Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated
For years, candidates [at Google] were screened according to SAT scores and college grade-point averages, metrics favored by its founders. But numbers and grades alone did not prove to spell success at Google and are no longer used as important hiring criteria.

Prasad Setty, VP of People Analytics at Google via The Most Innovative Employees at Google Aren’t Stanford/MIT grads with Perfect SATs - iDoneThis Blog (via idonethis)

Performance is contextual.

(via annelibby)

Phase 2 Complete

A month ago, we announced the Orbital Boot Camp, a 12-week program to help you launch your side project.

Thanks to many of you who helped get the word out, we got a great response over the two week application window. We ran interviews over one week, found that we were over-subscribed in terms of qualified candidates, and then spent the following week deliberating and figuring out the best way forward for everyone involved.

We ultimately decided to run two classes of about 12-14 students each. Given the candidate pool, we would’ve loved to have setup a third class, but we weren’t able to make that happen in time.

The process has been an interesting one. Because you’re not trying to pick winners, as investors and accelerators do, you get to define a different bar. After all, this is an educational program and the output is to share what you’ve learned rather than to show off what you’ve done.

We looked for three things:

  1. Are you capable of doing what you are setting out to do?
  2. Are you coachable?
  3. Will you be a positive influence on the cohort?

Most of the applicants we interviewed met this criteria, so to get to our final group, we had to ask a few questions of ourselves:

  1. Will we be able to help the applicant with their projects?
  2. Do we believe that the boot camp is the right thing for the student right now?

This got us from 52 teams down to the 24-25 teams (one is still pending) that will be joining us next week.

One last thought: at first, I looked at the short 2-week application window as a liability. But in retrospect, it ended up being a great filter. The type of person who can make a quick decision about throwing themselves into a brand new program is the kind of person who would make a great student for it.

You have to be willing to jump in, and so those who were willing to make a decision quickly ended up being a self-selecting group of motivated, qualified individuals.

Overall, we couldn’t be more excited. The range of students and projects is pretty awesome and we’ll introduce them next week along with the rest of the Orbital Boot Camp team.

For now, we’re heads down getting ready for the start of the program.

Thank you to everyone who applied and expressed an interest in the program. I’m sorry we weren’t able to accommodate more of you this time.

Thank you also to everyone who helped get the word out. In particular, Khoi Vinh for featuring me on his blog, Glenn Fleishman for having me on The New Disruptors, the awesome folks who tweeted and retweeted, and the many unnamed people who shared this with their secret underground mailing list (this is seriously a huge thing).

Phase 3 begins this Monday.