Airbnb’s algorithmic telling off

being told off by airbnb

Its kind of weird being told off by Airbnb.

I’ve always been pretty good with Airbnb but recently I had a volleyball derby match which went on way past its set time due to a thrilling end after 5 sets. Plus it was the last match of the year. This meant turning up late, although I did warn this might happen.

Then I had to cancel for the first time on guest who was due to be arrive at 0130am. I did say originally I couldn’t do it but decided since I wasn’t going to Sheffield Docfest anymore it would be possible. So I accepted the request to find out a week later, I would be going to Edinburgh for the DIS 2017 conference.

So I had to cancel for the first time in 2+ years… but it didn’t take long for Airbnb’s algorithm to kick in and tell me what a bad person I am and how my account will be suspended!

Anything but perfection is unacceptable according to Airbnb it seems?

Airbnb hosting standards

Of course it doesn’t really matter too much to me, as I don’t care so much about being a superhost but what I don’t like is being told off by Airbnb for canceling on a guest who to be fair was asking a lot at the start and for the 1st time since I started hosting over 2 years ago.

I wonder what a decentralised airbnb would look like with a federated trust system?

Does online dating work?

"Does Not Work"

It’s a simple question and a common one — one whose answer could determine the fates of both a multi-billion dollar industry and millions of lonely hearts. It’s a question that seems distinctly answerable: we have user data, surveys, clear metrics for success or failure, entire books full of colorful charts.

And yet, just this week, a new analysis from Michigan State University found that online dating leads to fewer committed relationships than offline dating does — that it doesn’t work, in other words. That, in the words of its own author, contradicts a pile of studies that have come before it.

Starts the Washington Post article… This is the start of much of my thoughts dotted throughout my blog. A while ago I stood up at a conference and said

There is no compelling scientific research indicating online dating algorithms work.

Well the new analysis by Michigan State, leads nowhere new. The answer to the question is complex…

We don’t actually know.

Some of the reasons for that ambiguity are clear in this latest study. For starters, there’s this greater cultural issue of how we define relationship success: Is it marriage? Is it monogamy, a la Patti Stanger? Is it what OkCupid’s data team calls a “fourway” — four messages back and forth between two semi-interested parties? That’s a tough one to parse, and different studies have defined it different ways

So the success criteria isn’t clear but if one thing was clear it would be around matching algorithms.

Most paid sites claim, for instance, that it’s their highly scientific matching algorithms that lead people to serious relationships; in his 2013 book on the subject, however, the journalist Dan Slater concludes that most of those claims are bunk. (“Everyone knows that all personality profiling is bull****,” a former Match executive told him. “As a marketing hook, it works great.”)

And as I’ve been banging on about for years… Why pay for online dating? They simply make bumping into random people more likely, just like most social networks.

In reality, dating sites are most effective as a kind of virtual town square — a place where random people whose paths wouldn’t otherwise cross bump into each other and start talking. That’s not much different from your neighborhood bar, except in its scale, ease of use and demographics.

Hence the popularity and rise of the social dating apps and services.

No compelling evidence online dating algorithms work

Shoreditch dating backlash?

Herb highlighted this on Facebook the other day. It seems to be some shoreditch protest against online dating. I couldn’t find anything else about it, so it might all be a flash in a very small pan but they have good reason to protest.

I quoted in my Primeconf Best of British talk

There is no compelling scientific research indicating online dating algorithms work.

This fact has not been lost on many others. I’m not saying online dating isn’t a bad way to meet someone (heck I still use it) however the chances are about the same as meeting someone on any of the other social networks, chatrooms, forums, etc

Online dating simply connects people, but so does Facebook, twitter, Google+, etc, etc… and they are free to use (yes they use and sell our data but at least they don’t do that and charge us for the privilege!)

The compelling part reminds me of what Derren Brown was talking about at the infamous show.

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence…

Herb Kim found out where the pictures come from…
It was a protest against ‘Online Dating’ by @rendeevoo – an app that encourages you to ‘Date Offline’ with one click.
As I thought it was a publicly stunt by another dating company trying to convince people to use their service not the rest… Pretty lame, especially because it didn’t make any news and I couldn’t find out who did it… Poor!

