by   Ranker
Staff
in New Features

Ranker's Sexy New Look for 2014

Ranky-Up-VoteOh, hey there! You may have noticed that we got a whole new look for 2014. We’ve built some cool new features and streamlined the look of our editing interface. Making lists on Ranker has never been easier.

Here’s what’s new:

  • New YES/NO switches make it a breeze to customize your list.

YES/NO

  • Searching and finding stuff is now 10x faster.

Search

  • Reranking is easier than ever thanks to our improved list suggestion tool.

suggestions

  • Now you can create a new list or add items to other peoples’ lists on the go. Hello, mobile! Imagine creating your grocery list on your phone, allowing your roommates to vote and then buying only the most popular items for the party you’re throwing that weekend. Wow, you sure are nice… are you looking for new roommates?

Take a look around, make a new list or two, and drop us a line if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear what you think. Oh, and happy new year!

by   Ranker
Staff
in Popular Lists

Bad Santas, Awkward Christmas Photos, and Celebs Who Have Killed

Happy (non-denominational) holidays to you all! As our gift to you, we present the very best lists that Ranker users have been upvoting this season. Enjoy!

Top Crimes Committed By Guys in Santa Suits

‘Tis the season to be jolly, greedy, lecherous and absolutely, undeniably unfit to set foot in public. In honor of the holiday season, here are thirteen crimes committed by guys in Santa suits: from bank robbers to mall flashers and child molesters. Merry Christmas.

The 20 Most Awkwardly Hilarious Family Christmas Photos

The fact that an entire family can gather together to take one photo is already a miracle, but the level of awkwardness captured on film here is absolutely brilliant.

The Best Christmas Songs Written by Jewish Songwriters

Here’s proof that a truly great songwriter can write about anything…including music celebrating a completely different faith and an imaginary elderly man who brings gifts to other people’s children.

29 Celebrities Who Have Received Organ Transplants

Usually we’d agree that it’s better to give than to receive, but we’re betting that these famous organ recipients were pretty thankful for these life-saving gifts.

33 Celebrities Who Have Killed People

It turns out that some very famous people have done some very bad things. We’re just reporting the facts, so please don’t shoot the messenger. Seriously. Please?
 

The Best Cures For Hangovers

Holiday parties = hangovers. There’s really no way around it. For the most effective remedies, you’ll want to consult this comprehensive list of foods you should eat the day after.
 

The Best Cities to Party in for New Years Eve

Partaaay! Some cities are famous for their NYE celebrations, but there are epic parties going on all over the world. We suggest you go forth and explore some of these destinations.
 

Toast The New Year With The Top New Year’s Eve Movie Scenes

According to these films, the best things to do on NYE include professing your love to a long time friend, hooking up with people you shouldn’t, and grand larceny. One of these things is not like the other…

That’s it for this year! From all of us here at Ranker, we wish you lots of holiday cheer!

by   Ranker
Staff
in Data Science, Opinion Graph, prediction, semantic search

Why Topsy/Twitter Data may never predict what matters to the rest of us

Recently Apple paid a reported $200 million for Topsy and some speculate that the reason for this purchase is to improve recommendations for products consumed using Apple devices, leveraging the data that Topsy has from Twitter.  This makes perfect sense to me, but the utility of Twitter data in predicting what people want is easy to overstate, largely because people often confuse bigger data with better data.  There are at least 2 reasons why there is a fairly hard ceiling on how much Twitter data will ever allow one to predict about what regular people want.

1.  Sampling – Twitter has a ton of data, with daily usage of around 10%.  Sample size isn’t the issue here as there is plenty of data, but rather the people who use Twitter are a very specific set of people.  Even if you correct for demographics, the psychographic of people who want to share their opinion publicly and regularly (far more people have heard of Twitter than actually use it) is way too unique to generalize to the average person, in the same way that surveys of landline users cannot be used to predict what psychographically distinct cellphone users think.

