Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reputation Markets and Other Ideas

Money is a pretty amazing invention in that it take the value of an enormous variety of goods and reduce that value to a single simple number. Of course the system isn't near perfect, monetary price often doesn't perfectly match the value of things, what with economic externalities. We have governments attempt to deal with that issue through subsidies and taxes, but that is largely an imperfect system. I would love it if there were a decentralized market based way to more accurately value externalities. Well, it doesn't have to be decentralized or market based, so long as it were more accurate from the current system, I just imagine that when we do get a better solution to that problem it will be along those lines. I've got some ideas on that, but then I'm getting off my original thought.

The idea that prompted this post was that it would be great if we could find some way of attaching a simple number to other non-economic things, such as someone's social reputation and all the subdivisions thereof. Or other than social reputation, if we could attach a number to someone's intellectual contributions to society or their environmental impact or even happiness.

My reasoning behind wanting this system is that the simple number money attaches to things leads to it being the primary counting system for success in a lot of people's lives. People are very competitive, and though those other items I mentioned are important to people, because they're very subjective and arguable, this gives more weight to people fighting over their income levels. People need income to live, but I see a lot of people fighting over income simply for status. If we could reduce other important items of our lives to simple numbers, then I think people strive for them a lot more.

Now, of course that to a certiain exent is quite silly. Things like reputation, intellectual contributions and happiness are all subjective and non-fungible. Environmental impact slightly less so, but that does depend on how one values the environment. However, the various things money measure are fairly subjective as well. One number system can compare how willing I am to write code for an hour and how willing someone is to give someone else a loaf of bread.

Creating such a system would not be easy, but I imagine something similar to it might happen. After all, I'm hardly the only the person with this idea. Cory Doctorow's Whuffie system in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for example, is just such a system for personal reputation. The Internet tells me that someone named Tara Hunt is even writing a book about it. I've thrown around a few ideas on how it might be possible to get such systems off the ground, and would like to do more with them in the future. I certainly feel the modern computer aided recording of everything will certainly be a necessary component of it. Now to just tie all that information together.

Quite Happy With the New Roommates

Getting these two new roommates in El Dorado has shaken things up more than I've seen in a while. Cleaning and new furniture and new people at Bar Night. Hell, we even had a sit down breakfast this morning. I suppose there's something to be said for not living as slovenly bachelors. Or at least, slightly less slovenly bachelors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Can Be Done With

I like, there's a few things I'd improve with it, but a good system over all. I'm quite happy to have a system that will record all the songs I play through my iPod or iTunes and give me stats based on that.t

As for what I'd improve on it, I'd like it if counted the length of times I spent listening to my songs as opposed to the number of songs I played. It just skews things when you have one band you listen to with one minute thirty second songs and one band you listen to with twenty minute songs. Also, I'd like it if it would update the weekly total more frequently. That can't be that hard, just some database operation... but then I don't have the greatest experience with their system, so shouldn't really talk. Also, I'd like it if they had some graphing software built right into their system, instead of having to rely on third party apps that never get back to you.

Anyways, I want to see all the personal dating recording stuff combined with similar stuff with Amazon and eBay's recording what you buy, Facebook noting your interests and similar stuff. Has someone added something to Flock that does a like thing that records all the websites you visit? And then just wait until everyone has iPhones that record wherever you go and can correlate all that data.

Now, why do I want this? Well, in part because I have very little concern for privacy, or hiding my personal behavior. I've been told that's a bit odd. But there's also several practical benefits beyond the having a good easy to read record of your own life. There's the obvious one that and Amazon already do with the recommending things to you. I imagine things like this would be much more accurate if they could compare different aspects of your entire life.

But beyond that, there's the science. We could finally get real time data on a host of sociological, economic and polical variables that are only hinted at these days. I'm tired of public policy bieng decided with no basis on factual experimental evidence. And I know that in politics most people don't give a damn about what actually works, but I would love to see a change along those lines. If we could simply see who everyone's friend were, what they read, what they watched and what they bought, we would have so much more insight into what was actually going on in our society.

Eh, this is getting a bit radical, I should probably go back and revise this entry in the morning, but the idea remains. I know a lot of what social networks currently do is tell you things about your friends that you already know. For example, with Facebook, I don't need it telling me who everyone in the Dumbrella group at Stanford is. I already know this. They're already all my friends. I don't need Facebook's Compare People app telling me my sister is hot. I've got a roomate who tells me that most every day. It's damn annoying.

But there's so much that could be done with tying all these social networks and information gathering systems together. Just off the top of my head, you could look at the music people listen to over time, compare this with their friends, and see who has the most influence over their friend's musical tastes. You could see what social networks were spreading musical taste and so forth. Of course this brings to mind the idea that we should unify all the social networks, and define friends or social contacts with not with personally chosen friend lables, but base them upon who was emailing, IMing or calling whom. Eh, but that's for another post.

I assume the end goal is to be able to give people more insight into their own lives, to give scientists and policy makers a better insight into the world, and I suppose, in the long run, create a wufi like system.

Ah, I need to expand upon all this to not seem like a drunken rambling techno-utopian. Expect a revision in the morning.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blogs vs Twitter

My friend Tynan was telling me the other day that he has a policy against reading people's blogs. Interestingly to me, he loves following people through Twitter. I was wondering why this was. The main explicit difference between the two is that Twitter limits entries to 140 characters, but I don't think that's the entire story.

