact that these services are out there does, I think, show there's a 'there there' for this idea.
I love this idea, as well, and want to come back to the above commenter's note that folks will "do their homework" in order to win. I'd be interested to know more about how Science Swami guides its users toward gathering or reviewing data to use in making their predictions -- small or large.
We have lots of people today (many with their own cable or radio talk shows) who are perfectly happy to prognosticate, but more often state what they want to happen than what evidence indicates will happen. Can Science Swami serve the important function of demonstrating how scientists' predictions -- theories, hypotheses -- are built upon a foundation of previous work or inference?
This is one of the few cases that made me think I personally would want to engage in it. But the recognition part has no appeal to me at all - while I'm sure it is likely to have appeal for others. For me the draw is getting the information about whatever the prediction is, assuming it's something interesting enough. I would come back just to find out the answer....and I'd be interested in seeing what the collective group thought. It's kind of like being interested in what the audience votes on Who Wants to be a Millionaire - the viewer is curious to see if the audience had it right.
Another thought - is to provide the user with information on which to make predictions. This removes the "competitive" aspect of it - but if done well is more genuine and speaks to the point made earlier that "scientifically" based predictions are different than just guesses. It's also a way to engage people - so, for example, you might pose a weekly prediction that I know nothing about. So, I have no basis on which to make a prediction and so I don't engage. But....if I can access some information that helps me make the prediction, that could engage me in something I might otherwise abandon. Just a thought.
It sounds like one thing both Jeanne and David are driving at is the need to facilitate the process by which users find information to make predictions. Perhaps each question could link to a series of resources that users can use to decide what they are going to predict. I'm tempted to say the link should be called 'Game Cheats,' which would certainly appeal to part of the audience, but perhaps turn off others. Jeanne, you are right--recognition doesn't appeal to everyone, but it appeals strongly enough to enough people (people have been known to work 80-100 hours/month for free just for the right to have a certain appellation associated with their username) that it seems like something that ought to be included, provided it can be done in such a way that it doesn't actively turn people off. Does the recognition piece as it's presented here make you less likely to use the application, Jeanne, or does it simply not appeal? If the former, any suggestions on how to make recognition less actively negative for you?
A question to the group: we've been having some internal discussions about the name of the service. Although 'swami' has been used in many a sports prediction column over the years, it's arguably become a bit parochial and archaic (we've been doing some informal testing with kids and very few know what a swami is). Also what it actually means doesn't have anything actually to do with prediction--it's a Hindu honorific that means "He who knows and is master of himself", "owner of oneself", or "free from the senses". It's a "title added to one's name to emphasize learning and mastery of Yoga, devotion to the gods, and devotion to the swami's spiritual master." We've been considering changing the name to "Nostroscience"--what do you'all think? Any other suggestions?
Being a professional test taker, e.g. life time student/learner, I'm more interested in predicting (guessing) when I get to know the answer as well. If there's not going to be follow up at the end of hurricane season, or six months from now on what the dow jones industrial did, if not, I'll lose interest. Truthfully, in six months, I would need to be presented again with the questions, my answers and then have them compared to reality for the game to be meaningful. IT might make me guess on something every round, if I knew for sure the results and comparison will be provided.
Sorry....Nostroscience doesn't do much for me. It's a little awkward looking and not so easy to pronounce. Can't think of much that's better, though. How about "Prophescience"? (You know...like prophecy and science)?
Dana--Great comment. There definitely needs to be follow-up with the answers. For sure, whenever your prediction is either proven right or wrong, your overall "winning percentage" will change (as well as your "winning percentage" in the category (technology, biology, etc.). And we'd need to let you know how/why it changed--e.g. we could let you roll over or click on your score to see what caused it to change (or add another [dynamic] field to the right of your winning percentage with comments (baseball card style) about what's caused (the most recent) changes in your score, e.g. "Guessed too low on this year's hurricane prediction (there were eight hurricanes this season)." Whether those comments would only be visible to the user or to anyone looking at the user's card would probably be something we'd need to test and get reaction to. We'd probably also want to do something like LinkedIn where we send you an automated email to let you know your score has been updated so that the changes--and reasons for them--don't build up to unmanageable (and unreadable) proportions. Telling you your score has been updated, and in what areas, once a week [more often than that for this kind of message could be annoying and get tuned out] would give us a regular way to get people to keep coming back to the site (in addition to new questions to make predictions on), which is always good. Finally, we'd probably need to archive the questions and answers somewhere on the site so that if you came back only irregularly, and still wanted to know how a question we updated you on months ago turned out, you could easily find it. Maybe we call it something like the "Book of Prophesies," positioned as another guide/resource for players to improve their predictive skills, and it shows you, for each question, not only what the right answer turned out to be, but what percentage of players picked each answer. What do you think?
Jeanne-- Prophescience? Well, I don't know if it's easier to pronounce (then again, I'm the guy who named his first company Cotyledon Productions ;)), but I like it a lot and will definitely be testing it--thanks much!
A belated thanks to all who contributed ideas for a new name for the concept. We've chosen one, Soothplayers, gotten the domain name, and will soon be replacing the art for this case to reflect the name change. Thanks again!