2. Domain Comprehensiveness – The opinions that people share on Twitter are biased by the medium, such that they do not represent the spectrum of things many people care about.  There are tons of opinions on entertainment, pop culture, and links that people want to promote, since they are easy to share quickly, but very little information on people’s important life goals or the qualities we admire most in a person or anything where people’s opinions are likely to be more nuanced.  Even where we have opinions in those domains, they are likely to be skewed by the 140 character limit.

Twitter (and by extension, companies that use their data like Topsy and DataSift) has a treasure trove of information, but people working on next generation recommendations and semantic search should realize that it is a small part of the overall puzzle given the above limitations.  The volume of information gives you a very precise measure of a very specific group of people’s opinions about very specific things, leaving out the vast majority of people’s opinions about the vast majority of things.  When you add in the bias introduced by analyzing 140 character natural language, there is a great deal of variance in recommendations that likely will have to be provided by other sources.

At Ranker, we have similar sampling issues, in that we collect much of our data at Ranker.com, but we are actively broadening our reach through our widget program, that now collects data on thousands of partner sites.  Our ranked list methodology certainly has bias too, which we attempt to mitigate that through combining voting and ranking data.  The key is not in the volume of data, but rather in the diversity of data, which helps mitigate the bias inherent in any particular sampling/data collection method.

Similarly, people using Twitter data would do well to consider issues of data diversity and not be blinded by large numbers of users and data points.  Certainly Twitter is bound to be a part of understanding consumer opinions, but the size of the dataset alone will not guarantee that it will be a central part.  Given these issues, either Twitter will start to diversify the ways that it collects consumer sentiment data or the best semantic search algorithms will eventually use Twitter data as but one narrowly targeted input of many.

– Ravi Iyer

by   Ranker
Staff
in interest graph, Market Research, Pop Culture

Hierarchical Clustering of a Ranker list of Beers

This is a guest post by Markus Pudenz.

Ranker is currently exploring ways to visualize the millions of votes collected on various topics each month.  I’ve recently begun using hierarchical cluster analysis to produce taxonomies (also known as dendograms), and applied these techniques to Ranker’s Best Beers from Around the World. A dendrogram allows one to visualize the relationships on voting patterns (scroll down to see what a dendrogram looks like). What hierarchical clustering does is break down the list into related groups based on voting patterns of the users, grouping like items with items that were voted similarly by the same users. The algorithm is agglomerative, meaning it is starts with individual items and combines them iteratively until one large cluster (all of the beers in the list)  remains.

Every beer in our dendrogram is related to another at some level, whether in the original cluster or further down the dendrogram. See the height axis on the left side? The lower the cluster is on the axis, the closer the relationship the beers will have. For example, the cluster containing Guinness and Guinness Original is the lowest in this dendrogram indicating these to beers have the closest relationship based on the voting patterns. Regarding our list, voters have the option to Vote Up or Vote Down any beer they want. Let’s start at the top of the dendrogram and work our way down.

Hierarchical Clustering of Beer Preferences

Looking at the first split of the clusters, one can observe the cluster on the right contains beers that would generally be considered well-known including Guinness, Sam Adams, Heineken and Corona. In fact, the cluster on the right includes seven of the top ten beers from the list. The fact that most of our popular beers are in this right cluster indicates that there is a strong order effect with voters more likely to select beers that are more popular when ranking their favorite beers. For example, if someone selects a beer that is in the top ten, then another beer they select is also more likely to be in the top ten. As we examine the right cluster further, the first split divides the cluster into two smaller clusters. In the left cluster, we can clearly see, unsurprisingly, that a drinker who likes Guinness is more likely to vote for another variety of Guinness. This left cluster is comprised almost entirely of Guinness varieties with the exception of Murphy’s Irish Stout. The right cluster lists a larger variety of beer makers including Sam Adams, Stella Artois and Pyramid. In addition, none of the beers in this right cluster are stouts as with the left cluster. The only brewer in this right cluster with multiple varieties is Sam Adams with Boston Lager and Octoberfest meaning drinkers in this cluster were not as brand loyal as in the left cluster. Drinkers in this cluster were more likely to select a beer variety from a different brewer. When reviewing this cluster from the first split in the dendrogram, there is clearly a defined split between those drinkers who prefer a heavier beer (stout) as opposed to those who prefer lighter beers like lagers, pilseners, pale ales or hefeweizen.

