Using massive online choice experiments to measure changes in well-being

Paper by Erik Brynjolfsson, Avinash Collis, and Felix Eggers: “Gross domestic product (GDP) and derived metrics such as productivity have been central to our understanding of economic progress and well-being. In principle, changes in consumer surplus provide a superior, and more direct, measure of changes in well-being, especially for digital goods. In practice, these alternatives have been difficult to quantify. We explore the potential of massive online choice experiments to measure consumer surplus. We illustrate this technique via several empirical examples which quantify the valuations of popular digital goods and categories. Our examples include incentive-compatible discrete-choice experiments where online and laboratory participants receive monetary compensation if and only if they forgo goods for predefined periods.

For example, the median user needed a compensation of about $48 to forgo Facebook for 1 mo. Our overall analyses reveal that digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are not reflected in conventional measures of GDP and productivity. By periodically querying a large, representative sample of goods and services, including those which are not priced in existing markets, changes in consumer surplus and other new measures of well-being derived from these online choice experiments have the potential for providing cost-effective supplements to the existing national income and product accounts….(More)”.

Beyond opinion classification: Extracting facts, opinions and experiences from health forums

Paper by Jorge Carrillo-de-Albornoz et al in PLOS-ONE: “Surveys indicate that patients, particularly those suffering from chronic conditions, strongly benefit from the information found in social networks and online forums. One challenge in accessing online health information is to differentiate between factual and more subjective information. In this work, we evaluate the feasibility of exploiting lexical, syntactic, semantic, network-based and emotional properties of texts to automatically classify patient-generated contents into three types: “experiences”, “facts” and “opinions”, using machine learning algorithms. In this context, our goal is to develop automatic methods that will make online health information more easily accessible and useful for patients, professionals and researchers….

We work with a set of 3000 posts to online health forums in breast cancer, morbus crohn and different allergies. Each sentence in a post is manually labeled as “experience”, “fact” or “opinion”. Using this data, we train a support vector machine algorithm to perform classification. The results are evaluated in a 10-fold cross validation procedure.

Overall, we find that it is possible to predict the type of information contained in a forum post with a very high accuracy (over 80 percent) using simple text representations such as word embeddings and bags of words. We also analyze more complex features such as those based on the network properties, the polarity of words and the verbal tense of the sentences and show that, when combined with the previous ones, they can boost the results….(More)”.

Comparative Accuracy of Diagnosis by Collective Intelligence of Multiple Physicians vs Individual Physicians

Study by Michael L. Barnett et al in JAMA: “Is a collective intelligence approach of pooling multiple clinician and medical student diagnoses associated with improvement in diagnostic accuracy in online, structured clinical cases?

Findings  This cross-sectional study analyzing data from the Human Diagnosis Project found that, across a broad range of medical cases and common presenting symptoms, independent differential diagnoses of multiple physicians combined into a weighted list significantly outperformed diagnoses of individual physicians with groups as small as 2, and accuracy increased with larger groups up to 9 physicians. Groups of nonspecialists also significantly outperformed individual specialists solving cases matched to the individual specialist’s specialty….

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was diagnostic accuracy, assessed as a correct diagnosis in the top 3 ranked diagnoses for an individual; for groups, the top 3 diagnoses were a collective differential generated using a weighted combination of user diagnoses with a variety of approaches. A version of the McNemar test was used to account for clustering across repeated solvers to compare diagnostic accuracy.

Conclusions and Relevance  A collective intelligence approach was associated with higher diagnostic accuracy compared with individuals, including individual specialists whose expertise matched the case diagnosis, across a range of medical cases. Given the few proven strategies to address misdiagnosis, this technique merits further study in clinical settings….(More)”.

A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up

Alex Olgin at NPR: “In 2017, Kim Nelson had just moved her family back to her hometown in South Carolina. Boxes were still scattered around the apartment, and while her two young daughters played, Nelson scrolled through a newspaper article on her phone. It said religious exemptions for vaccines had jumped nearly 70 percent in recent years in the Greenville area — the part of the state she had just moved to.

She remembers yelling to her husband in the other room, “David, you have to get in here! I can’t believe this.”

Up until that point, Nelson hadn’t run into mom friends who didn’t vaccinate….

Nelson started her own group, South Carolina Parents for Vaccines. She began posting scientific articles online. She started responding to private messages from concerned parents with specific questions. She also found that positive reinforcement was important and would roam around the mom groups, sprinkling affirmations.

“If someone posts, ‘My child got their two-months shots today,’ ” Nelson says, she’d quickly post a follow-up comment: “Great job, mom!”

Nelson was inspired by peer-focused groups around the country doing similar work. Groups with national reach like Voices for Vaccines and regional groups like Vax Northwest in Washington state take a similar approach, encouraging parents to get educated and share facts about vaccines with other parents….

Public health specialists are raising concerns about the need to improve vaccination rates. But efforts to reach vaccine-hesitant parents often fail. When presented with facts about vaccine safety, parents often remained entrenched in a decision not to vaccinate.

