Google Optimizer has been a great boon for people wanting smart and data driven web design. No longer do you have to bow to the whim of the high paid executive who is adament that your site should have black background and yellow text, you can actually run the experiment and show them with real, hard data that your customers prefer another way.
In the social world however it's not quite that easy yet. If you want to prove that your enterprise social network helps employees collaborate better than email you largely have to rely on outsiders. Sure, there is research like that conducted by Kelloggs Business School recently. There will also be reports by the likes of McKinsey, but the examples of success provided are nearly always from other companies. It leaves your execs with a get out of jail card. "We're different" they might say, or "It won't work in our industry".
What you need is an ability to easily create your own experiment in the same way you do with Google Optimizer. That opportunity may finally have arrived.
The UK innovation charity Nesta is due to launch a new website called Randomise Me, which aims to make conducting randomised trials much easier. The site was developed with Ben Goldacre, of Bad Science fame, and hopes to bring trials to the masses.
"Randomised Control Trials may sound complex, but they simply involve taking a group, such as a group of patients, children, schools, or others, splitting them into groups at random, and then giving one intervention to one group, and another intervention to the other. The differences between each group are then observed to see if one intervention has achieved its supposed outcome. They are commonly used in medicine, but are much less common in other areas, such as children's services, social care or education. Randomise Me is going to help remedy this. " Nesta say.
The service will be free to use, with trials being setup either completely online via the website, or alternatively you can use the site to structure your trial, and then download a dataset in order to complete your test. Whichever approach you take, Randomise Me can help you with the data analysis.
The launch event for the site is happening on the 20th June here in London, so by the end of the month you should be able to run controlled trials to prove that your social projects deliver the benefits you believe they do and won't have to wait for professional researchers to do it for you.