How can we address BOINC's retention problem?

Message boards : Promotion : How can we address BOINC's retention problem?
Message board moderation

To post messages, you must log in.

Previous · 1 · 2

AuthorMessage
stwainer

Send message
Joined: 2 May 08
Posts: 2
United States
Message 20725 - Posted: 9 Oct 2008, 20:52:13 UTC

I think part of the problem is that we crunchers haven't done anything that the average person can see. No one is out there saying, "because people crunched project X, we were able to solve this problem."

Until we have achieved something visible and understandable to the general public, retention is going to be an issue. We need a "wow" factor. People need to be able to say, "I helped achieve this cool thing" whatever that might be.
ID: 20725 · Report as offensive
Der_Alte

Send message
Joined: 11 Oct 08
Posts: 2
Canada
Message 20742 - Posted: 11 Oct 2008, 7:11:53 UTC

Hi. I'm new to this forum.

Just wanted to contribute as one of the silent many out there who donate their computer's time to plunk away on various projects.

I'm coming up to about 80,000 points in over a year of computing with BOINC...could even be two years by now.

I joined because I figure that its a way for me to have a small hand in helping out with the bigger problems that I ordinarily would have little to contribute to. After all, if you told most people they could help cure AIDS or cancer simply by leaving their computer on...what is there not to like about that? I do run a variety of projects based on what interests me and gives a good valuable contribution to humanity.

What does it cost me? Probably between $100-150 a year in electricity costs. More now that my local electric utility is going to a tired rate structure. I keep my computer on 24/7 and run BOINC pretty much all the time. When your power bill goes up along with other energy costs, it is tempting to shut down BOINC on the basis of cutting down on energy consumption. I rationalize it though as a charitable donation. Instead of sending $100 to the cancer society, I am donating in a different way. Unfortunately no tax receipt comes with the donation of your computer's time and electricity consumption!

I've left BOINC on for so long, I'm not likely to leave now. Still, some things would be nice. I would like it if each project sent me an email every so often to update people like me on what progress has been made on the computations my computer has been so madly chomping on. It need only be a few times a year, but it would be nice. What would be nicer would be some corporate support. It would be great if somebody like Apple stepped up to the plate and gave users $10 of credit on iTunes for every 10,000 credits on BOINC projects or something like that. It would go a long way to keeping users interested and quite frankly would benefit Apple as clever marketing dressed up as charity.

I think that sort of stuff would go a long ways to improving the retention numbers. People want to feel the work their computer does is contributing something and putting a small carrot out there certainly wouldn't hurt....although I would imagine it would greatly inflate the amount of effort required to administer BOINC. Beyond measures such as that, you are stuck with the scientifically and technologically aware crowd who view this as charity with little effort. When it comes down to it, it is charity as power isn't cheap and computers do wear out. At the very minimum an email a few times a year thanking one for their efforts would probably go a long way in and of itself.
ID: 20742 · Report as offensive
Thyme Lawn

Send message
Joined: 2 Sep 05
Posts: 103
United Kingdom
Message 20747 - Posted: 11 Oct 2008, 14:37:49 UTC - in response to Message 20742.  

Nicely put Der_Alte.
At the very minimum an email a few times a year thanking one for their efforts would probably go a long way in and of itself.

That's certainly possible, but ...

The only time CPDN sent a mass mailing to all of its participants they got themselves added to at least one email blacklist. This was back in the days when you had to create your BOINC accounts on the project website. The account authenticator you required to add computers to the projects was returned in an email which many potential users never received.
"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
ID: 20747 · Report as offensive
Der_Alte

Send message
Joined: 11 Oct 08
Posts: 2
Canada
Message 20749 - Posted: 11 Oct 2008, 19:00:28 UTC - in response to Message 20747.  

Perhaps messages could be sent through the BOINC Manager directly through the message window. They needn't be full fledged messages, just something with a hyperlink to trigger you to visit a site where a more comprehensive thank you and update message can be found.

The problem is of course is the number of messages generated by the system. I only check the message window every week or two or if there seems to be a problem. This feature could be upgraded on future versions of BOINC so that some messages could be flagged by the system and the flagged messages brought to the attention of the user in a more visible manner that would require some level of user acknowledgement.

This would be useful for other things as well. New projects that join BOINC or new versions of BOINC could also be advertised in this fashion. I just upgraded to BOINC 6 the other day. I didn't realize it had been out since August for OSX as I hadn't visited the BOINC site in some time.

