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Eager to Burst His Own Bubble, a Techie Made Apps to Randomize His Life (npr.org)
410 points by ZeljkoS on Aug 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

To a certain extent, this how we used to travel back in the day.

You hung out in a hostel, had conversations with other travelers (instead of thumbing through Instagram), and let the randomness of other people and life, not apps, dictate your itinerary. You walk down a street, "oh hey that looks interesting", and wander down a quiet alley that leads to cute cafe, or jump in the back of a tuk-tuk headed to a waterfall that may or may not really exist, but who cares? You're riding the wave. One of the main reasons for travel/holidays is to break from routine, and the single most significant one can do, bear with me Silicon Valley, is to put away that smartphone. Try exercising your intuition instead of apps.

Many folks nowadays have optimised their lives so much that they've needed to create a noise-generator to bring back some humanity.

The article strikes as very Anglo-centric and the worst of first world problems with a solution that is both condescending and out-of-touch.

His problem was the monotony of life and a feeling of being basically too secure and too happy.

With all the homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other places where people have tremendous need within a short Uber ride, it just strikes me as odd to devote so much time to building first world toy to take you far away.

Want to live and feel like your life has a purpose? Volunteer or pick a random needy person to send on the trip Europe. Give them a camera and hope they bring you back some pictures.

I know this is an unpopular perspective, but when your job and life isolate you from the suffering and need (and risk and danger) around the corner, then the answer shouldn't "build me an app so the world can dance for me. Dance, world, dance! I'm boooorrredd."

Hell, build an app that actually helps more than one person. The irony of ironies was acknowledging his white privilege while being clueless to the larger Western-world-privilege and too-much-disposable-income-privilege.

Bahh. By all means travel. By all means make apps to entertain yourself. But do we need an national news agency covering the guy who got bored with life so found a way to make it work harder to please him? And what the hell, NPR, really? The guy who burns tons of CO2 cause he got bored -- no environmental impact assessment?

And don't get me wrong, the guy sounds like a good guy. I'm sure he's friendly, sociable and all the good things.

Life is way too short to spend in soup kitchens worrying about how much and what form of privilege you may have.

Wow. I hope this is sarcasm. I'm sure that those who need soup kitchens don't share your point of view.

Not sure why you are downvoted. You are absolutely correct. I found the parent comment incredibly self-centered.

Life is too short to not spend it in great company rather, to spend it being so weak you consider a bit of reflection and having compassion for others as "worrying". An unexamined life is not worth living, as Abe Lincoln said during the Super Bowl show, so what are you even calling life? Furthermore:

    Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,
    But always pity brought me back to earth;
    Cries of pain reverberated in my heart
    Of children in famine, of victims tortured
    And of old people left helpless.
    I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,
    And I too suffer.

    This has been my life; I found it worth living. 
-- Bertrand Russell

Who also said this:

> Although both love and knowledge are necessary, love is in a sense more fundamental, since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge, in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love. But if people are not intelligent, they will be content to believe what they have been told, and may do harm in spite of the most genuine benevolence.

Life is a big word, and I find a collection of unrelated experiences without connecting any dots to be more a hysterical undertaking born of lack and leading to more want. Others can disagree, but they cannot tell me what fulfills me in my life. Life is too short to be a coward about it, life is to short to not face the music, life is too short to not own up. Ultimately, I care more about saving myself than anyone else: I need to not be crooked, I can't help everybody but if I help nobody who would I be?

And frankly, I don't know a single selfish person who seems happy, they all seem scared, like feeding some monster in their basement that is never full and just keeps growing. Life is too short to have pity on them, or to accept what they offer.

> Say honestly, "I love arm-chairs better than free men, and pursue them because I choose; not because circumstances make me. I love hats, large, large hats, with many feathers and great bows; and I would rather have those hats than trouble myself about social dreams that will never be accomplished in my day. The world worships hats, and I wish to worship with them."

> But if you choose the liberty and pride and strength of the single soul, and the free fraternization of men, as the purpose which your life is to make manifest then do not sell it for tinsel. Think that your soul is strong and will hold its way; and slowly, through bitter struggle perhaps the strength will grow. And the foregoing of possessions for which others barter the last possibility of freedom will become easy.

-- Voltairine de Cleyre, "The Dominant Idea"

All the good things you're not being right now. Why? What does the contempt help, do you think? Why do you think it helps at all?

> then do everyone else who prefers that outcome a favor and keep your trap shut

Your comment comes off as far more vitriolic than his.

