Making the chaff invisible, and getting the wheat ($200 prize too)

post by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T01:19:02.419Z · score: 1 (16 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 29 comments

The title is the best name I could come up for a problem I have had for years, and have been waiting for someone else to come up with a solution. 

There is a lot of awesome content on the web. Some of it is about events you could be at, right now, that you really want to be at, and could. If only you knew

An example: I think Roger Waters is one of the most brilliant people alive, and I would like to witness every single concert of his, every time he is less than 100km away from me. Yet, I have only been to two of those, because I was only notified of those. 

So I wish I could know if events I love are taking place. But I do not want to know about Meetups not even close to where I live. And I don't want to know at what time Roger went to the toilet, or if his T-shirt collection for groupies is out, or anything else that people responsible for his (hipothetical) rss feed or email list want me to buy. 

Two questions are relevant here:

1) How can you in general have access to the information you want about events, without drowning in an information ocean or getting web addicted

2) Do you know ways to get access to info about events, in particular of the following kinds that I happen to want to be notified?  (in SF bay or in some city independent way)

 

 

Feel free to post your own interests in the comments. 

Here is how I noticed the problem: Looking back into my life I began wondering what were the main determinants of whether I did or not go to some kinds of events. And again and again the result was "because I had a friend who used to tell me about that kind of thing back then". 

Even now, most of what I do is basically determined by other people's tastes. It's simple. I've locked all possible advertisement away - I'm a serious anti-ad freak, it takes me less than half a second to switch radio stations if a person talks instead of music playing, and I block the front chair video away in airplanes in which it can't be turned off, I feel pain when any advertisement reaches my senses - but I did not block people away (yeah, I don't punch people's faces when they tell me about cool future events). So I'm left with the intersection between what interests me, and what interests them enough that they tell me about it. 

This can't be right. The alternative, having to, as they say at MIT, drink from a fire hose, doesn't sound any good either.   

Yep, it's in MIT

One of the things people say to startup minded people is that they should start by noticing a need they have, something they'd be willing to pay for, and create something to satisfy that need. I'm usually not eager to pay for stuff, but here is something I'd pay for:

I'd be happy to pay $200 to someone who solved this problem somehow. Pointing an app, creating a system, summoning a submissive gnome... I don't mind. As long as there was a way for someone to get news of things they care about without having their brains stung by the atrocities of voracious marketeer capitalist addiction systems. And I don't think I'm the only anti-ad freak out there who'd pay some money for this, ADblock is, after all, the most used browser app in the world. 

It is basically the reverse of the Groupon concept. Instead of stealing your attention to make you more interested in things you don't need and causing you to feel an emotional void for not having things while your pocket empties as well - yeah, I really don't like ads - the idea would be to inform you of things you already think you need, giving you a warm feeling inside of being served of all those delicious potential hedons you've been eagerly waiting to purchase. 

I'm no entrepreneur, so who's up? 

29 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-29T06:58:02.810Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

again and again the result was "because I had a friend who used to tell me about that kind of thing back then."

Be more social at the things you like and you'll make more friends who will also tell you about that kind of thing. 500 approaches, 100 replies, 20 aquaintances, 5 friends, 1-2 people who will tell you of dozens of that kind of thing. Also, host that kind of thing (after-parties, group rides, theater rental, etc.) with the $200.

Remember you didn't know all the things you like now in the past. This suggests you don't now know things you will like later. So try new things, some of which you will like.

comment by jaime2000 · 2013-11-29T13:48:08.815Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How can you in general have access to the information you want about events, without drowning in an information ocean or getting web addicted.

Timothy Ferris in The 4-Hour Workweek recommends outsourcing parts of your life to digital assistants in third world countries. You could hire one, subscribe his e-mail address to the kinds of lists which inform you about these events, and let him filter out irrelevant entries, all for a very cheap salary. Search that pdf for "assistant" to read the relevant parts. It seems MIRI has also had some positive experiences with virtual assistants, though they use Westerners at a higher hourly wage.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-11-29T14:28:09.848Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone is interested in this kind of arrangement, I know at least one person, probably more, who would be up for hire.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:15:20.077Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If the person is a native speaker of english, who has read or is familiar with the Lesswrong ethos, and and could tell the reference of "SF bay" after 4 minutes on google, I'm very interested. My facebook name is G Diego Vichutilitarian, message me there.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-12-02T15:05:53.906Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't say they're familiar with LW Ethos, but I have been talking with my first candidate about some common LW topics on occasion for months, and have decent analytical and reading skills, so they may be familiar enough depending on what you need.

Native english, capable of googling things. Those hadn't even occured to me, since I take them for granted.

