April 21st, 2009

pedant, law and order

Vark and the shouting white dude

Vark is a clever idea: it's like an auto-directed lazyweb, that searches your friends network (scraped off facebook, etc) to identify the person most likely to be able to answer your question.
In the lazyweb model, I post (say, here on Livejournal, or on Facebook) my question, and the people who know what to say jump in; everybody else just says 'tl;dr' and goes on.

Vark, on the other hand, has the following virtue over lazyweb. Vark won't (in principle) bomb my facebook friends from high school in Atlanta (e.g.) with the questions I throw out about good restaurants in San Francisco (this example is poorer than it should be; many of my friends from high school actually have done their tours as Mission hipsters, but you get the idea). It's been quite handy in a few cases -- particularly for things like restaurant recommendations.

My biggest headache with it thus far is the people asking questions just for the thrill of it, or to 'test' Vark: I have actually gotten the following three questions:

What is the tallest building in Seattle?, tagged *seattle*
from a Seattleite, no less

Are you man or machine?, tagged *AI*
you're an obnoxious undergrad; I'm not sure which of those that is, really

What is the difference between a normal and a transform boundary?, tagged *science*.
It's a social-networking answer service, nitwit, not a mind-reader. This could apply to signal processing, paleontology, geology, or philosophy of science, and that's just what I could think of in ten seconds. On inquiry, he meant 'geology' but "wanted to see what vark would tag it". guh.

So, Vark's problem? yep. They have the same problem that media reformers have: how do you get everybody else heard when there are so many loud white guys shouting just to hear their own voice?

(anybody want invitations to Vark? I have a few more to give out.)