He raises a good point; that this "problem" of not being happy with a life that already has safety, security, and many things guaranteed that others might die never having, is not exactly the pinnacle of "being in-touch" the article makes it out to be - on reading that the guy is making apps/etc to let others do this I'm already anyicipating the fad coming and going, and people like you spitting contempt once it reaches the passé phase without really thinking about how it came about - whereas your comment raises none and is more outwardly hateful -

> I just want you to cut the bullshit attitude

- than his much more reasonably presented one.

I edited out the overt vitriol, because on reflection it was unhelpful. But I don't think it was unmerited, and I think you miss the point of it, which has nothing to do with the rather silly but largely harmless app and accompanying promotional piece.

'moneytalks might genuinely be interested in convincing people that it's more worth finding ways to step out of their comfort zone and help others, than it's worth using some kind of "randomize my life" app. If he is so interested, then he goes about it in the worst way possible - what he ostensibly advocates is difficult enough for many folks to contemplate, without adding the apparent likelihood of doing so only in order to have to put up with the kind of pretentious, contemptuous priggery we see on display here. But 'moneytalks spends so much more effort on being a pretentious, contemptuous prig, rather than suggesting it might be worthwhile to do somebody a good turn, that it's very hard to credit his interest being in the latter, rather than the former.

That's what merits my ire and my vitriol. I don't care if some random Google or Amazon or whatever decides to shake up his routine in the most stereotypically Silicon Valley way possible. I agree there are lower-effort, higher-impact ways to go about that, but I'm not going to get all judgey over it. I am going to get all judgey over somebody using "we should help other people" as an excuse to spit contempt that makes no one want to actually do that, and if anything puts people off.

If you want to get all precious and self-gratifying and put yourself on a pedestal over other people, read Pitchfork and be a music hipster, or Petapixel and be a camera hipster, or pick some other ancillary realm of human endeavor, where the distaste your behavior elicits will do no harm. Being a helping-people hipster goes from useless but harmless to actively toxic, and I don't see why anyone should expect to get a pass on that.

It's more positive to see this app as the way he found to get courage to change his life. Paradoxically he is still following rules..

Spot on, apps have optimized our lives... to local maxima. Apps can't guide us to peak happiness because the best is disconnected from the rest.

Even when it comes to something as "simple" as music, I've never found a "favorite" band through something like Spotify. Good music, sure, but the "bar raisers" alway comes from randomness - radio, odd bar show, personal recommendation, cabbie's CD player, etc.

I've found a lot of great new artists through Spotify's discover weekly.

Agreed, discover weekly is great, I have a couple of different tastes in music depending on what I'm doing, and each discover weekly/daily is separated into genre. It's great.

We call it Spotify week. First week, suggestions are amazing. Second week they are great. From then on, they are terrible.

That's just not true IMO. The weekly playlist's "quality" varies, sure, but it doesn't get worse over time for me.

Check out my Daily Random playlist on Spotify:


It updates with 30 random songs every day.

This is why I subscribe to internet radio instead. It's cheaper and has better discovery features. For example di.fm

I find music by choose a word from the dictionary and listening to the top dozen results, or for searching for a song i really like then listening to the dozen or so results that come after it.

That's why I ditched the Spotify recommendation engine and started letting other people pick music for me: https://www.jqbx.fm

The more popular that gets, the more it will approximate Top 40 radio, pretty much by definition.

This is still subject to a popularity distribution, although you may want that.

To be fair, you can get "true randomness" with apps (spotify particularly) too; it's just something you need to proactively do.

On the flip side, having just spent a year traveling to 18 countries - including most of SE Asia - the internet has made travel a hell of a lot easier (I've done it pre-internet, too). My wife is vegetarian, so rather than wandering around trying to find something she can eat in Vietnam (one of the least veggie-friendly countries we went to) we can do a little research on TripAdvisor and know where we're going for lunch and dinner. Likewise, with a few hours working on the laptop we can book several weeks worth of flights and accommodations, and not have to worry about that anymore. I think you end up with a lot more free time because you can take care of the necessities so easily.

Why take a tuk-tuk to a waterfall that might not be there (that sounds like what you'd call a scam, to me) when you can take a tuk-tuk to a waterfall that definitely is there?

Because "life begins at the end of your comfort zone." -- Neale Walsch

Some people travel for sightseeing, others for personal growth.

In the same vein - "Life begins on the other side of despair" -Jean-Paul Sartre

I reckon life begins at birth.

You're all wrong. Live begins when the kids have the left the house and the dog's dead.

Well that escalated quickly.