This is someone I live with, so I'm very much biased in my opinion of them, but also means I'd be available daily to brief them on some LW subjects.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:13:45.848Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have done this in the past with mytasker, one of the best rated services.

The task was easier (in that it was atemporal) and the failure was massive.

I do however recommend native english speakers to hire an assistant promptly (as soon as you can spend 130/month) because it is really good for some people. I'll do it once I move to the US and have a salary there.

In any event, it didn't work for me, but thanks for the reminder. .

comment by danlucraft · 2013-11-29T17:35:50.437Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sign up for Songkick.com and track the artists you named and the SF Bay Area metro area. I work at this company and we exist to solve this problem for live music. We only email you about stuff you have previously told us you are interested in.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:22:48.212Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

promising. Will check out.

comment by lmm · 2013-11-29T08:23:02.134Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are a bunch of event-recommendation companies trying in this space - one works opposite me. I've seen adverts for yplan, but apparently that's iphone only so I can't say if it's any good. I used to work at last.fm and still use their event recommendations (based on who I listen to), but that only covers music.

comment by somervta · 2013-11-29T04:27:10.327Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be happy to pay $200,00 to someone who solved this problem somehow.

Decimal point, I presume, not comma.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-11-29T04:39:51.009Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably, diegocaleiro is from one of these countries.

comment by somervta · 2013-11-29T04:46:15.002Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Whaaaaat?!

I had no idea this was a thing.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-11-29T12:55:00.258Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Not only is it a 'thing', it's an endless, recurring and potentially critical and extremely easy to forget source of bugs, problems, errors, unintended behaviors and whatever other shenanigans you can name in IT.

I'm not kidding. Having the wrong decimal mark or placing the currency symbol in the wrong place (before/after the number, that's also a thing) can make some programs simply not start, silently not output logs when they should, fail to save files to disk while pretending everything's okay (I'm looking at you, MS Office 2002!), print some pages mirrored upside down (still not making this up!), cause protected internet webpages fail to load (mostly secured connections to banks where the primary currency is different than the ones in your OS / browser), and I'm not yet halfway through the list of examples I've personally experienced.

comment by MixedNuts · 2013-12-02T17:55:23.164Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

print some pages mirrored upside down

This is too good not to hear the story. Google turns up nothing. Tell!

comment by DaFranker · 2013-12-03T13:49:04.507Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

shrugs

It's not all that special in terms of technical details. When I was younger and living with my parents, my father had at some point an imported printer for some reason. This is back when XP was still the latest Windows version for sale. Wish I remember the details of who and what, so we could point and laugh at the silly printer-makers or something, though. (I wasn't older than 16 at the time, probably closer to 13)

Sometimes, when printing full screen images directly through some software, or maybe when printing oversize images or documents that had to be "fitted" to the printer's page size, the first page of the queue would come out mirrored upside-down or sideways, or rotated. It would only do this from my father's computer, not fom mine. After much troubleshooting and head-scratching, we tried something dumb: his Windows was in French, mine was in English, we changed the windows language to English (and the locale settings got reset in the process, maybe? I don't remember that part, but that makes sense). The problem was gone.

Skipping over the tedious examination that follows, he told me that the region settings were at fault, and had to be set to the same thing in the driver software's control panel as that of Windows for it to not do this. My best reconstruction with my current technical knowledge of what I remember but didn't fully understand at the time is that this printer used (and probably abused) Windows XP's multi-monitor features for processing the documents sent to the drivers for processing and printing, generating an image on a windows "monitor" of the right size before sending this out to the printer.

I assume the coding they had made this virtual monitor "reset" or perform some kind of self-diagnostic, either of which including rotations and mirrorings of the monitor, when the regional settings were different or when it was internally different from windows'. The printer would send to print anyway while this happened, resulting in a "virtual monitor" image that was mirrored/rotated, and thus, an upside-down or otherwise transformed printout.

Most of this, though, is speculation on my part from remembering that putting region settings identical in windows and the software fixed it (and different caused the issue) and that the printer used some weird virtual monitor scheme, filling the blanks with my own current limited technical knowledge.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:20:10.925Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am from Brazil, we use the worldwide metrical system, we use commas for decimal points, we do not live in a jungle, I have never gone to school in an anaconda, there are no elephants here, buenos aires is not our capital, I don't like soccer or carnival, Rio is also not our capital, Samba is a music style, yes I can dance to it, no it doesn't get me laid, no the women here do not look like you think they do.