Pediatricians could play a role — and many do — but they’re not compensated to have lengthy discussions with parents, and some of them find it a frustrating task. That has left an opening for alternative approaches, like Nelson’s.

Nelson thought it would be best to zero in on moms who were still on the fence about vaccines.

“It’s easier to pull a hesitant parent over than it is somebody who is firmly anti-vax,” Nelson says. She explains that parents who oppose vaccination often feel so strongly about it that they won’t engage in a discussion. “They feel validated by that choice — it’s part of community, it’s part of their identity.”…(More)”.

Co-Creating e-Government Services: An Empirical Analysis of Participation Methods in Belgium

Paper by Anthony Simonofski, Monique Snoeck and Benoît Vanderose: “As citizens have more and more opportunities to participate in public life, it is essential that administrations integrate this participation in their e-government processes. A smarter, more participatory, governance is a well-recognized and essential part of any city that wants to become “Smart” and generate public value. In this chapter, we will focus on the impact of this participatory approach on the development of e-government services by the city. Therefore, the goal of this chapter is to identify which methods administrations can apply to co-create their egovernment services with citizens and to understand the gap between the methods used in practice and citizens’ preferences.

As citizens have more and more opportunities to participate in public life, it is essential that administrations integrate this participation in their e-government processes. A smarter, more participatory, governance is a well-recognized and essential part of any city that wants to become “Smart” and generate public value. In this chapter, we will focus on the impact of this participatory approach on the development of e-government services by the city. Therefore, the goal of this chapter is to identify which methods administrations can apply to co-create their e-government services with citizens and to understand the gap between the methods used in practice and citizens’ preferences.

This chapter contributes to research and practice in different ways. First, the literature review allows the identification of eight participation methods to co-create e-government services. Second, we further examine these methods by means of 28 in-depth interviews, a questionnaire sent to public servants and a questionnaire sent to citizens. This multi-method approach allows identifying the barriers and drivers of public servants regarding the co-creation of e-government services but also the citizens’ perception of these methods. By contrasting the identified methods with their implementation, we better understand the discrepancies between literature and practice. At the same time, this chapter will give practitioners a repository of participation methods as well as information about the perception public servants and citizens have of them. Finally, we expect the insights provided in this chapter will stimulate research on the practical use of all these different methods…(More)”


WeDialogue: “… is a global experiment to test new solutions for commenting on news online. The objective of weDialogue is to promote humility in public discourse and prevent digital harassment and trolling.

What am I expected to do?

The task is simple. You are asked to fill out a survey, then wait until the experiment begins. You will then be given a login for your platform. There you will be able to read and comment on news as if it was a normal online newspaper or blog. We would like people to comment as much as possible, but you are free to contribute as much as you want. At the end of the experiment we would be very grateful if you could fill in a final survey and provide us with feedback on the overall experience.

Why is important to test new platforms for news comments?

We know the problems of harassment and trolling (see our video), but the solution is not obvious. Developers have proposed new platforms, but these have not been tested rigorously. weDialogue is a participatory action research project that aims to combine academic expertise and citizens’ knowledge and experience to test potential solutions.

What are you going to do with the research?

All our research and data will be publicly available so that others can build upon it. Both the Deliberatorium and are free software that can be reused. The data we will create and the resulting publications will be released in an open access environment.

Who is weDialogue?

weDialogue is an action research project led by a team of academics at the University of Westminster (UK) and the University of Connecticut (USA).  For more information about the academic project see our academic project website.…(More)”.

The city as collective intelligence

Geoff Mulgan at Social Innovation Exchange: “As cities grow in size and significance, they can become sites of complex social problems – but also hubs for exploring possible solutions. While every city faces distinct problems, they all share a need for innovative approaches to tackle today’s challenges….

We all roughly know how our brains work. But what would a city look like that could truly think and act?  What if it could be fully aware of all of its citizens experiences; able to remember and create; and then to act and learn?

This might once have been a fantasy. But it is coming closer. Cities can see in new ways – with citizen generated data on everything from the prevalence of floods to the quality of food in restaurants. Cities can create in new ways, through open challenges that mobilise public creativity. And they can decide in new ways, as cities like Madrid and Barcelona have done with online platforms that let citizens propose policies and then deliberate. Some of this is helped by technology. Our mobile phones collect data on a vast scale, and that’s now matched by sensors and the smart chips in our cars, buildings and trains. But the best examples combine machine intelligence with human intelligence: this is the promise of collective intelligence, and it has obvious relevance to a city like Seoul with millions of smart citizens, fantastic infrastructures and very capable institutions, from government to universities, NGOs to business.

Over the last few years, many experiments have shown how thousands of people can collaborate online analysing data or solving problems, and there’s been an explosion of new technologies to sense, analyse and predict. We can see some of the results in things like Wikipedia; the spread of citizen science in which millions of people help to spot new stars in the galaxy. There are new business models like Duolingo which mobilises volunteers to improve its service providing language teaching, and collective intelligence examples in health, where patients band together to design new technologies or share data. 