Conversely, for beers in the left cluster, drinkers are more likely to vote for other beers that are not as popular with only three of the top ten beers in this cluster. In addition, because of the larger size, the range of beer styles and brewers for this cluster is more varied as opposed to those in the right cluster. The left cluster splits into three smaller clusters before splitting further. One cluster that is clearly distinct is the second of these clusters. This cluster is comprised almost entirely of Belgian style beers with the only exception being Pliny the Elder, an IPA. La Fin du Monde is a Belgian style tripel from Quebec with the remaining brewers from Belgium. One split within this cluster is comprised entirely of beer varieties from Chimay indicating a strong relationship; voters who select Chimay are more likely to also select a different style from Chimay when ranking their favorites.  Our remaining clusters have a little more variety. Our first cluster, the smallest of the three, has a strong representation from California with varieties from Stone, Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam taking four out of six nodes in the cluster. Stone IPA and Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale have the strongest relationship in this cluster. Our third cluster, the largest of the three, has even more variety than the first. We see a strong relationship especially with Hoegaarden and Leffe.

I was also curious as to whether the beers in the top ten were associated with larger or smaller breweries. As the following list shows,  there is an even split between the larger conglomerates like AB InBev, Diageo, Miller Coors and independent breweries like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.

  1. Guinness (Diageo)
  2. Newcastle (Heineken)
  3. Sam Adams Boston Lager (Boston Beer Company)
  4. Stella Artois (AB InBev)
  5. Fat Tire (New Belgium Brewing Company)
  6. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company)
  7. Blue Moon (Miller Coors)
  8. Stone IPA (Stone Brewing Company)
  9. Guinness Original (Diageo)
  10. Hoegaarden Witbier (AB InBev)

Markus Pudenz

by   Ranker
Staff
in Popular Lists

You Voted: Walmart Has the Worst Reputation

Walmart Food Drive

The news that a Walmart store in Ohio was holding a food drive to make sure that its own employees have enough food for the holidays struck a nerve with the Internet masses today. The story climbed to #1 on CNN Trends, spread quickly throughout the social media landscape and was mentioned by just about every mainstream media outlet–from Gawker, to Fox News to Business Insider.

Why the strong reaction? Many people though that Walmart is doing something “nice for humanity” by encouraging their employees to donate food to people who can’t afford it themselves. If only these people had jobs so they could afford it… oh that’s right, they do!

Despite being one of the richest companies in the world–they made $17 billion in profit last year–Walmart has been accused by many of failing to pay its workers a living wage, provide healthcare, or ensure that working conditions are safe. On the flip side, they do help billions of consumers worldwide stretch their paychecks by offering extremely low-priced goods.

WALMART LOGO

These are probably some of the reasons why so many users upvoted Walmart to the #1 spot on Ranker’s list of Companies With the Worst Reputations. (If there are others, feel free to leave them in the comment section of the list!)

Other heavy hitters on the list include:

BP-Logo
British Petroleum
 at #2, whose 2010 oil spill dumped 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and pretty much ruined the local economy and ecosystem there.

Halliburton_Logo

Halliburton at #3, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s company that made billions of dollars from questionable deals related to the Iraq War.