I don't think the two types of travel are mutually exclusive, and you can certainly mix them both into one trip. Spend some time helping orphans, then go to the beach. That's actually what a lot of people do.

> Why take a tuk-tuk to a waterfall that might not be there?

Because if it is there, it will be pristine and untouched save for the few local people that know about it. And meeting the locals might be more interesting than meeting the other tourists at the crowded waterfall on Trip Advisor.

The 'old way' is exactly how I traveled Vietnam. My and my friends didn't have any plans at all, all we had booked was our first night's accommodation in Saigon. The rest we planned from talking to people at hostels, we ended up with a big group of about a dozen of us by the time we got to Hanoi.

In my opinion, it's the only way to travel.

I have never understood planning in advance your entire holiday down to the hour. I guess it's more important if you're American and only get 2 weeks of holiday a year.

I am >50 with grown up kids: this is how we spend our holidays and we get not much more then the "American 2 weeks". Planned is just the timeframe & means of transportation, the rest is pure accidental. We run in to the most boring places and move on, we hit the most surprising gatherings, fall in love and stay. Whatever happens we decide on an hourly basis what to (not) do next, exactly that what we cannot do in our daily lives. We find that it takes on average 3 days to completely reset from city slickers to travelers: hygiene rules change, food preferences, clothing & make up, luxury requirements, sleep rhythms & most of all the perception of time.

What age were your kids when you started with this style of traveling?

When I was in grad school, this is how I traveled each summer with my brother and cousin. We'd pick a country and have our first night (maybe a couple of nights) accommodations picked out and then let the feel of the day guide us. Some of our best times were with random people we'd meet at the hostel and then travel around with for a couple of days before going our own way.

Feels to me like romanticising certain experiences more than they have merit. Yes I've also traveled before the Internet, and frankly we just sought information from books and locals or friends that had gone before. In some ways collecting the information was slower but less prone to gaming via online methods/interests. There were also several regions where taking the tuk-tuk to the non existent waterfall was a pretty good way to end up in very bad to your physical safety situations, and burdening the locals with bailing someone one out of their own 'exploration'. Saying this from having to rescue several brits from risk of death from dehydration and sunstroke.

I think this romantic view of bohemian travelling is also betraying a certain amount of privilege. It's a lot more comfortable to wander where the world takes you when you know you have money to throw at problems if you really get in trouble.

Not to mention, people who frantically try to optimise their time on holiday do so because it's the only week off they can afford this year, and they don't want it to be wasted.

I worked in the hostel industry for a long time. In "the old days", it was ridiculous to even travel with a cell phone. Laptops made no sense unless you had to work remotely. (I'd argue that they still don't make sense while traveling unless your work requires a laptop and you're going to work on the road.)

These days, the common areas of hostels are full of people staring at glowing screens, while hostel managers try to figure out how to get the guests to interact...

Yes indeed, this is the "app" equivalent of backpacking.

I did 3 backpacking trips (total around 27 months) back when smartphones weren't prevalent and it was (and has always been) mostly about trying out weird shit (such as fruit picking) going to places and meeting (loads) of people.

Sadly even that is probably changed now and I bet that the modern hostels are places were people stay in isolation and stare at their phones instead of socializing with each other ;-(

My wife and I bought an old RV last year and that's exactly what we've done. We plan a general route and make sure we have stops lined up...and just explore. Do whatever looks interesting along the way.

I agree with the substance of your comment, but these types of comments would be much more effective if you dropped the superior air that you treat the people you're conversing with.

Thanks for the critique. (Admittedly, I did roll my eyes pretty hard at the original article, so I could've tried more to reduce that tone. Cheers.)

I actually met Max while we both happened to be in Thailand in 2015. We spent the day on bicycles following the directions his script told him, without hesitation. Regardless of where it was in the city, that's where we went next (a laundry mat, daycare, cafes, and the zoo iirc). Nothing was skipped, because it was what the software told us to do.

Here are some pictures from that day https://goo.gl/photos/gyCNRz2rs7zLJrt79

Just stay alert, in some parts of the world it can end tragically: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/07/british-woman-...

Oh damn wait, she made it? I read the article with the context "it can end tragically" - I love reading the news when the twist is someone survives.

What does accidentally making a wrong turn into the bad part of town and getting carjacked have to do with the original article?

Obviously the concern of the grandparent is that if you do like the article says and you blindly follow some randomized scripts to where they tell you to go, you can easily end up "into the bad part of town".

Well, you obviously don't jump into a volcano just because the app tells you to. Unless you're going full Dice Man with it.

