BB&N Follow-Up 2: How can we improve EyeWire?

We’d really like to hear your opinions about making EyeWire a richer experience for its users.

1. How could users be more engaged on EyeWire?
2. Would EyeWire be more exciting if users were split into groups and assigned their own neuron to work on?  How about if their group was competing against the experts in the lab?
3. What demographic information should we ask for from our users?
4. Would you join a Google + hangout to discuss the science we’re doing in the lab? (These discussions will start off basic and will get more advanced.  Old hangouts will be archived on the EyeWire Youtube channel).

Ideas?  Want to improve something we haven’t thought of?  Leave your comments!

Also, we want to thank you all for the input that you already provided when you visited lab on Friday - it’s so valuable for us to hear from students like you, who demonstrate genuine curiosity about the science and who are trying to figure out why connectomics is important. 

You definitely helped us generate some ideas that we would have never thought of without you! We’re looking forward to staying in touch with your class, and hopefully with working with some of you on your senior projects in the spring term :) 

1.) The game interface is well designed and very user-friendly. I think new users would benefit from a smaller, more streamlined training program. Currently, new users are given neurons to map, and when they make a mistake, the progress bar turns partially red. Instead of simply telling the user that he is wrong, perhaps the computer should give a brief description as to why what they did was incorrect (i.e. That’s not the right neuron…).
I also think it would be a good idea to incorporate levels into the game based on the number of neurons mapped.

2.) I think splitting users into groups to complete one specific block is a great idea. It would help make the task of neuron mapping appear less daunting. Instead of taking on random pieces of neurons, a small group can focus on one block, and could finish it fairly quickly if they all work on it.

3.) It would be nice to know who exactly is attracted to Eyewire in terms of education level, age, and location. That information would help to determine which new demographics should be targeted in the future.

4.) I don’t personally have any experience with Google+, but to reach a larger group of people, perhaps it would be better to send occasional emails to Eyewire users with updates. When new users join, they should have the option of subscribing to email updates about Eyewire and the connectome project. The updates could range from a video of one of Dr. Seung’s lectures to updates about some progress made in the lab.

1. Eyewire could be more engaging if the points system was more clearly laid out.  Another way to make Eyewire more engaging would for it to be more of a game, which would help get more people who come to the website to stay and map neurons.  If Eyewire had levels for its players, with perks for leveling up, it would encourage more users to play.  Another way to engage the players would be to have little pop ups come onto the screen that give more information on the neurones and how the block fits into the larger picture of the neuron.
2. EyeWire would also benefit from putting each user up into a group that could be assigned their own neuron and work together to complete it. Another way to add a game dynamic would be for the groups on Eyewire to compete against each other and against the experts in the lab.
3. I think a brief fill-out for users on their basic information, consisting of age and level of science and education, would be enough to target different users with varying neuron blocks.
4. Google+ may be a good social media aid in a few years, but for right now, I think Eyewire should market people using Facebook and Twitter, by having users sign in thorough either or both when they join.  Then Eyewire could get more users thorough their current players from these sites.  

I think the best way to make a more engaging EyeWire is to create incentives.  This could include competitions with the lab, different rewards based of off the point system, and splitting the users into groups.  I think that IF Cambridge, MA is a hub of users it is important to get this information so the rewards can produce optimal play time from the users.  To some young children playing as a coloring book, meeting Dr. Seung is probably not very interesting, but to a person with the common passion - having the chance to meet the mastermind behind the project would be extremely interesting.  I think the best way to go about this has to be to clean up the game.  The image quality on some slides and the point system are not perfect; obviously, this isn’t easy to get them perfect.  Nevertheless, if Person A is competing for an opportunity to meet Dr. Seung, and the leader has 4000 points while Person A gets 20 pts per cube, Person A will quickly lose interest as his goal is seemingly unattainable.  Groups in this situation could prove to be very effective. Specially if the people in the group knew each other, there would be greater incentive (the encouragement of friends) so that they are working as a team to reach their incentive.  I know for me, the site looks very legitimate and so I would be willing to give a little more information than normally, and I think an explanation of the project and who is behind the project would let people give even more demographic information; essentially building their confidence in the people behind the website.