I think that though between the two of them, though both are completely visible to the public, Twitter seems to many more like a conversation with friends akin to text messaging, and blogging feels more like publishing to the world, despite the fact that most blogs are written as journals and only read by close friends. If anyone. I mean, I have no idea if anyone pays any attention to this blog here.

But that does make me wonder about what will come next. We've got status updates on facebook blending in to status updates on IM services, blending into Twitter posts and blogs posts, and it's only going to keep becoming more fine shades of gray. Maybe we need a better map of who's reading what. If we could note the social networking pages people visit, the people people are following on Twitter, what blogs people read, what music and tv shows people are watching and then combine all that...

Well, I'm not sure that deals with the original question about the distinction between blogs and twitter at all. It's probably just feeding my desire to collect and analyze lots of social information. But it would shed light on the flow of information and communication in our society.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's Been a Busy Week

By busy week, I mainly mean parties as the campus folk have all finished up with classes. Album release party, Century Club, various other excuses to drink. Some of them turned out better than others for me. Regardless, I have definitely fallen behind on several of my todo items, such as writing this blog, exercise, cleaning and generally keeping my life together.

Well, it's Friday now. And oddly enough that doesn't mean the partying and then sleeping it would normally mean. I don't get either of those. Taking it easy tonight. Good to get a change of pace. Going in to the Stanford Pain Labs tomorrow for medical experiments. Yay, selling my body for money/science. Hopefully that's fun. Or at least not horribly painful.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Hanging with Tynan this weekend and he convinced me to sign up for Twitter. I'm not entirely convinced of the use of this product, but we'll see how it goes. It seems like something I'd like to unify with my Facebook and gTalk status. Actually, I'd certainly like to unify my Facebook and gTalk status. I should see if someone's got a plugin for that. I feel Twitter status might be used to display a different sort of information, but we'll see about that. Get used to the Twitter culture and all that...

Hmm... Also, it's funny that my friends on Twitter are very specific subset of my friends. Damn, but I can't wait for social networking services to get good enough to provide useful information about my local social graph.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Web Browsers and Non-Linear Thoughts

I'd like it if there were a better way to track down non-linear thoughts. Generally when I'm thinking to myself and writing things down I become a bit irritated at how our writing system is very linear. True, when writing, one can branch off on various topics, but it gets messy and hard to track the flow of ideas.

I'm not sure what the best way would be to deal with that with regards to outputting information, but I was thinking of ideas that would improve the recording of this with regards to gathering information, along the lines of a plugin for a web browser.

With regards to surfing the net, I often end up bouncing from one topic to another, and it would be nice to be able to look back and see some history of what I was looking at. I'm not sure what this would tell me, but it might yield some interesting results. On Firefox, it'd be nice if you could look up a history, where each page you had visiting would be displayed as an icon or thumbnailed screenshot, say the earlier ones you'd visited at the top or left, and subsequent pages that you had linked to would be displayed connected to the initial page. When opening other tabs the parent node would have multiple children. When within a single tab but going to a page not linked from the initial page, such as using a bookmark or the search bar, it could link the parent to child node with a dotted line or something.

Maybe I'll look into this when Firefox 3 is finalized. Or I should go look at Flock. I've been wondering why there hasn't been a for browsers before. Well, I should see if Flock has something for that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


A fairly good day today with getting things set up for Burning Man. By that I mean we did our first tangible work outside of the people organizing the camps meeting and filling out paper work. Four hours buying EMT conduit and working in a metal shop, but it feels good to start on that. It'll be a busy two and a half months doing everything else, but we've made a good start. Also, good to see the various people in our camp who don't know each other start to meet. Good people in the group. Any group of people willing to spend months of effort for one week out of their skulls in the desert has got something going for them in my book.

Hard Work

Damn shame about hard work. Seems just about everything takes more effort than I initially think it's going to. Not that that's a surprise at all, but you'd really think I would have learned that lesson by now.

I suppose I was thinking of this when thinking about what I wanted to do with this blog. At one level I'd just like to be working on writing, but tossing off a few paragraphs at a time is about as effective at that as doing 10 minutes of calisthenics everyday is for an exercise program. It's better than nothing, but not impressively so. The blogs and web comics I read are generally the products of a lot of hard work, either in the fields of software or political and economic thought or minds more humorous than my own.

Hmm... Well, that line of thought is rapidly becoming depressing. What I was trying to say is that I shouldn't be biting off more than I can chew. Man, some blogs out there like stuffwhitepeoplelike seem relatively easy and are pretty damn impressive for what they are.

Bah, but I'm not writing this for an audience so much. I'm writing this to have some record of my own thoughts and to prod myself to keep producing thoughts. And I suppose that's the answer to that.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I feel quite good

I originally wanted to write that I feel moderately good, but then Icepick is always telling me I use the word 'moderately' too much.

Ah, I still want to figure out what to do with this blog. Part of me wants to use it to write about politics and technology and various software ideas of mine, but in the week I've had this running I haven't really been in the mood to do that. Probably because I'm lazy and writing about something like that takes work. So, I suppose I'll use this blog as an extended status message for the time being. Which strikes me as something that no one else would want to read, but hey, this blog is in beta.