No, but you obviously also don't necessarily know if some streets it asks you to go to are in bad areas, unless you know about the city/country it has you visit in a lot of detail.

Reminds me of a "game" some friends would play in the early days of turn-by-turn GPS.

"Garmin Knows Best", where you input a location and follow the GPS exactly. Driver beware.

Michael, that's a lake!

That's really interesting. I was thinking of doing a social experiment that's similar but the script would be crowd sourced and determined at the last possible moment.

If you followed a crowdsourced script wouldn't that essentially just be "twitch plays pokemon" for real life?

You might like Lauren McCarthy's work: http://lauren-mccarthy.com/Social-Turkers

crowd sourced... boaty mcboatface.


Just imagine if it took them to a park or candy store where there were also children around. Terrifying!

> I'd feel pretty uncomfortable with a random stranger and his friends showing up to my kid's daycare. I hope the apps have gotten better location filtering in place since 2015.

Wouldn't this be the onus of the daycare? To allow/disallow strangers?

If the app points them to a high-security military installation, they're not going to get in.

Other strangers not using the app can still show up at the daycare...

And presumably as soon as you see it's a day care you can say "neat" and move on to the next location.

I'd be less worried about a few guys showing up because a randomness app told them to than a guy showing up because he wanted to.

Trust me, daycares unfortunately already have to deal with unwanted people, often non-custodial parents who may or may not have restraining orders against them, showing up.

Maybe you should give the apps a go too. To get out of your tiny little bubble.

Would you feel uncomfortable if the author was a woman?

It is sad that in today's society men are immediately perceived as a potential threat to a child.

The fear mongering is getting ridiculous.

I made no mention of the fact that the author is a male.

> The app took you too a daycare? Where people leave their children? Did you actually enter it, or just move on? I'd feel pretty uncomfortable with a random stranger and his friends showing up to my kid's daycare. I hope the apps have gotten better location filtering in place since 2015.

Sure you did. Emphasis mine.

You didn't answer the parent question either.

If you want to try this out check out my Facebook group, The Third Party:


You can send us a message to receive a randomly selected event near you. People from all over are attending the events and posting about their experiences in the group.

Looks like a great idea! Pity that it is not possible to see anything on this page without a Facebook account. :-/

Looks good. Why do I have to sign up to your mailing list to continue though? I just want some random events.

This is great. I think that the illusion of time speeding up as we get older is due to getting into a routine where we do the same thing every day, and the brain begins compressing memories as our everyday experiences become less novel. Using a "randomizer lite" program to shake things up might be a good start to breaking the routine.

>I think that the illusion of time speeding up as we get older is due to getting into a routine where we do the same thing every day, and the brain begins compressing memories as our everyday experiences become less novel.

That's part of it. Another part is that, even if everything you see is novel everyday, if you are 1 year old, a year, e.g. getting to 2 years old is 100% increase in your life experiences. Getting from 31 to 32, not so much. It gets exponentially less, to the point of going from 40 to 50 a mere 25% extra lifetime for a whole decade. Whereas a decade when you're 1 is 10x more lifetime.

I get the math, but the reasoning feels unjustified: why should we assume our brains work that way? It would make sense if we remembered the same amount of stuff every year, but reality is, you have fewer memories of the past.

I am on the "routine makes every day the same and days just pass unnoticed" camp.

>I get the math, but the reasoning feels unjustified: why should we assume our brains work that way?

Well, the math doesn't change if we make other assumptions. The relative amount of time that passes us by is less in our 30s and 50s than in our 1s and 10s.

Routine by itself ain't the answer as kids also have routines (school is whole big routine, as is living day-in/out with your parents, going to lessons, playing with friends, etc.), but their days don't "pass unnoticed", and a year of e.g. middle school seems to last forever when you are young.

>It would make sense if we remembered the same amount of stuff every year, but reality is, you have fewer memories of the past.

The concept I described is not related to memories per se, but to new experiences -- which is subtly different (and not totally unlike your explanation).

You know what a party is, and it's not that exciting the nth time you go to one, because you've seen 50 other parties in your lifetime, whereas the first times you went to parties (or had your first drink, or visited another country etc) were more impressive. That's regardless of if you actually remember all or any particular of those 50 other parties in any great detail -- it's enough that you remember the experience of having been to parties many times already.