In regard to the Google +, I don’t use Google at all.  So I would definitely suggest using Twitter or Facebook over that personally.  I am only one person though and so you may be talking to a outlier.  I think periodic emails as politicians do may be more effective than the Google + idea.  From my perspective, although not on the same financial scale, this is a little bit like a political campaign.  You are trying to get everyone to stop watching TV or surf YouTube, and play EyeWire; just as the Presidential candidates are attempting to get as many Americans as possible off the TV & to the polls on November 6th.  So although I don’t suggest copying every aspect of a campaign, I think some ideas can be used by Eyewire that are similar to those used by Romney & Obama.
  1. The previous comments have basically summed up some ideas of mine. I think it would be very important to give a very simple overview of the project and why we need more people to join I emphasize simplification (which I’m sure is not a simple task whatsoever). The fear that I have is that people will be overwhelmed by the project and therefore give up quickly; that’s why the play for 5 minutes concept is important in this case. 
    2. It would definitely be beneficial for Eyewire to split users into groups; the task itself won’t feel as daunting, and one would gain a sense of accomplishment by seeing how much a group completes (assuming that an individual probably can’t complete that much of a neuron). 
    3. I think name and education level are very important. Maybe the lab can even ask some questions like favorite music, food, hobby etc. (or even questions pertaining to science) and group people by their interests as well. That way, people have some things in common with one another outside of location.  
    4. To be honest, I may not join a Google + group because it’s relatively new and unfamiliar to me. As my previous classmates have stated, it would probably be better for the website to focus on facebook, youtube, or twitter. 

I think that you can engage players more by offering an incentive for gaining points. At the moment, the points seem rather arbitrary. Perhaps you could explain why we receive a certain number of points, for example by giving us our accuracy rating and the time it took to complete the task. It would also be helpful to educate people as they play, explaining facts about the cells and neurons that they are mapping (perhaps this could be a turn on/off feature). I think that people will be more willing to play if they gain something from the experience. I like the idea of breaking up into groups. However, there may be some people who would prefer to work independently, so I think it would be ideal to be able to choose: create your own group and work independently, create a group with people you know/choose, or join strangers. I think that more interaction between users will definitely excite people and motivate them to keep playing.

In terms of information that you gather, I think that  age and location are interesting. It would also be worthwhile to learn why people are playing the game and how they heard about it (online, friend, school, etc.). As we discussed last Thursday, I think some of these questions could be asked later, when you are already playing so that you do not deter people from registering.

In terms of a Google+ hangout, I  agree with others. I personally do not use Google+ and am not familiar with hangouts. If you want to have interactions between users and the lab, maybe you could use a different platform. There is the chat box here on the website, or a live stream via another method? I would be interested in talking about the work further, but I just do not think Google+ is the best place for that.  

I think EyeWire is actually a pretty engaging game already.  A some of my classmates before have stated, it would be helpful if you could explain to the player why he/she is receiving the number of points that he/she did because that is not very clear right now, and I for one get a bit discouraged when I see someone with 4,000 points in one day when I seem to get only 20 points per cube.  Also, I think it would be even more fun if you incorporated levels into the game: if you solve a certain number of cubes or get a certain number of points you can move up a level and maybe have access to excess information or something along those lines.  I agree with something someone said earlier: the lines of the neurons are a bit blurry/unfocused–I know it may be difficult, but if they were more clear I would be more certain about which lines I need to color.  Additionally, I think having a window on the homepage screen describing (if possible in one sentence) what the game is and what your goals are.

I think the group idea could be a good one, but there should be an option for individuals because sometimes someone may feel uncomfortable joining a group.  In this case, I think the competition could be between individuals or between groups (but not between groups and individuals because that seems a bit unfair).  Competing with experts may seem daunting, but once someone becomes a pro (or advances a level), he/she may be more inclined to be competitive with an expert, so that could be a reward for passing a level.

With respect to asking for demographic information, some people may not want to give that away.  I think it would be most effective if you make all of that information-giving optional and if you do not ask for names.  But I agree with what some of my peers said already: information like science level, age, and how the player got involved may be useful to you for targeting more users.  As we discussed, making multiple choice or one-word answer questions are easier and quicker to answer.  I think it would be a good idea to have pop-ups as the player goes along (I know I love seeing pop-ups).

Finally, I don’t have a Google +, but I think using other forms of media (even just this forum or one like it) would be useful if you would like to have communication between users and the lab.