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Crowdsourced Lab Rats

September 16, 2022

An app where people can commission their own studies

The Background

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When you’re trying to prove to someone that you’re right, there’s no better way than by referencing a study that agrees with you. 

Studies are a way for us as a society to rigorously test ideas. 

But there’s a problem.

If I have a theory that I want to test (as a non-rich, non-scientist), I can’t afford to just commission a study. And no one will take it seriously if all the results are from my friends.

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The Idea

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So here’s the idea.

A site for non-scientists to create studies. Here’s how it would work.

Imagine you’re a life coach selling books. You’d love to conduct a study where 500 people all try your methods for 6 months and measure the results.

But what are you going to do, hang around a mall with a clipboard?

So instead, you’d go to this site. You’d put the details of the study, any demographic filters, and send it out to the marketplace. You’d also put a per-person bounty. Depending on how annoying it is to do, the bounty could be either a lot or just a little.

Anyone interested would submit themselves, and you could choose the ones who you think would best fit. 

Then, you’d give them the instructions, and they’d periodically input the relevant data. If they don’t actively participate, they don’t get the reward. 

Once the study is done, the platform gives you a site where the data is hosted and publicly available, and anyone you want can go check out the results. 

On the side of the person viewing the study, they have a more objective way to verify claims. They also have a little more trust.

They know that you don’t have contact with the individual subjects, and you don’t really have any way to manipulate the data. 

On your side, you’re able to back up your theories with actual data. You would have a much higher conversion rate if you can claim (and prove) “50% of people saw a 2x increase in productivity within 2 months with my methods.”

This would have massive applications in basically any industry where people are selling the idea of change. Fitness, business, life coaching, dating, etc. 

And yes – obviously there are some issues. 

You’d have to make sure that there is a level of anonymity so that the person conducting the study can’t just have their friends participate and game the system. And you’d need to make sure the participants aren’t just making up data to farm rewards. But these are all problems that could certainly be overcome.