Now, the problem with merely saying "routine makes every day the same and days just pass unnoticed" is that it's a limited version of the above. What it lacks is seeing that even if you added random stuff to your days, you'd still have seen and done most important stuff in the past. You can't re-drink your first drink, learn about pop music and films for the first time, re-give your first kiss, go to your first party etc. You'll have to get even more random (and add stuff that is either too crazy or has less impact and importance) to beat those experiences later on.

protip: do this before having children, as it will be virtually impossible after.

Speaking as a parent: children are excellent life-randomizers by default.

The hard part is letting them be random instead of forcing them into Adult World schedules.

"Johnny, stop having a blast in the beach with the new friends you just made, or their parents might invite us for dinner or something! We need to drag you to the Museum of Boring Things right now so we can maximize the value-add of this vacation!"

This is one of the top reasons I'm interested in having kids. I think I need my life randomized a bit more, but "the app that sends me to random facebook events" won't come see me for Christmas when I'm old.

You may live to regret that. Most of the random things my kids do are cute and funny. There are also times when they are decidedly not cute and funny, and you spend hours scrubbing the walls getting rid of Mr Bee stamps and removing those your 7 year old stamped to the ceiling (how the heck did he reach the ceiling?!?)

Yeah, forgot to mention to the part where the kid-randomness is not all happy Instagrammable moments. There are lots of less-happy events.

What, your children mind when you don't pick them up from school because an app randomised your life and sent you to a massage parlor? :-)

The world will do this for you if you let it. Drive less. Be on your phone less. Do anything else more.

Ah, but what was his source of randomness? Perhaps he didn't have enough entropy and now he's got to do the last few years all over again ;)

I think I naturally do a bit of that myself: whenever I have some empty time, I fill it with something "random", only instead of choosing randomly I often choose the cheapest option. For example, I once booked a flight to Iran departing hours after I bought the ticket, simply because it was the cheapest option for an interesting place to fly (under $180 round-trip.)

I think the design choices really impact the end result, though. One minor design flaw might result in completely eliminating a whole lot of interesting places or things, which is what I'd be scared of. For example, that cheap fare to Iran was only on one travel search site, which didn't have an API. By selecting one booking website as an API, and letting the algorithm decide for me, I wouldn't have gone to Iran.

Similarly, there are a lot of things that wouldn't seem like an "option" to a computer but are an option to me. I've wanted to see Greenland from the air, so I've been taking a lot of flights that pass over Greenland on the way to places I needed to go anyway. But if the algorithm decided for me, it would probably have booked air tours over Greenland - substantially more expensive in terms of both time and money. It wouldn't be able to say "hey, you know that trip across the Atlantic you have in a few weeks? Why not pay $25 more to have it fly over Greenland?"

What if the algorithm chooses a destination you cannot go to (for reasons such as visa, vaccination...)

> I once booked a flight to Iran departing hours after I bought the ticket, simply because it was the cheapest option for an interesting place to fly (under $180 round-trip.)



I'm trying to decide which part of this sentence is the least surprising part. It's definitely not the part where you could fly to Iran and back for a grand total of $180? I don't think it's the part where you figured out that this was a thing you could do, and then decided to do it with only hours notice.

There has to be a follow-up question, but I'm still too baffled by this sentence to think of it. Bravo? I would not have the fortitude to try this, as a white American of European descent. Even knowing some Arabic (if you know any Farsi, that would obviously take some of the surprise out for me...)

When I arrived in Iran I knew zero words of Farsi, or Arabic. (In Iran I learned about 80 words of Farsi but have since forgotten most.) I was flying from Amsterdam, on a budget airline with a long layover in Ukraine, so that contributed to the low price, although that was a remarkably low fare. My only "connection" so to speak was that a friend is Iranian, but he hasn't been back to Iran in many years and can't go back without facing execution.

I am also a white American of European descent, although I'm a dual Dutch-American citizen, so my Dutch passport was what I used to enter the country.

Well, that answers one question, it would not have been $180 to fly from the USA!

Max should meet Luke Rhinehart -- The Dice Man: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dice_Man

What is the chance that would happen? ;-)

Pretty good actually. Just write me at lukec@taconic.net or comment on one of my Facebook pages.

This book is at times both brilliant and hilarious. I definitely recommend that anyone curious at least pick it up and read the first few chapters.

As a bonus for those with a soft spot for 90's pop punk, it was also the inspiration for the Millencollin song 'Random I Am'.

also "Six Different Ways" by The Cure

I'm really quite meetable. Just drop me a line at lukec@taconic.net or if you use Facebook you can contact me there.

just finished reading that yesterday, as a matter of fact - if anyone is feeling trapped and debating major change versus incremental improvement, it will provide some perspective, for sure - also some insight into our dicepresident

... there is only one Dice Man and, tickery ticker tock, that's not him.