Citigroup at #4, a financial institution so badly damaged by the financial crisis in 2008 that it had to be bailed out by the U.S. government 3 times . . . but was then able to pay its executives hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

190px-citigroup_1999_logo.svg

and Monsanto, at #5, a biotech corporation that has spent 20 years, millions of dollars and endless lawsuits against small farmers in an attempt to replace biodiversity with their own, patented GMO seeds. monsanto

 While the top 5 items on this list will continue to change as time goes by, corporations continue to screw things up, and you keep voting, it’s interesting to note how diverse the companies in these top 5 slots are. Ranker users are a mixed bunch–people from all over the world stop by to vote on lists about everything–from entertainment, science, politics, sports and much more. This diversity is reflected in the range of companies that users upvoted.  People who voted on this list care about issues ranging from workers rights, environmental, & social and economic inequality–a good representation of the most talked-about issues of our time!

If you haven’t already, head to the list of companies with the worst reputations and vote on which company you disagree with.

by   Ranker
Staff
in Trends

A Fall List That is Not to be Missed

The Best Things About Fall
This girl knows what we’re talkin’ about.

Good riddance summer! The weather is cooling, leaves are turning color (well, actually they don’t really do that here in LA) and we’re all planning which obscure pop culture reference we can turn into a Halloween costume this year.*

*Do you think I’d look good as a Sharknado?

To commemorate one of our favorite seasons here around the Ranker office, we’re loving this list of The Best Things About Fall. Autumn leaves are currently ranked #1 in the overall list, so we’re feeling a little left out–but Crisp Air, Comfy Clothes and Halloween are not too far behind.

We were curious about how people’s favorite things about fall differed depending on where they live, so we sorted the votes by geographic region and took a look at the data.

What People on the West Coast Most Love About Fall
What People on the West Coast Most Love About Fall

Turns out that us weather-obsessed West Coasters voted for 1) The Weather, 2) Crisp Air and 3) Comfy Clothes before 4) Autumn Leaves. In case you’re wondering, this chart was made by looking at the Top 10 items that people from the west coast voted on the most from this list. The size of the pie slices represent the number of upvotes each item got, as compared to the others.

Our friends in South voted slightly differently. Looks like they’re all about 1) Autumn Leaves, 2) Crisp Air, 3) Halloween and 4) The Weather. Check out the breakdown of their Top 10:

What Southerners Most Love About Fall
What Southerners Most Love About Fall

Well, it looks like we are definitely in agreement about the weather! But while us West Coasters are looking forward to snuggling in our comfy clothes, it looks like people from the South would rather be watching pro football or partaking in one of fall’s main holidays.

What about our readers from the east coast? (This may surprise you.)

What East Coasters Most Love About Fall
What East Coasters Most Love About Fall

They are the ones with the pretty autumn leaves and they barely even care! Our voters from the east coast most love 1) Comfy Clothes, 2) Halloween, 3) Pumpkin Pie and 4) The Weather! They’re also, apparently, really into their desserts. Anyone from the east coast have a recipe for apple crumble they’d like to share with us? We’re serious. Tell us in the comments or email feedback@ranker.com.

What about you? Be sure to visit the list: The Best Things About Fall and chime in while the fall season is still upon us.

by   Ranker
Staff
in Opinion Graph, Pop Culture, Rankings

Examining Regional Voting Differences with Ranker’s Polling Widget

Ranker has a new program where we offer a polling widget to partner sites who want the engagement of a poll in list format (as opposed to the standard radio button poll).  Currently, sites that use our poll (e.g. TheNextWeb or CBC) are seeing 20-50% of visitors engaging in the poll and an increase in returning visitors who want to keep track of results.  We also give partners prominent placement on Ranker.com (details of that here), but a benefit that is less obvious is the potential insights from one’s users that one can gain from the data behind a poll.  To illustrate what is possible, I’m going to use data from one of our regular widget users, Phish.net, who posted this poll on Phish’s best summer concert jams.

