Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Enemytalk, Power Laws, & My Favorite App

Last week I finally delivered my talk at Columbia University. I must admit I was a little nervous beforehand. After doing so many interviews about Enemybook, I've become practiced at speaking with reporters, but this was my first time giving a whole Enemytalk, and I didn't know exactly who my audience was going to be. Thankfully the folks at the EdLab unit of Teacher's College were gracious hosts, and provided a fun and informal atmosphere. They also asked some good questions.

Two questions in particular stood out. The first was technical. Someone wanted to know whether the expected out-degree of the nodes in the enemy graph followed a power law. This is a very interesting question, but since the question itself may have lost half the people reading this blog, I'll devote a whole post to it later, where I'll explain it in more detail. Right now I want to address the other question, which wasn't technical at all. The question was quite simply, "what's your favorite app?"

Now I admit I was hard pressed to think of an app that I even liked, much less my favorite. Since I was on the spot, I mentioned one of the first apps that came to mind, Introductions by Wayne Mak. The idea behind Introductions is that you can use it to ask for your friends to introduce you to people you might want to meet (e.g. "someone with film experience," or "someone who can make a facebook app"). While I like the idea behind Introductions, at least in principle, in retrospect I think it was a bad suggestion. Why? Because I never actually use it (and since I last used it, it's changed quite a bit into a sort of "hot-or-not"-esque game, so while perhaps it's useful for a different purpose, it's not exactly the app I had in mind).

After much contemplation then, I'm announcing that my real favorite app is The Compliment Machine, by Aaron Iba and David Greenspan. This incredibly useful app contains a highly sophisticated robot that generates "laser-accurate" compliments. It comes recommended by no less than Sir Winston Churchill, who was so stirred by the app that he rose from the grave to review it. I can honestly say that The Compliment Machine has given me as much enjoyment as any other app out there, without spamming a single one of my friends. It's really a shame that last I checked, it only has 6 daily active users.

One major suggestion for The Compliment Machine: I want the little robot to appear on my profile, so that my friends can use it to complement me! I'm guessing that Aaron and David haven't added this feature because they're too busy founding their own company, Appjet, which provides a tool for quickly developing web apps (for Facebook and more). The Complement Machine was written in Appjet, and they've open-sourced the code, so hopefully it's only a matter of time before somebody comes along to add this very important feature.