Thank you. To be mentioned in the same breath with the Orange Man is enough to ruin my day.

I have to finish that book. Very nice first half.

This "I'm bored with my life. I shall appify it and travel to random countries" stuff is a whole level beyond First World Problems. It is something like First World Problems of the Jet Set. Yet, this article doesn't cast him as a member of the Jet Set.

Modern Life has gone to some rather weird places that were simply inconceivable until incredibly recently.

>Modern Life has gone to some rather weird places that were simply inconceivable until incredibly recently.

You'd be surprised.

Humans are not animals. They can have such worries and desires regardless of their material status.

Even people in eras that were horribly materially constrained, had to fight wards, work their ass off, people in anything that we can define as "First World Problems" had similar (and even more extended) concerns.

The movement of existentialism in Europe, for example, was created and popularized by people who had participated in major wars and struggles, and then were left to make a living in the ruins of post war Paris and Berlin and such (Sartre himself was drafted, caught, and spend a year as a prisoner of war in Nazi camps).

And there have been people with wanderlust (desire to travel to "random countries") for as long as there have been people -- including tons of people in dire economic situation, from third world countries, and what have you, sailing etc.

Not only "I'm bored with my life" but: "I'm bored with my life of relative luxury that 99% of the people on the planet would murder for". Sheesh!

luxury != personal growth.

This is an awesome idea.

I've spent a lot of energy making apps to automate my life and management my schedule. Now I'm tempted to also have it throw in something random now and again. I couldn't go to these extremes (I couldn't pick up and move to another country for instance) but it would be cool to say do things less extreme... like pick a random place for dinner or watch this random Netflix movie.

I built an app a few years ago that does this for bars. Bar Roulette. It's free in the app store...give it a try. I've had a lot of fun using. http://barroulette.cool/

say you're going to live in NYC for 3 years and will eat out pretty much every other night. you can do your online research and decide yourself each time. or you can randomize. can one really be certain that, in the long run, after 3 years, the overall outcome from letting the coin decide will definitely be worse than deciding yourself? i strongly doubt it. the time spent making each of those decisions will definitely pile up, though.

Yeah it is a very interesting concept. But, I don't know if I could do things like show up at a random person's house for their Christmas party. I just don't think its in me. But I definitely could do random restaurants / movies / public locations. So a much less extreme version.

Random dinner location is certainly worth a try, for dipping a toe in the shallow end, so to speak: http://www.restaurantgenerator.com

Similarly, Netflix randomizer sites already exist. I've had good experiences with https://netflixroulette.net/, for example.

:/ This was exactly what I was looking for but doesn't seem like it's location aware. Every movie so far it has suggested is not on UK Netflix.

How does this work? I though Netflix shut down their public API?

My immediate reaction to this was, "hey, this is awesome," and actually it really is. I think it's an interesting and creative solution to a problem a lot of us share - admittedly whilst recognising that for large swathes of the world's population this would be a great problem to have.

Still, there's that nagging little voice in the back of my head: part of me can't help wondering what will happen, and how people will come to view it, if/when his apps catch on (as I suspect they will).

> Still, there's that nagging little voice in the back of my head: part of me can't help wondering what will happen, and how people will come to view it, if/when his apps catch on (as I suspect they will).

That was my thought too - once a critical mass of people are going to 'random' events it'll be Portlandia Over.

I love the idea of random surprises.

I created a simple app that picks random items from a Chinese ecommerce site within a set budget. My long term goal was to use ML to learn what each user liked and send them random items on a schedule, selecting from multiple sites.

I never finished it because other things took precedence but the random selection part works.

Anyone interested in this as a service?

Someone built a similar thing a couple of years ago to get random things from Amazon: http://randomshopper.tumblr.com/post/35454415921/randomized-...

Inspiration from Borges maybe?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery_in_Babylon (it's in the highly entertaining Ficciones collection)

I've noticed that problem in my life as well. As a result, I decided to consume media a bit more randomly. My harddrive has a folder called "todo". This folder contains subfolders labeled "watch", "listen" (which includes "music" and "podcasts"), "read" and (a fun one) "pilates". The folder "watch" includes mostly movies and documentaries, sourced from my public service broadcaster's VOD service (which I scan weekly for interesting stuff) or youtube. The "music" subfolder of "listen" contains first and foremost dj mixes I've collected from eclectic rss feeds. "read" has all kinds of PDFs and HTML pages (mostly scientific papers, long-winded articles and e-books). The "pilates"-folder contains videos of individual exercises (I find it more exciting to not always do the exact same routine)

On top of that I've written a script which prompts me to choose a category (i.e. one of the folders delineated above). It then randomly opens a file from the respective directory. When I am done using a file the script asks me whether I'd like to archive it, keep it (in case I am not done with it yet) or delete it.