One piece of data that Ranker can give partners is a regional breakdown of voters.  Unsuprisingly, there were strong regional differences in voting behavior with voters from the northeast often choosing a jam from their New Jersey show, voters from the west coast often choosing a jam from their Hollywood Bowl show, voters from the south often choosing a jam from their Maryland show, voters from the midwest often choosing a jam from their Chicago show, and voters from the mountain region often choosing a jam from their show at The Gorge.  However, the interesting thing to me was that the leading jam in every region was Tweezer – Lake Tahoe from July 31st.  As someone who believes that better crowdsourced answers are produced by aggregating across bias and who has only been to 1 Phish concert, I’m definitely going to have to check out this jam.  Perhaps the answer is obvious to more experienced Phish fans, but the results of the poll are certainly instructive to the more casual music fan who wants a taste of Phish.

Below are the results of the poll in graphical format.  Notice how the shows cluster based on venue and geography except for Tweezer – Lake Tahoe which is directly in the center of the graph.

If you’re interested in running a widget poll on your site, the benefits are more clearly spelled out here and you can email us at “widget at ranker.com”.  We’d love to provide similar region based insights for your polls as well.

– Ravi Iyer

 

by   Ranker
Staff
in New Features

Updates to the Ranker Widget

Wickey, Wickey Widget! Welcome to The Ranker Widget 2.0. With the Ranker Widget, publishers can use Ranker’s tools to build unique, votable lists and publish them on their site. To date, over 1,600 third party websites have used Ranker’s widget to engage with their readers. Based on feedback from our users, we’ve just released an updated version that has some nifty new features.

What’s new?

1. Increased Options for Customization. There are a ton of new options for adjusting the look and feel of your widget. You can find customization options in the Size, Header, List and Footer tabs of the Customize panel.

Size.
Width: Choose one of three standard widths or write in your own custom width.

Height: Decide how many rows you would like to display at once. If you choose to display more rows than the amount of items on your list, they will all display at once.

Header.
You now have the option to show the list image, username and list criteria to your poll.

2. Social Share Buttons: Allow users to share your poll on through email, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ right on your site.

3. New List Stats Button: This new tab shows the number of voters, votes and items on your list. It also lists any reranks of your list by your users right there on your widget.

4. Users can more easily add new items to your list. If you’d like your readers to be able to add new items to a list in addition to voting on the items that are already there, you’re in luck. The new widget allows users to type in new list items right there at the bottom of your list.

by   Ranker
Staff
in New Features

Introducing the Ranker Partnership Program!

Today we are unveiling the new Ranker Partnership Program! Ranker is partnering with select publishers and individual experts who regularly create high-quality lists on our site. We will feature our Partner Lists in a new section of our homepage and throughout our category pages.

Partner Lists will also have added space for branding, a link back to their own site and an “Official Partner” verification checkmark next to their name.

While believing in the wisdom of crowds is kind of our thing here at Ranker, we will admit that sometimes some people do know more about some topics than others. Hey, I won’t ask you about your favorite Kombucha flavors if you don’t ask me about my favorite GPS fitness-tracking apps. Capiche?

But you know who I would ask about GPS apps? The good people over at The Next Web, who are experts on Internet technology. So when a noted authority on a certain topic (that has an active online community who can make our rankings more accurate) makes a list about a topic that they know a lot about, we thought it’d be nice to call that out.

For this reason, we are unveiling some nifty new features that distinguish expert Partner Lists from user-generated lists. Keep an eye out around the site for these new lists. You will recognize them by their “Official Partner” verified checkmark.

Trusted publishers and individual experts have been making lists on Ranker.com for awhile now and we added these new features to make their lists pop and to highlight their expertise.

Many of our partners use Ranker’s killer interface to create a poll on their topic of choice to host on their very own site. Embedding a list is super easy–just look for the “embed list” button in the footer of any new or pre-existing Ranker list.

If you’d like to be considered for our Partnership Program, send us a note. If you want more details, visit this short guide first. In general, our partners are publications or experts who have their own active online communities and some expertise in a certain subject. Most of our partners produce at least one piece of high quality content a month. And remember, since these lists will be featured on our homepage we tend to prefer partners who produce content that appeals to our broad, diverse online community.

By the way, you don’t have to be a partner to use our widget or enjoy Ranker.com. For most of our users, the new Partnership Program won’t change a thing!