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Optimizing The Soda Line: A Study

nah that ain't true it's water

spoiler alert: everyone just drinks Coke

The Coke Freestyle machines in the dining halls are confusing. Ever since their latest UI change, getting something as simple as water is harder than ever. But even in the face of this harsh adversity, we can make it easier on our fellow students. What should you do after you get your drink? Should you leave the machine on your selection, or should you go back to the main menu? Maybe you should set it to the “all drinks” page instead? Or is sorting by flavor the one true system? In an effort to answer these pressing questions, we decided to investigate.

Doing his best Shamus Khan impression, a Bwog reporter stood nonchalantly against the wall in JJ’s place on a weeknight, recording the soda choices (and keystrokes to get there) of everyone who used the machine. Here are the basic statistical findings:

  • During our sampling hours, water was not only the plurality but the majority of student drink choices. 55% of students chose to drink water, while 45% chose sodas, sparkling water, lemonade, and other assorted “non-waters.” Of those non-water selections, about 15% of them were mixes of two or more of the default flavors. 71% of non-mix, non-water selections were “basic” flavors (e.g. Coke instead of Cherry Coke).
  • From the main menu, the mode number of keystrokes required for water was two, while non-waters were mostly three stroke events.
  • The mean number of keystrokes for water was about 1.7. This is because students in line behind someone who got water did not have to make the full trek from the main menu. Some students, though, pressed for water even when the option for water was still selected from the previous person in line – an unnecessary but recorded keystroke.
  • 22% of non-water selections did not select the “all drinks” menu, but instead the low-calorie, fruit-flavored, or caffeine free menus. While this helped them search and removed the possibility of having to go to the second page of the “all drinks” menu, it did not reduce the average number of keystrokes needed to get a drink.

So, for the student who wants to save time for themselves and everyone else in line, here’s what we can tell you:

  • If you choose water, leave the machine on water. While we didn’t have enough statistical certainty to call water the majority at the p<0.05 level, it is certainly the most selected drink. Leaving the machine on water means that there will be a 55% chance that the next student in line will not have to input anything else to get their drink, which saves time for everyone.
  • If you select a non-water, do the courtesy of pressing “start over” once you have your beverage. While it doesn’t affect the average number of keystrokes into the machine over a large amount of time, it does speed up the process. This is in part because the button is in the upper left-hand corner, and in all three Columbia dining halls, the main rooms are to the left of the soda machines.
  • If you have a mix which you want to create, have a good idea of what you’re doing so as to not spend too much time browsing during an already long beverage request. If you want to really speed up the process, bug Columbia to connect their machines to the Wi-Fi so that you can choose your drinks in a mere two strokes and a QR scan courtesy the Coke Freestyle app.
  • Finally, don’t select the lemon-lime sparkling water. It’s gross. Just get Sprite.

Glasses which Columbia will never give us via Shutterstock

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3 Comments

  • lemon lime sparkling water is DA BEST says:

    @lemon lime sparkling water is DA BEST but other than that blasphemy cool article!

    1. sprite has calories says:

      @sprite has calories i 100000% agree

  • P-values? Gag says:

    @P-values? Gag We should all be bayesians

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