Automated messages with feelings

Josh and a few others introduced me to BroApp today…

BroApp is your clever relationship wingman. Select your girlfriend’s number, create some sweet messages, and set the time of day when you want those messages sent. BroApp takes care of the rest.

The android only (at the moment) app will send your partner sweet nothings on an automated schedule. It has some nice features like it can use geofencing to not send messages when your too close to your home for example. As a whole, its a very cut down version of tasker or locale. Both can be setup to do this and a whole ton of other things.

I won’ t lie when I first came across it, I laughed out loud and the video makes it sound even worst!

Its easily laughable but i wonder about how far off is broapp from FB or G+ suggesting you say happy birthday to a friend? Automation of human relationships is uncomfortable but a interesting point. No one likes to know they are part of an automated process but maybe once we get over ourselves? Or maybe its just the way things are? Human relationships can’t be boiled down to an automated process… I hope.

Reminds me of the question of can you match people with an algorithm? And my post about technology assisted dating. If its even slightly possible for them, maybe it could actually work. But hopefully not so you can spend more time with the bro’s! Have a bloody heart!

Built in Filter and Algorthm failure

I enjoyed Jon Udell’s thoughts on Filter Failure.

The problem isn’t information overload, Clay Shirky famously said, it’s filter failure. Lately, though, I’m more worried about filter success. Increasingly my filters are being defined for me by systems that watch my behavior and suggest More Like This. More things to read, people to follow, songs to hear. These filters do a great job of hiding things that are dissimilar and surprising. But that’s the very definition of information! Formally it’s the one thing that’s not like the others, the one that surprises you.

One of the questions people have when they think about Perceptive Media is the Filter bubble.

filter bubble is a result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behaviour and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles. Prime examples are Google‘s personalised search results and Facebook‘s personalised news stream. The term was coined by internet activist Eli Pariser in his book by the same name; according to Pariser, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints and are isolated intellectually in their own informational bubble.

The filter bubble is still being heavily debated to if its real or not but the idea of filters which get things wrong to add a level of serendipity sounds good. But I do wonder if people will be happy with a level of fuzziness in the algorithms they become dependable on?

I’m always on the lookout for ways to defeat the filters and see things through lenses other than my own. On Facebook, for example, I stay connected to people with whom I profoundly disagree. As a tourist of other people’s echo chambers I gain perspective on my native echo chamber. Facebook doesn’t discourage this tourism, but it doesn’t actively encourage it either.

The way Jon Udell is defeating the filters, he retains some kind of control. Its a nice way to get a balance, but as someone who only follows 200ish people on Twitter and don’t look at Facebook much, I actively like to remove the noise from my bubble.

As I think back on the evolution of social media I recall a few moments when my filters did “fail” in ways that delivered the kinds of surprises I value. Napster was the first. When you found a tune on Napster you could also explore the library of the person who shared that tune. That person had no idea who I was or what I’d like. By way of a tune we randomly shared in common I found many delightful surprises. I don’t have that experience on Pandora today.

Likewise the early blogosophere. I built my echo chamber there by following people whose lenses on the world complemented mine. For us the common thread was Net tech. But anything could and did appear in the feeds we shared directly with one another. Again there were many delightful surprises.

Oh yes I remember spending hours in Easy Everything internet cafes after work or going out checking out users library’s, not really recognizing the name and listening to see if I liked it. Jon may not admit it but I found the dark net provides some very interesting parallels with this. Looking through what else someone shared can be a real delight when you strike upon something unheard of.

And likewise the blogosphere can lead you down some interesting paths. Take my blog for example, some people read it because of my interest in Technology, but the next post may be something to do with dating or life experience.

I do want some filter failure but I want to be in control of when really… And I think thats the point Jon is getting at…

want my filters to fail, and I want dials that control the degrees and kinds of failures.

Where that statement leaves the concept of pure Perceptive Media, who knows…? But its certainly something I’ve been considering for a long while.

Reminds me of that old saying… Its not a bug, its a feature