:)

No this had nothing to do with somervta, but I just felt like giving all the classical responses at once

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-11-29T03:10:01.032Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Meetup.com is sort of targeted to solve this problem. However it costs money to put events in meetup.com so it doesn't have all events in it.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:16:22.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Meetup is how I found ecstatic in the first place, but 80% of events are not there. I am also unsure whether it costs to announce there, are you sure?.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-11-29T21:56:24.497Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure, I paid the price for announcing a QS meetup.

comment by passive_fist · 2013-11-29T01:34:33.476Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A failure mode of these types of systems is that the people announcing events apply tags that are as general as possible to appeal to as wide variety of people as possible. So if you say you're interested in, say, Jazz gigs, you might find notifications for things only tangentially related to Jazz. For instance, Blues or even Rock'n'Roll or whatever. Then it's back to the old information overload.

A way to combat this might be to have an inverse rating system. So the more specific people's tags are, and the fewer they are, the higher up they appear in your feed. This would incentivize people coming up with very specific tags that have a very high chance of being related to people's interests.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-11-29T10:45:59.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This would incentivize people coming up with very specific tags that have a very high chance of being related to people's interests.

It would also incentivize them to post the same stuff repeatedly, each time with a different tag. And use different descriptions, if you give lower rating to identical messages. And use different user accounts to post each message, if you give lower rating to multiple posts by the same user.

The duplication could be stopped if we had some kind of "attention economy", where each person would receive e.g. one attention token every day, and they can use it with any message they think deserves attention. It would be possible to split the token for multiple messages (which most people will not see), collect multiple tokens for one extremely important message, and even adding your own tokens to support someone else's message. The idea is that attention is a scarce resource, so it should be bought using a scarce money.

But even this system would probably fail, because... well, in real life the real money is scarce, advertising costs money, and yet we don't exactly feel like advertising is the best source of information we would like to have. So even if we could introduce a world-wide attention economy that most people would use, there would gradually appear markets for buying your attention tokens for real money, and the real messages supported by a few real people could not compete with advertising supported by thousands of sold attention tokens.

However, these attention tokens in theory don't have to be anonymous. They could be tracked to their original owner, even if the owner sells them. You could create your own filter and say that you only accept attention tokens by these specific people. (Presumably ones that don't sell them.)

And now the last step is to somehow combine the scarcity of the attention tokens with the specificity of the tags given to a message. (Including the complicated details like: The same message can be supported by multiple people, but each of those people has a different opinion about the proper tags.)

comment by passive_fist · 2013-11-29T22:08:58.729Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see why that's a problem; duplicate events could be detected by checking event locations and times. Events that seem to be occuring very near each other and at similar times could be 'flagged' for further investigation by moderators. The community could also help filter out other forms of abuse.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-11-29T18:22:06.979Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Viliam, you've been rocking on my posts lately, can I hire you for personal counselor every now and then?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-11-29T18:34:19.383Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. I'll see what I can do for $200. :D

The first advice would be to make a web startup using some attention economy algorithms. However, it has the same problem as most of my ideas of startups: I have no idea how to make money out of it.

comment by Cthulhoo · 2013-11-29T08:38:28.556Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there's an easy way to be specifically notified about such a general category of events, except maybe a Facebook account following some very selected sources . For music specifically, though, I can suggest LastFm, which catalogues the music you listen to, and offers a selection of nearby gigs based on your preferences, among other things. It's also quite good for discovering new music that might fit your tastes.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2013-11-29T08:25:28.897Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it" (Simon 1971, pp. 40–41).

Methods for controlling information pollution can be derived from attention economical (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_economy ) theorems. The key idea is to create property rights on the overload. One example is a cost to send spam. Another the cost to create a meeting in Meetup. The problem is the fair assignment of (initial) property rights.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_economy#Controlling_information_pollution

comment by Pentashagon · 2013-12-05T02:18:39.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Spam filters are fairly accurate, but I don't know much about the false rates of general email (or text in general) classification. Perhaps it's possible to write/train an Ecstatic Dance filter, and turn it loose on the Internet.

comment by aletheianink · 2013-12-01T05:53:01.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have the technical skills to do this, but I would suggest something like this:

  1. Find sources where you would find things of interest to you, if they were happening now.
  2. Create a tool (or script or something) to scrape their "events" page at regular intervals and then sorts that data, searching for keywords
  3. Have it then notify you in some context when something you like is mentioned.

This isn't foolproof (for example, it might say "Band X is the next Beatles!" if you've chosen Beatles ... but then you might find something you like). Pages like meetup, local ticketing outlets, facebook community pages, etc. are a good source. If you google about you might be able to find instructions for doing something like this.

There's also a website called www.ifttt.com which is essentially an "if this, then that" formula for the internet, but it only works for certain websites, and you need an account. It may serve your purposes, though - you could link it to twitter and get emails if given accounts mentioned the word "tour", "concert", "show" or any other relevant word. That's the closest tool that already exists that I can think of.

comment by knb · 2013-11-29T09:55:40.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Google Now has something kind of like this. For android phone/tablet users only right now, so far as I know.