Eran's blog

Hacking Memeorandum, More on Humans vs. Computers

If you look at Memeorandum right now, you’ll notice that our discussion on hacking Memeorandum is still up there and seems to be picking up speed, currently Pete Cashmore’s post – More proof that algorithms don’t work is leading the pack. Pete says:

The serious point here is that once someone figures out how an algorithm works, they will use that knowledge to their own advantage – if Memeorandum ever goes mainstream, it will be targeted by spammers and lose much of its usefulness to the community.
In my post Humans vs Algorithms, I suggested that we need to put human minds in the loop if we are to keep the spam out of search engines and news sites.

There is a long and interesting discussion in the comments on that post about the quality of filtering of computers vs. humans. But looking at Memeorandum right now and seeing the words “Hacking Memeorandumâ€? repeated several times in large bold letters I cannot help but think of another difference between humans and computers.

It is well known that humans are bad at creating random data. Ask a thousand people to choose a number between 1 and 100 and hardly any of them will choose ‘55’ because it doesn’t appear to be random. To a human, the number ‘55’ has an obvious pattern and so cannot be random. To a computer, on the other hand, 55 is just another sequence of bits as meaningless as any other. This happens because we, as humans, have context and bias, we keep examining everything around us in a specific context and in the light of our own bias.

In a similar manner to the above, human editors would probably not allow a post titled “Hacking Memeorandumâ€? to show up on Memeorandum, they’re likely to let their bias get in the way of that and decide to remove the “offendingâ€? post (offensive and even subversive in the context of maintaining a site). A good example of that is the lack of content about subverting/hacking/spamming Wikipedia found on Wikipedia.

A computer algorithm on the other hand, only has whatever bias it was designed with, in a properly designed algorithm this bias would be content-neutral and would judge all content based on the same criteria. This is what allows posts like “hacking Memeorandumâ€? to show up on Memeorandum and these pages to show up on Google.

As an aside, I’d like to commend Gabe on not using his control of Memeorandum to kill this fascinating conversation that spawned from a somewhat subversive idea.


Filed under: The Net

4 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Great post, Eran.

    Egad, we’re having fun beating this meme to the ground! 😉

  2. limbo says:

    It’s what we do best! Milk that meme!!

  3. If you can somehow get it to #1, then you’ve got something.

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