I’m interested in how we can use these new kinds of collective intelligence to solve problems like climate change or disease, and am convinced that every organisation and every city can work more successfully if it taps into a bigger mind – mobilising more brains and computers to help it.  

Doing that requires careful design, curation and orchestration. It’s not enough just to mobilise the crowd. Crowds are all too capable of being foolish, prejudiced and malign. Nor it is enough just to hope that brilliant ideas will emerge naturally. Thought requires work – to observe, analyse, create, remember and judge and to avoid the many pitfalls of delusion and deliberate misinformation.

But the emerging field of collective intelligence now offers many ways for cities to organise themselves in new ways.

Take air quality as an example. A city using collective intelligence methods will bring together many different kinds of data to understand what’s happening to air, and the often complex patterns of particulates.  Some of this will come from its own sensors, and some data can be generated by citizens. Artificial intelligence tools can then be trained to predict how it may change, for example because of a shift in the weather. The next stage then is to mobilise citizens and experts to investigate the options to improve air quality looking in detail at which roads have the worst levels or which buildings are emitting the most, and what changes would have most impact. And finally cities can open up the process of learning, seeing what’s working and what’s not….(More)”.

Crowdsourced mapping in crisis zones: collaboration, organisation and impact

Amelia Hunt and Doug Specht in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action:  “Crowdsourced mapping has become an integral part of humanitarian response, with high profile deployments of platforms following the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes, and the multiple projects initiated during the Ebola outbreak in North West Africa in 2014, being prominent examples. There have also been hundreds of deployments of crowdsourced mapping projects across the globe that did not have a high profile.

This paper, through an analysis of 51 mapping deployments between 2010 and 2016, complimented with expert interviews, seeks to explore the organisational structures that create the conditions for effective mapping actions, and the relationship between the commissioning body, often a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the volunteers who regularly make up the team charged with producing the map.

The research suggests that there are three distinct areas that need to be improved in order to provide appropriate assistance through mapping in humanitarian crisis: regionalise, prepare and research. The paper concludes, based on the case studies, how each of these areas can be handled more effectively, concluding that failure to implement one area sufficiently can lead to overall project failure….(More)”

Long Live the Human Network Effect

Julia Hobsbawm at Strategy + Business: “Picture the scene. The eyes of the world are on the Tham Luang cave system in Thailand, near the border with Myanmar. Trapped on a rock ledge deep inside is the Wild Boars soccer team of 12 boys and their coach, who had ventured into the caves about two weeks earlier. It is monsoon season. Water is rising and oxygen levels are falling. Not all of the boys can even swim. Time is running out.

Elon Musk proposes building a “kid-sized submarine” to assist the rescue effort. Musk’s solution is politely declined by Thai authorities as “not practical.” In fact, by the time Musk’s sub arrives, most of the boys are already out, alive. One of the most audacious, moving, complex, and successful rescue operations in history relied not on a single technology or hero but on the collaboration of many people, working together in a spontaneous network.

This web of connections came together organically and quickly, unassisted by algorithms, in a unique collaboration led by humans. It was a stunning example of what physicist Albert-László Barabási calls “scale-free networks”: networks that reproduce exponentially by their very nature. The exact same network effects that can be lethal in spreading a virus can be productive — beautiful, even — in creating a web of diverse human skills quickly. Networks, as Barabási puts it, “are everywhere. You just have to look for them.”…

Networks that come together like this and use technology, community, and communications in a timely manner are an example of what the U.N. calls its “leave no one behind” strategy for achieving sustainable development goals. I consider it an example of social health in action: They are the kinds of collaborations that help us live full and productive lives. And in business, there is an exciting opportunity to harness social health and the power of networks to help solve problems.

This kind of social health network, perhaps unsurprisingly, is very visible in innovations in the healthcare sector. A digital health community called The Mighty, for example, is a forum to find information about rare illnesses and connect people facing similar challenges, so that they might learn from the experiences of others. It now has 90 million engagements on its website per month and a new member joins every 20 seconds….(More)”.

Abandoning Silos: How innovative governments are collaborating horizontally to solve complex problems

Report by Michael Crawford Urban: “The complex challenges that governments at all levels are facing today cut across long-standing and well-defined government boundaries and organizational structures. Solving these problems therefore requires a horizontal approach. This report looks at how such an approach can be successfully implemented.There are a number of key obstacles to effective horizontal collaboration in government, ranging from misaligned professional incentive structures to incompatible computer systems. But a number of governments – Estonia, the UK, and New Zealand – have all recently introduced innovative initiatives that are succeeding in creatively tackling these complex horizontal challenges. In each case, this is delivering critical benefits – reduced government costs and regulatory burdens, getting more out of existing personnel while recruiting more high quality professionals, or providing new and impactful data-driven insights that are helping improve the quality of human services.

How are they achieving this? We answer this question by using an analytical framework organized along three fundamental dimensions: governance(structuring accountability and responsibility), people (managing culture and personnel), and data (collecting, transmitting and using information). In each of our three cases, we show how specific steps taken along one of these dimensions can help overcome important obstacles that commonly arise and, in so doing, enable successful horizontal collaboration….(More)”.