The nub of it is that there needs to be better two way dialogue between BOINC and its users. Future enhancements of the BOINC Manager itself may be the way to go if email spam filters are too tough to get around. Currently if users want info, they have to go out and find it once they've installed BOINC. Users need to be prompted to do this every so often in some way or form if you are to keep them engaged. If BOINC Manager can be enhanced to do this, then a whole world of other possibilities can open up to further keep users engaged and bring up retention levels.
ID: 20749 · Report as offensive
Thyme Lawn

Send message
Joined: 2 Sep 05
Posts: 103
United Kingdom
Message 20756 - Posted: 11 Oct 2008, 22:41:32 UTC - in response to Message 20749.  
Last modified: 11 Oct 2008, 23:21:44 UTC

Perhaps messages could be sent through the BOINC Manager directly through the message window. They needn't be full fledged messages, just something with a hyperlink to trigger you to visit a site where a more comprehensive thank you and update message can be found.

BOINC has the ability to send any message to clients to display in BOINC Manager's messages tab, but it's only ever used to send details on why the scheduler hasn't managed to do something that the host requested.

There are a few things which could be done towards that in the reply to scheduler requests.

  • Any project can set up a gui_urls.xml file. That will add buttons to the "Web sites" area on BOINC Manager's Projects tab. Of the 5 projects I'm currently running the feature is only used by CPDN (6 buttons) and MalariaControl.net (1 button).

  • Customised messages can be sent to all hosts or an individual host using the msg_to_host feature. This was used in the BBC Climate Change Experiment to add an <motd> tag to the scheduler reply, with the text in the tag being displayed as a scrolling message at the bottom of the graphics window and the screensaver. With a bit of modification it could possibly be used to display project messages on BOINC Manager's messages tab.

  • BOINC has a very poorly used user certificates feature (there's not even a link on the user's account page). The certificates are auto-generated and projects just need to do a little bit of configuration to customise them (add the project director's name, signature image, and logos for the project and institution to cert1.php). They could then use gui_urls.xml to create a BOINC Manager button linking to the certificate page. The necessary configuration hasn't been done on CPDN, but the following half-sized image gives an idea of what users would see.



One of the buttons added by CPDN opens up the project news page, but news pages don't tend to have the sort of personal relevance you're suggesting.

I'm not sure if something like a project message centre has been proposed before, but I can't imagine it would be too hard to implement. All it would need is a new database table to hold the messages, a field in the user table identifying the last message read and a button on the Projects tab which opens the message centre (possibly changing its appearance or text when a user has any unread messages).


"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
ID: 20756 · Report as offensive
JFman00

Send message
Joined: 13 Oct 08
Posts: 3
United States
Message 20785 - Posted: 13 Oct 2008, 22:27:44 UTC

These are the reasons I've quit/restarted grid projects fairly often:

1) On the old days of single-core systems, the cpu usage of something like SETI@home was noticible, and as an avid multi-tasker, I would frequently disable the program from running on start-up, and never run it again.

2) I moved computers/accounts often, and instead of trying to remember my log-in info for the last profile, I would just create another.

3) Before BOINC, when it was just SETI@home and WCG (formerly United Devices), it felt counter-productive to run more than 1 project at once.

I think it would interesting if there was a push to get computer/OS manufacturers to build BOINC into their products and advertise it as a "set and forget" way to further the greater good. As someone who now runs a quad-core desktop and dual-core laptop, there are no noticible effects to doing multiple tasks and running BOINC.

Additionally, I would push for BOINC for mobile devices and a stronger social-networking presence.
ID: 20785 · Report as offensive
Pepo
Avatar

Send message
Joined: 3 Apr 06
Posts: 547
Slovakia
Message 20789 - Posted: 14 Oct 2008, 13:06:31 UTC - in response to Message 20756.  

Perhaps messages could be sent through the BOINC Manager directly through the message window. They needn't be full fledged messages, just something with a hyperlink to trigger you to visit a site where a more comprehensive thank you and update message can be found.

BOINC has the ability to send any message to clients to display in BOINC Manager's messages tab, but it's only ever used to send details on why the scheduler hasn't managed to do something that the host requested.

There were already proposals to ad one more tab to the BOINC Manager, which would list important messages, each staying available arbitrarily long, until the user would confirm it with its own button.

There are a few things which could be done towards that in the reply to scheduler requests.

  • Any project can set up a gui_urls.xml file. That will add buttons to the "Web sites" area on BOINC Manager's Projects tab. Of the 5 projects I'm currently running the feature is only used by CPDN (6 buttons) and MalariaControl.net (1 button).

One of the buttons added by CPDN opens up the project news page, but news pages don't tend to have the sort of personal relevance you're suggesting.


From my experience, one of the promoters of these Web sites' buttons was and is Einstein@Home - currently 13 (thirteen) additional buttons, and it have always been as much :-)

From the projects I'm attached to, 20 do not make any use of it, 4 projects add some 1-2 basic buttons (account, team, helpdesk, message boards, addons), and
18 projects add 3-8 buttons (with Einstein being an exception) to various contents. None of them point directly to any personalized "ThankYou" page of any art, which would be not a problem, if it would be linked from the top of the account page.

Peter
ID: 20789 · Report as offensive
Previous · 1 · 2

Message boards : Promotion : How can we address BOINC's retention problem?

Copyright © 2022 University of California. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.