Sean J. Taylor

Tutorial: Online experiments for computational social science

Eytan Bakshy and I are giving a tutorial this year at ICWSM (6/1 in Ann Arbor).  Sign up and learn some awesome stuff!

Registration for ICWSM isn’t open yet, but you can sign up for a reminder when it goes live. We’ll only email you one time.

Taught by two researchers on the Facebook Data Science team, this tutorial teaches attendees how to design, plan, implement, and analyze online experiments. First, we review basic concepts in causal inference and motivate the need for experiments. Then we will discuss basic statistical tools to help plan experiments: exploratory analysis, power calculations, and the use of simulation in R.  We then discuss statistical methods to estimate causal quantities of interest and construct appropriate confidence intervals. Particular attention will be given to scalable methods suitable for “big data”, including working with weighted data and clustered bootstrapping. We then discuss how to design and implement online experiments using PlanOut, an open-source toolkit for advanced online experimentation used at Facebook.  We will show how basic “A/B tests”, within-subjects designs, as well as more sophisticated experiments can be implemented.  We demonstrate how experimental designs from social computing literature can be implemented, and also review in detail two very large field experiments conducted at Facebook using PlanOut.  Finally, we will discuss issues with logging and common errors in the deployment and analysis of experiments. Attendees will be given code examples and participate in the planning, implementation, and analysis of a Web application using Python, PlanOut, and R.