Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time Travel, Crowdsifting, HumorQ, and a Goat

A time traveler from another world journeys to earth in the year 1011. He rounds up the then world rulers and asks them to give the best twenty-five word answer to the question "What is wisdom?". They are told if their answer is correct, they will be taught the ways to live a most joyous life. The time traveler explains they have 24 hours for all of them to come up with a single best answer to the question, and then offers to give each a ride home. King Sancho III suggests they all just stay there and talk about it, but they end up agreeing to all take their rides home, spend the night speaking to their advisors, and return 23 hours later to select their best answer in the final hour.
It's the year 1011, and the conversation doesn't go very well. Lots of literal back stabbing. Finally, the time traveler speaks up and says "Yo!, Maybe it's just me, but I don't think your planet is quite ready yet. I'm gonna head back to my time travel machine, crank the surprisingly analog knob up 1000 years, and see how you guys are doing." One of the smarter kings says "We'll be dead, right?".
Anyway, the time traveler returns in 2011 and once again rounds up the world leaders to offer the secrets of a joyous life in exchange for the best twenty-five word answer to the question "What is wisdom?". Diplomatically they form a plan to acquire the answer, we will each separate and speak to our advisors, and return in 20 hours when we will each submit our best answer, debate for three hours and then vote. They all went off and did their thing. With the world's eyes paying attention this time, the leaders each pitched their answers. It soon became apparent that each wanted more time, and after an hour went by, the time traveler and the whole world could plainly see that a vote would never happen. An answer would never be given.
The time traveler spoke "You know you guys really have come along way. You have lots of emerging technology, and you're all getting along most of the time, but you really could use a better way to communicate good ideas. Last night while you were thinking of your answers, I met a man in a place called Round Rock. I wasn't expecting much, you know "Round Rock" really doesn't say "We're brilliant" , at least not to me, but I want you to listen to him for a minute."
The man from Round Rock spoke, "Hi, I'll make this quick since we only have a couple of more hours to get this answer. I have an idea I call crowdsifting. That's right I use the prefix 'crowd', please don't take much time to get over it. Anyway, if everyone in the world that has a good answer to the time traveler's question would sign on to, I can tell you how this works. You see we can leverage the power of the internet to find the best answer to this question in an hour or two. The way it works is you are first asked to vote on the submissions of others. You will see around five or six sets of five answers each, and you will be asked to choose the one you like best in each set. You should notice that as you move through the sets the answers get better. After you have voted, and seen what some of the best answers look like, you will get to submit your answer. Your answer will then be presented to five other submitters in a list of five choices. If it is selected let's say three of those five times, it will be presented again in about fifteen different submitter's second list of five choices and so on. With this process we will have millions of people bringing our best answer to this question to the top.
With that, the time traveler turned to the man from Round Rock, and said "How did you come up with that anyway?". The man replied "Caption Contests. I got tired of seeing what a handful of judges thought were the best answers to caption contests, and thought that what opinion needs is a high population of judgments. So I created this method and a web site called, and I think I can actually use it to put a number on how funny people are by having multiple judges score their caption submissions over time. Umm, but, we have like an an hour and forty five minutes to get you that answer, and I want a crack at it, so really we all probably better get going, right?".
The time traveler turned to the man from Round Rock and said "You have answered the question satisfactorily already, here." And with that, the time traveler handed the man from Round Rock what looked incredibly like a Popeye Pez dispenser. He explained "The secret to a most joyous life is in there somewhere". The man from Round Rock said "We should probably use crowdsifting to figure out what to do next."
A goat walks into a bar.