Online Experiments for Computational Social Science

Eytan Bakshy & Sean J. Taylor
2015 International World Wide Web Conference (WWW)


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. Finally, we conclude with demonstrating a complete implementation of an Amazon Mechanical Turk experiment using PlanOut, and show how the results (using real data) can be be analyzed effectively using R.



0. Estimation and Power

1. Introduction to PlanOut

2. Making Your Own Data

3. Analyzing Experiments


Github Repository