Matthew White is a freelance web developer residing in the United Kingdom. He has received his BSc degree in Web Systems & Technology and his MSc degree in Smart Systems & Technology from the University of Bournemouth, UK.
Matthew has also created his own town, called Tingle Town.
Well, actually Tingle Town is an interactive website which allows visitors to watch ASMR videos and record the precise moments when their ASMR is triggered.
It is dead simple to use; viewers just press and hold an on-screen button whenever they feel tingles. The data is shown as a line graph directly under each video and the data set for each video can also be downloaded.
Matthew’s idea and execution are brilliant – and the data being collected is going to be very helpful to understanding the specific relationship between triggers and tingles.
In my interview with Matthew he shares his inspiration to create Tingle Town, his challenges with the creation of Tingle Town, the potential value of Tingle Town for scientists and seekers of tingles alike, and more.
Below are my questions in bold, his replies in italics, and links to Tingle Town, ASMR subreddit posts about Tingle Town, Matthew’s blog, and Matthew’s Twitter account.
How would you describe Tingle Town?
Matthew, “Tingle Town is an experimental ASMR tingle tracker. Users simply click a button for as long as they feel tingles while watching YouTube ASMR videos. When this data is aggregated from many users, a timeline can be rendered below each video showing where the tingle hotspots are. This is very useful when finding new videos and the data may even reveal new insights into ASMR.”
What was your inspiration to create Tingle Town?
Matthew, “I guess it came from the frustrating way we find new videos. Wanting to wind down after a tough day, you check your YouTube subscriptions and there’s nothing new. So you go through related videos and Reddit until you finally find something that works.
I thought it would be great if you could tell YouTube, “these bits worked for me, who else did it work for and what do they like.” I knew all the pieces were out there and eventually I found a free weekend to throw a prototype together. A few more evenings of tweaks and the result was pretty much what you see today.”
What feedback have you received about Tingle Town so far?
Matthew, “The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and lots of people had some great ideas that I’d like to incorporate. Regrettably, I couldn’t work on it much more at the time so it has been ticking over for the last few months.
Now I’m self-employed, I can start working on a much more ambitious version. Hopefully it will be as well received as the crude prototype!”
What challenges did you have with creating Tingle Town?
Matthew, “I’ve been doing this web development thing for many, many years so I knew the build was easy. However, like many social data-driven web projects, there’s a chicken and egg scenario.
Being an inquisitive bunch, the ASMR community did a great job of populating the timelines and I’m very thankful for that. Only having experience with the previous YouTube Player API, I wasn’t sure if it was up to the job but it has exceeded all expectations. It gives near complete control of the playback and plenty of stats to work with.
One drawback is iOS’s implementation of the player which forces full screen playback. This means that the tingle button cannot be pressed. I’m going to investigate using the accelerometer to detect a shake gestures on mobile devices as a possible workaround.”
What understandings about ASMR have been revealed so far by Tingle Town?
Matthew, “It’s still in the early days so much of what I’ve noticed is user behavior. Early on, it became apparent that people see the spikes in the tingle timelines and jump straight to them. They then log more tingles and we see positive feedback.
Some have suggested hiding the timelines until the whole video has been viewed but I never want to make logging a chore. By capturing which parts of the videos people are watching, we can adjust for this effect.”
How can Tingle Town help to progress the understanding of ASMR?
Matthew, “I’m excited about the possibility of making the data available to researchers. Recently, I plugged the data into a graph database to see if it was practical as a recommendation engine. I was soon distracted by the wonderful structures created by the links between users, videos and channels.
I’m certain someone with a background in graph theory could find some enlightening patterns in the dataset. Since the data is a time series that is synced to the video, I’d love to see what audio analysis can reveal.
Something I’ve never played with is deep learning but I think a large enough dataset could make a deep learner that could predict where the responses might be in an unheard video. I try to distance myself from the science fiction and philosophical aspects of artificial intelligence but it would be cool to watch an artificial neural network get triggered!”
What are the next steps for you and Tingle Town?
Matthew, “I want to develop the site to its full potential and make it useful for ASMRtists and their audience alike. I haven’t heard from any content creators yet but I’m sure the tingle graphs could really give insights into what works for their viewers.
The desire to share the data with the world while protect people’s privacy causes me some cognitive dissonance. The prototype’s data is anonymised and future version will do the same. Yet, I still feel happier if users could opt out of third party use of their data.
On the flipside, I’m sure there are people who would love to help unravel the mystery of ASMR so I’d be open to collaborations with academic institutions. I think a concept like the TestTube programme on YouTube would be a good approach to get willing users involved in some citizen science.
I also fear the name ‘Tingle Town’ is unsuitable for papers to reference so if you could ask your readers for ideas, that would be good!”
[Note from Dr. Richard: Submit your new name ideas for Tingle Town in the comments section below, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or go HERE to email your idea directly to Matt]
Do you have any other ASMR-related projects in the works?
Matthew, “Nothing distinctly separate from Tingle Town, just lots of extensions on the projects. I’ve already mentioned and started work on a tingle-based recommendation engine for users based on the Tingle Town dataset but there are even more applications for machine learning here.
For instance, my Master’s thesis was concerned with a classification problem and I can apply a very similar technique to Tingle Town to create an automated directory of triggers and their videos.”
What do you do when you are not working on Tingle Town?
Matthew, “The Monday after leaving my job in July, I started a business on a whim. I’ve always wanted to run a business and I thought now’s the chance.
The business is called ‘Mend A Friend’ (http://www.mendafriend.co.uk) and it’s a service for sending cold and flu care packages to friends and family loved ones in the UK. I thought it was a neat idea and it let me play with PHP libraries which I never got a chance to do in my old job. Unfortunately, it has fallen flat on its face! It has taught me the value (and expense) of good marketing and I’ll probably wrap it up come spring.
Since I’m far from inundated with orders, I have started my own blog about practical machine learning on the web (http://www.syntheticminds.co.uk). I am available as a consultant on this topic as well as an extra pair of hands on more traditional web projects.”
What do you think the future holds for the understanding and application of ASMR?
Matthew, “Just looking at how ASMR and mindfulness compare on Google Trends shows there’s something special going on here. Interest in ASMR has skyrocketed, tripling in the last three years. Clearly it is helping a lot of people, even without the decades of study that mindfulness has enjoyed.
I hope with scientific study, ASMR can be legitimised with proven, positive and lasting effects on people’s lives rather than just being passed off as a curious sensation kooky people use for kicks.”
Click HERE to go to Tingle Town.
Click HERE (1st post) and HERE (latest post) to read two ASMR subreddit posts about Tingle Town.
Click HERE to visit Matthew’s blog and learn more about him.
Click HERE to follow Matthew on Twitter.
Click HERE to send a cold/flu care package to a sick friend via Mend A Friend (UK only).
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This post brought to you by ASMR University. A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.