Victus Spiritus


I Dream of Deus ex Machina

26 Oct 2009

Definition: Deus ex machina is a poetic device that allow for resolutions to impossible problems.

Social Semantic Learning

As many of my regular readers know, I've been very busy with a reincarnation of the intelligent advertising project I began over the summer (thanks to the gifted inventor/web programmer Tyler Gillies). But we occassionally run across bottlenecks, or issues with the all important question, what do we do next? Our ingenuity and hard work pays off when we're motivated to explore a general direction (hint it's doing something you're passionate about). The flipside of making progress is spinning our wheels and getting frustrated, when we encounter something that appears impossible. Just when I think I have a solid understanding of the problem space, I dose off confused but still thinking about information flow through the net.

The mountain: Our latest dilemma has been a problem of scale. An expert (this guy is Sharp) outiside of our team has raised an issue with scaling an advertising business with site plugins. I'd like to take the business much further with virtual assistants, but that's another story. My initial thinking: if the conversion rates are better, the utility will gain natural adoption. But we need more information and feedback to get the tool that far. And after all is said and done, it's still just a plugin. My default answer is to create a site and web service that provides user value, and entices interaction with the ad widget. The customer is the end user, while the intermediary is the web site host. Everyone must have an incredibly compelling reason to opt in.

Unconscious Processing

While asleep, my mind has an entirely different set of assumptions. When dreaming about travel from one location to another I can run extraordinarily fast or completely teleport (special effects have nothing on my imagined teleportation ;)) as I experienced last night. It's when I find myself sitting in an office back room after doing the above "super transportation" that things got interesting in the dream. While I was bashing away at keys considering Internet information, Deus Ex Machina became a reality (at least in the dream). It came down to a realization. What I was trying to build (help Tyler build) with software is a subconscious intent detector combined with a serendipitous discovery machine. This process will require more user supplied information than an occasional tweet. We're starting off with the most rudimentary input data and doing our best to "smooth through" the seemingly random stream of people's shares. But usage is far from random. Specific usage patterns are very regular and we can follow rss feeds of shared blogs, music links, etc to grow a stronger machine perspective of a user. Users can immensely aid this effort by interacting with the database in natural ways: adding missed categories, or deleting superfluous tags, and adjusting tag weights by playing games with tags*. The challenge is giving tremendous value to the user for creating such a profile and improving the state of the machine knowledge. The answer may lie in saving them time, by providing two way search utility. More to come...

To see where we're at, checkout

*games are in the precoding stage