This is the plot of the indie movie called "Buggaboo": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0206610/

The main character, who is an Indian engineer living in Silicon Valley, says to his friends : "What if you could randomize your life?". That's all I'll say. It's a good movie. I'm not going to spoil it for you guys.

> It's a good movie.

Score 5.2 in IMDb disagrees.

Well, just my personal opinion. YMMV :)

See also, Geohashing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geohashing

"Geohashing is an outdoor recreational activity inspired by the webcomic xkcd, in which participants have to reach a random location (chosen by a computer algorithm), prove their achievement by taking a picture of a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or another mobile device and then tell the story of their trip online."

Link to comic: https://xkcd.com/426/

Reminds me of undergrad class registration, when everything satisfying a general education requirement would fill up and the server would crash the instant it started.

I didn't choose to take History and Religion of Ancient Israel, but it was the class I got the most out of.

I'm not a developer but I did once build a prototype that sent text message inquiries throughout the day (within hours configured as "open" on my calendar). The questions were customized around a few goal areas, as a way to measure my progress. I never found much support for it, but the concept was intended to give techies with the hyperactive schedul tools a chance to leave "generic" hours on the calendar while still being accountable to being productive during those times.

Tried a similar idea with a diet-specific set of goals. Aiming for 100% comprehensive tracking of your calories seems a bit crazy to me.

Well he won't meet me. I live in the No-Facebook Bubble.

Though sometimes the parties I help organise are listed on the Facebook by third parties. So there's that slim chance...

How do you know when someone isn't on Facebook? ;)

Is there a site to sign up on so people can find you and find out that you are not on facebook? That would be great! Maybe facebook could integrate those results into there people search. "John Smith, Anytown, USA isn't on facebook. Try emailing him".

Well joke's on us because they could already do this. The Facebook knows about my existence. It knows my name, my face, and my friends. My email too. I'd have to avoid contact with all people that use the Facebook to prevent this. Infeasible.

They just don't publish the data because they have little to gain from it and there's no reason to needlessly antagonize people. They sell it without telling anybody.

I think most people on Facebook are that way because they don't want to be reached. That would be a tough sell to us privacy-conscious people.

... They'll tell you.

Brilliant way to actually take a break, or holiday, for those with the means to do it. I only plan my holidays down to which airport to arrive/leave and where to stay (yes im picky about that). Everything else in between arrival and leaving i prefer to depend on what I see/find/hear when walking around. That is my idea of a real holiday. Each to their own - YMMV.

I've been looking to do something like this for my own side project.

Unfortunately Yelp is pretty restrictive about working with their review data. (They only give you 3 reviews per business on the APIs, also they're hostile against scrapers)

Hasn't anyone seen projects that do similar things with Facebook/Foursquare/Yelp data?

Great idea, but I don't need an app for that. My fiance takes on this role - we've been living in another country for almost two years because of one idea she had. I'm picking the next place once both of us get bored with this one. Suggestions, as always, welcome. Has to be in the EU though.

Czechia. It's the EU country with the newest English name hard to beat (-; And after some 2 years you will be happy to move on(-; Just avoid Prague-this city hates itself

Two of my friends moved to Prague just recently. I heard it's weirdly expensive.

Come to Sweden!

Anyone who's interested in more ideas along these lines should look at Tyler Cowen's list of how to be less complacent: http://tylercowen.com/complacent-class-quiz/

It said I was a trailblazer. Doesn't sound like me at all. I guess not being American might throw it off.

i've been doing it for almost four years now, and it's amazing to see how wrong and how frequently wrong your preconceptions and expectations can be.

you don't need an app to do that though. a spreadsheet is perfect for that purpose (and telling Google Assistant to 'flip a coin' or 'give me a random number between 1 and 20') and gives unlimited flexibility and less reliance on developer to implement features you want. not a lot of people appreciate this, but sometimes trying to accomplish a task with the general-purpose tools you have at hand can lead you to discover solutions so good it is in fact superior to any dedicated tool.

