Wednesday, May 14, 2008

i would've asked it 500 questions already

Recently I advised a friend not to fret about her relationship going long-distance.

I advised a different friend to dump his unsupportive girlfriend.

I advised a third friend to calm down about his youtube account suspension, and to resume eating and sleeping while he's waiting for his appeal.

Then I got to thinking, how do these people know whether to take my advice? Maybe I give bad advice but I make it sound convincing. I recall a demonstration of this ten years ago:

Me: "Do you want to go eat fondue sometime?"

Iondra : "Like where?"

Me: "There are a couple restaurants that serve it."

Iondra: "What exactly do they serve?"

Me: "Usually there's a cheese fondue, and an oil fondue, and then a chocolate fondue."

Iondra : "Hm. All right, I tried to figure it out from context, but now I have to ask: What is fondue??"

Me: "It's a pot with liquid in it, like a hot pot. You dip solid food into it, and it gets coated with the liquid. So you would dip bread into the cheese, fruit into the chocolate, etc."

Iondra: "I see. [in very authoritative voice] I'm sure the cheese is fine, but the oil fondue sounds bad."

Me: "I haven't tried it. I guess you could be right. It -- Wait a second! Just a minute ago, you didn't even know what fondue was! Why should I listen to you at all?"

Anyhow, I think someone should build a product / social network app / Web 2.0 site / Web 3.0 site to fix this. Every time you need advice, you'll post your quandry onto the site with multiple choice answers. Like:

"Should I date the sister of my ex from five years ago? YES vs. NO."

"What type of phone should I buy? BLACKBERRY vs. IPHONE."

"My husband drunkenly groped my sister. DTMFA vs. FORGIVE HIM."

The service will poll all of your friends, who will vote.

After some time elapses, you go back and use hindsight to select what the correct choice was. Then each of the voters will get a boost or drop in their Advice Rating, based on what they selected.

The site takes the ratings into account when giving you a Final Answer to your question. Ergo, when it tells you to DTMFA, you know it was biased toward your wise friends, and discounted from your foolish friends.

Come to think of it, a number of prediction market applications can likely be adopted for this purpose.


John K. Lin said...

Sounds like a good idea for a Facebook application or OpenSocial app via Orkut.

Looks like someone has done this (though not fully implemented to your vision):

Friend Advisor
By Chainn Inc.
Ask your friends for advice or advise your friends. Create your own questions and get public or anonymous answers. Don't go through life alone! Use the wisdom of your crowd to solve your problems.

Anonymous said...


Hahah WOW...

Get me her phone number.

Just kidding that girl is a mess.

I make maybe 3 x my girl friend and pay for maybe 90% of everything but never keep track?

I would pay for everything but she demands to contribute and buys the household food.(the best quality)

Cooking is her passion.

I buy all dinners out, and pay every other bill.

Very happy doing that as she makes me happy.... in so many ways...

joshnunn said...

20% time project?

Anonymous said...

How would you balance between advice from your close friends (who know you well) and the larger community (which may include better advice)? What about situations you don't want to broadcast?

Everyone said...

Let's just get it out of the way now:

John K. Lin
[obsequious ass-kissing comment transparently asking question/anecdote from my life in vain hopes of provoking response from Niniane. Typically first post since I have a javascript macro that reload this URL every 10 minutes]

[less-obviously-obsequious comment that makes token effort to be clever. I'll usually be beaten by John K. Lin by a few hours since I'm not as obsessively stalker-y. Secretly hopes Niniane will respond to my cleverness and email me one of these days so we can meet and talk about how much better of a commenter I am compared to JKL]

Strider Aragon:
[random, offbeat comment just for the sake of commenting. Do I have a crush on Niniane? Maybe. Who knows.]

[bitter, nasty message to the effect of "There is a self-hating Asian girl who is a sellout to white guys. What should the self-respecting Asian-American community do with her?"]

Well, I think that about covers it. Anything else?

Tim said...

Good idea.

Philipp Lenssen said...

Knowing which question to ask is half the way to success; and in fact, once you provide a really detailed question that would provide all the necessary information for people to answer this reasonably -- about 100 times as much as "should I date X..." -- you might be able to figure it out yourself. (If you're a developer you probably know this from posting about programming problem X in a newsgroup -- when preparing your question really precisely and trying to add all relevant links and test cases and stuff, you sometimes stumble upon the solution yourself.) Though I wonder if this approach is more successful than the free-style comments service like Yahoo Answers, which allows people to be more verbose than Yes vs No and also includes crowd intelligence via ratings.

PS: I can see a common theme here...

Niniane said...

re: Philipp Lenssen.

Yes, this goes along with my desire for the availability of more stats in the world.

Niniane said...

re: "Everyone".

Just so you know, ArC and I were college classmates once upon a time. Does that change your analysis?

ArC said...

[less-obviously-obsequious comment that makes token effort to be clever. [...]

My cleverness is effortless, thank you.

"Wait a second! Just a minute ago, you didn't even know what fondue was! Why should I listen to you at all?"

Because the concept of cooking something in oil can be understood and even experienced even if one has never actually had "fondue" before.

John K. Lin said...

Everyone - who the hell are you then? An internet troll or just plain jerk?

Actually, I read a lot of blogs so it's pretty easy to see which blogs have been updated via Bloglines...

Very few of my comments are ass kissing :-)

I've met Niniane a few times. The Bay Area is a pretty small circle. We know a few mutual people. My brother also works at Google, but nothing related to what Niniane works on.

Anonymous said...

i like john's & arc's comments - both add to this outstanding blog

Niniane said...

In the spirit of my latest post about how cruelty can often be the base of unsurpassed hilarity, I have to say that the comment by "Everyone" made me LOL.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your last post Niniane -- in fact, I meant to add it as a P.S. I also wanted to say -- what an exceptionally clever idea!

pokai said...

I like it. something like hotornot,com but multiple choice questions. call it or

pk@nl said...

Ahh a recursive question, If You asked me about the advice in person Id say how to overcome the personal questions, and more on layering the potential target of question. Idea with ranking of advisors is good, And unfort klin is rite on the posible first deployment point. Also would be great baseline for g or spinoff to have the crowd wisdom working in wider scope than "just" the text search.

Oh please analyse me everyone, N maybe You could post a question on analysis of Your readers to know ur target better. lol. Everyone will be the highest ranked advisor, rite?

Henry Auget said...

Actually, I believe someone over at Google already built an app that answers this problem:

Michael Gaiman seems to have built it.

Anonymous said...

There is also