Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Tuesday, February 18, 2003day link 

 Give me personalized collaborative ranking
picture This is what I want: resources of all kinds that are filtered and ranked according to people I trust and respect.

I assume it is a complicated problem, since I don't have it yet, because I'm for sure not the first person to think about it. But I believe it can be solved, if some capable person can work out the math.

The Google PageRanking mechanism is the most successful collaborative ranking mechanism there is, which is able to successfully operate on a huge dataset. For those of you who for some strange reason don't know, Google will rank webpages not only based on what words appear in them and how prominently they appear, but based on how many other websites carry link to that particular page, and how many websites carry links to those websites, and so forth, producing a surprisingly accurate and fair ranking mechanism.

I wouldn't know how to implement that myself. But the basic formulas are available, and Google does it with hundreds of millions of pages, so of course that can be figured out.

But what I want is to do a personalized version of that kind of thing, based on choices I've made about other people, other websites, or about anything else, like books or movies or brands of shampoo. I want not just to get the aggregate 'best' choices, chosen by all websites in the world. I want the best choices by people I know, like, respect or trust, or by the people that they again know, like, respect or trust. And I want a similar, complicated huge matrix calculation that adds all of that up, just for me. And for you.

I'm also talking about involving more dimensions than just the number of links. I want to add up the qualitative judgements of people I have a high opinion of, or that I'm likely to have a high opinion of. So, the further that gets from the choices I explicitly already made, the less value they'd have.

No, I'm not just talking about Amazon being pretty good at recommending books I might want to read. They do that well, and it is a practical and working example of collaborative filtering, but I doubt that their math is very fancy, as they really just recommend other popular choices in the categories I've looked in myself.

I want the algorithm that accurately and fairly adds up the collective advice implicitly given to me by my friends and friends of friends by their aggregated choices, weighted by how trusted their opinions are in relation to me. I mean, I suspect that it is just a formula and an algorithm for calculating a ranking value. Something that can be explained in abstract math, and then we can go and figure out what specific values are included and where they'd come from. If it is impractical to calculate at this point without quantum computers, I'd like to know that too. But I suspect it is perfectly feasible to do this well.
[ | 2003-02-18 03:07 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 To be or not to be chaordic
I'm very fond of the chaordic principles that Dee Hock developed. They are principles for growing self-organizating organizations and achieving a fertile balance between chaos and order. Hock created the VISA organization that way. Now, Mitch Ratcliffe has some excellent insights into where that works and doesn't work. And he knows what he's talking about.
I've been at a board retreat of the Chaordic Commons for the past two days. It has been a study in frustration. The whole point of this organization has been to support and disseminate notions developed by Dee Hock that have already proven they can guide the founding of healthy, democratic shared-ownership and self-organizing organizations. The problem with the Commons, unlike the organizations actually using chaordic thinking, is that in every case, successful chaords form to accomplish some goal or profit (in the form of betterness of a situation as well as financial profit) while the Commons has no shared ends except the propagation of chaordic principles.
Now, there's a situation I personally trap myself in from time to time, so I recognize that. If you put even the smartest and most well-intentioned people together, without clearly defining the agenda, and you expect that a unified course of action somehow will emerge amongst them - you will usually fail. I heard Mitch point it out very clearly on the phone the other day. For chaordic principles to work, it requires a shared goal and a shared set of limited resources. We've got to have a very similar outcome in mind, and there will have to be obstacles and a scarcity of resources in our way, for us to be inspired to self-organize. If we don't agree on what needs doing, or we can do it just as well separately, it is unlikely that we choose to become an organization.

None of that, of course, stops specific people, within a larger fuzzy group, from getting together and choosing something to do, and organizing themselves around that. But that's a different thing, I think. Like in Open Space. Interesting groups would form, even if there weren't any overall purpose stated. But then I suppose we'd regard it as several organizations rather than one organization. It won't all become one self-organizing entity unless there's a shared purpose and shared constraints. Hm, still something I don't think I've quite figured out here.
[ | 2003-02-18 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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