Crowdsourcing Objective Answers to Subjective Questions – Nerd Nite Los Angeles

April 9th, 2013 by Ravi Iyer

A lot of the questions on Ranker are subjective, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot use data to bring some objectivity to this analysis.  In the same way that Yelp crowdsources answers to subjective questions about restaurants and TripAdvisor crowdsources answers to subjective questions about hotels, Ranker crowdsources answers to a broader assortment of relatively subjective questions such as the Tastiest Pizza Toppings, the Best Cruise Destination, and the Worst Way to Die.

A few weeks ago, I did an informal talk on the Wisdom of Crowds approach that Ranker takes to crowdsource such answers at a Los Angeles bar as part of “Nerd Nite”.  The gist of it is that one can crowdsource objective answers to subjective questions by asking diverse groups of people questions in diverse ways.  Greater diversity, when aggregated effectively, enables the error inherent in answering any subjective question to be minimized.  For example, we know intuitively that relying on only the young or only the elderly or only people in cities or only people who live in rural areas gives us biased answers to subjective questions.  But when all of these diverse groups agree on a subjective question, there is reason to believe that there is an objective truth that they are responding to.  Below is the video of that talk.

If you want to see a more formal version of this talk, I’ll be speaking at greater length on Ranker’s methodologies at the Big Data Innovation Summit in San Francisco this Friday.

- Ravi Iyer

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Posted in data science, ranker2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Crowdsourcing Objective Answers to Subjective Questions – Nerd Nite Los Angeles”

  1. Peedee Wyre says:

    Despite going to Catholic schools for grades 3 through 15, I never felt religious. My deep interest in Mechanics led to asking for subscriptions to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science for Christmas around age 12, from my in-the-1950’s science-fiction aficionado mother. ‘Faith’ wouldn’t be the answer when positing a theory and then have a reproducible event as ‘proof.’ There were standards in Science that were absolute in their definition and circumstance. I could see clouds but not angels on them. As my interests grew towards History, Government/ Governance and Economics, there were not infrequent mentions in those courses of religion and the Bible, especially the N.T. among the Jesuit teachers, but almost exclusively as an interesting history amid myriad rules and contradictions, as well as religion’s purposeful exclusion in the U.S. Constitution in terms of sponsorship or as a litmus test. Reading that many considered the Founding Fathers to be deity piqued my curiosity and I couldn’t even go quite that far, in terms of even acknowledging a deity or deities. But I have come to believe that absent brain problems, etc, that people are innately good… but they can be tempted. I don’t attribute the presence of a devil to be the one tempting, it’s more like an arrow in the quiver of a slush fund of situational ethics choices. I don’t call greed a soul – damning sin, I see it as a bad choice among other and presumably many available ‘better’ choices. Morals standards and ethics don’t religion. The best aspects of a religion are what we would usually choose to do anyway: to be thankful for what we have but not needing to lay our good fortune of a mercurial Quixote who blessed you with whatever, but watched the Holocaust burn up and gas millions of his creations who were made in his image and likeness, “they say.” If that puts me under the umbrella of Secular Humanist, sounds good to me! The ‘legitimate rape'”thing and too many other examples to name inevitably deflect away from the victim, as the clueless dominionist pstriarchal religious zealots and fundamentalists “would have us believe.” Literally. The intellectual pretzel-bending involved in religion, mostly aimed at an afterlife and how to attain it in their particular iteration of “believe it/ me/ them” about The Unknowable has struck me harder than ever during the 50 years since I left a major Jesuit university and lived in a measurable, discoverable world that’s constantly changing. What amuses me most about religion and science is that NEITHER can explain where the universe came from.
    Delicious!
    Nature, red in tooth and claw. And we are Nature’s children.
    Not so delicious.

  2. Peedee Wyre says:

    Ooops: “DEISTS”NOT ‘deity’ re: the Founding Fathers.

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