But in your case you still have to pre-select a range of options right? How do you avoid missing the 'unknown unknowns' that a separate service might help provide?

take restaurant choice for example. yes there's a range of options, but some of the fields instead of saying "go to restaurant A" say something like: "let google pick a random number X between 1 and 50. google "restaurant near Penn Station" and go to the Xth result."

multiple times this procedure led me to dine at fine-dining establishments that i would never consider going into with the clothes i have on (the experience almost always ended up better than i imagined). a nice thing about randomizing is that you become psychologically dissociated from your actions. when things go bad you don't blame yourself and take that to reflect on yourself ("well, i was just following orders"). when things go well you just feel thankful.

Everyone has their own way of randomizing. You like spreadsheets, that guy likes creating an app for that. Big deal? To each his own.

The past eqivilent was flipping to a random page in the yellow pages, throwing a dart at a map, or flipping a coin. It's funny that we need a app to randomize our life at all. I suppose it is largely just how we acces information now.

The Degree Confluence Project is an interesting version of random travel: people visiting arbitrary lat/long intersections.


If your life needs more randomness, I highly recommend having or adopting children. Having three of them 7 and under, I can attest that the entropy in my life is off the charts. I have no need for an app.

I don't like NPR's attitude of conflating social anxiety of meeting a random bunch of people and whether they're going to accept you with racial issues.

This makes me like them significantly less.

Just imagine someone hacking into this algorithm

some people use apps, others of us have ADHD that works just as well :-)

"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God"

To quote NY Times - "Algorithms lead us to Anagrams"

So basically diceliving

like John Cage


This part of the article really stood out as awkward placement to me. As a white guy dating a black woman, we often go to events with her friends or family where I am the only white person and it can be quite unwelcoming especially at some night clubs. This idea that if you're white you fit in anywhere has such disconnect from reality.

Relative privilege still applies here. The "only person of of my race in the room" is new for you, but ubiquitous for a huge number of POCs, especially when climbing the corporate/academic ladder.

You seem to have decided he was just out of place, but that's not what he said.

Being out of place and being unwelcome aren't the same thing.

Probably, he was majority-welcome, but minority animosity from just a few of a sea of similar faces feels quite threatening.

I understand the overwhelming influx of SJW stuff, but this is actually quite appropriate here.

As a fellow white guy, I know it's a lot easier for me to walk up to stranger and have them trust me than many minorities would experience.

it's not just trust. a minority person (by which i mean to include all and only the less powerful in society, which has a heavy overlap with racial and ethnic minorities) can seem completely non-threatening, but still won't receive the kind of treatment he gets because the other party cannot muster the mental energe to do it as they finds it hard to imagine such treatment "leading to" anything.

As a very short white guy (5'1 here), I can assure you that height and attractiveness is much more important than race

have you ever been a tall attractive black guy?

Your attitude is part of the very problem, not of the solution.

You wanted to read an article about someone escaping a bubble, but closed the article the first time it challenged your bubble?

Many are becoming fatigued with the unrelenting virtue signalling that's going on these days.

> virtue signalling

A phrase only ever used by people who wish to send their own special kind of virtue signal.

calling out virtue signalling isn't really signalling in itself though, beyond an expression of disapproval obviously.

It's signal turtles all the way down.

Sure man, cool.

NPR so diligently points out white privilege. It couldn't be that he dresses well, has good hygiene, is educated, well off, and speaks politely. It is only because he's white? In San Francisco of all places?

> At first, he was nervous: What if people wouldn't let him in? But, as a kind of unassuming white guy, he actually didn't have this problem. (And Max acknowledges this privilege.)

Really? You think that this is exclusively a matter of hygiene and style? I don't know what's worse, that you're so misinformed about the existence of white privilege, or that you feel comfortable trying to bring some edgy socio-racial nonsense into this conversation.

> he dresses well, has good hygiene, is educated, well off, and speaks politely

Have you seen the videos of two people, one white, and one black, who are all those things being treated radically different by various different groups?

For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf5TEoo-EY0

It may not only because he is white, but it is a significant part of the equation. Let alone the socioeconomic things that cause educated and well off to be things that white people have greater access to.

They've got to inject politics when they can.

I mean, sure it can't be other factors (such as social conditioning, how much does he pose a threat, that the party people were actually pretty open). /s

The whole bringing up race is silly. If it is about race and they mention it, they should also be aware that one of the places this took him was in Iowa. His skin color would pose issues in particular neighborhoods in Chicago. They would be less willing to inviting him in or treat him with hospitality.


And if you're not virtue signaling, be sure to constantly say everyone else is doing it, to signal your own superiority.

your reality seems to make you think that 'virtue signalling' is a thing. you keep using that phrase in your comments on posts.

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