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The Opinions of Attractive People (dilbert.com)
116 points by imgabe on Sept 20, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



> Imagine a TV show about your favorite hobby, no matter if that is cooking, cars, technology or whatever. You wouldn't watch that show unless it had a lot of humans in it, preferably attractive ones, showing their faces.

Except I love "how it's made" type of show, and don't really care about the people involved. Put halloween masks on them all, and I'd still watch.


My hobby is playing jazz guitar. It's safe to say I'm not going to get many instructional DVD's filled with pretty faces. (Robert Conti anybody?)


Yeah, I love watching Top Gear and attractive isn't the first word in mind when it comes to describing Jeremy Clarkson.


Top Gear is a bad example because whether or not the presenter is attractive is secondary to whether or not they are entertaining. And Clarkson is entertaining. And you see a lot of his face in the presentation of the show.


One of my favorite hobbies is Lucha Libre (mexican wrestling) and it's awesome because dudes have their face covered in bright color masks.


The food network also has a lot of shows that rarely show faces. Ditto anything on Animal Planet.


Animal Planet shows animal faces. Anything with a recognizable mouth and set of eyes is still pretty engaging to our wetware.

(In fact, I just tried "Animal Planet" on Google images, and got mostly face shots -- human and otherwise.)


Good point, but I was responding to this quote: "You wouldn't watch that show unless it had a lot of humans in it, preferably attractive ones, showing their faces." Not sure why I deserved a downvote.


I would say Food Network shows DO show a lot of faces. They are very much about selling a brand. Just walking through the local Target housewares aisle, I see Rachel Ray, Giada, Paula Deen, Barefoot Contessa, Bobby Flay, etc, all with their own brand of cooking accessories.


Of course you are right, but there are also several shows that spend a lot of camera time on up-close shots of the food and the food preparation process, only occasionally showing the host. Those are the ones that I was referring to.


Iron Chef does a decent job of this. I wish they offered different "cuts" of episodes - I don't care about anything the judges have to say until they're chewing.


Anybody that posits an idea as 'brilliant' should go and implement it themselves.


What about people that are already in the middle of building other things (like a comics empire)? If I have (what I consider to be) ten brilliant ideas, the best thing for me, personally, to do, is to execute full-steam on one, instead of dividing my attention. Should I then let the rest rot, and perhaps be rendered moot by the passage of time and technology—or should I give them away now while they're still fresh?


You can't really say that they're brilliant yourself, that's for others to decide.

Here's an idea for you: A service that you have to check in to periodically, you set up a number of actions that need to be done after you haven't checked in for 24 hours, 48 hours, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year and 5 years.

We'll call the thing 'deadmansknob', after the button in the locomotives that a train driver has to keep pressed to activate the system (if they have a heart attack they presumably let go).

Payment is on the signing up end (since obviously you won't be paying on the other end), $1 per action on file per year.


(Double-edited: really, HN?)

Your invention sounds like the perfect kind of thing to submit to the Halfbakery: http://www.halfbakery.com/

The difference between "this should be a blog post" and "this seems like something for people to use to amuse themselves with over lunch," I think, is that the blog-post kind of idea requires very little investment in time and labor to determine profitability. The kinds of things you see on the Halfbakery (and your idea) usually require large HR-investments, with employees either manufacturing the product, or directly serving the customer (or making sure that all the stuff you want to happen after your "death" actually happens.) You can't just sit down at your terminal and see if it's a great idea by morning, so it just becomes "something nice to think about" rather than "something nice to try out."


"I would really hope that a group of people as rational as HN would see through the need for that kind of thing—the sentence decodes to an opinion either way."

Interesting writing should contain both statements of fact and opinions. Having the writer provide cues to indicate which is which makes reading easier.

Otherwise, how does one quickly distinguish between an unsupported statement of fact vs. an opinion?


This is what I originally wrote:

> If I have ten brilliant ideas, the best thing to do is to execute full-steam on one, instead of dividing my attention.

And this is the altered version:

> If I have (what I consider to be) ten brilliant ideas, the best thing for me, personally, to do, is to execute full-steam on one, instead of dividing my attention.

Now, there are things—aesthetic descriptors, like "brilliant" and "best"—that are completely subjective (except in certain jargon contexts, like "best-case efficiency.") Using an aesthetic descriptor is inherently implying that whatever you are saying is an opinion, because aesthetic descriptors have no other use—there is no way to "support" the "fact" that something is best, or most moral, or is the most dance-able, or tastes most nostalgic. These evaluations come from your utility function, not your model of the world.

All I did, here, was to add qualifiers to my aesthetic descriptors marking them as such. Frequently, I do the same to, say, a summary of a post by Zed Shaw, as a comment to that post, and people reply with "well why didn't he just say that?" It's bizarre to me, because these things are completely clear and never the subject of argument in spoken conversation—yet they seem to be points of ire almost always when online. I wonder if there's some sort of body-language cue that people normally rely on so subconsciously that they never realize they've avoided actually parsing any aesthetic qualifiers they've encountered, instead just inferring their meanings from analysis of tone and intent.


Furthermore, you already had the qualifier "if" in there.

Now that I see what you were referring to, I fully agree with you.


Not everybody's born to be an entrepreneur; not everyone likes the challenge to build things from scratch. Everyone has a comfort zone.


And that's the point. Nobody wants to put in effort to find out that their genius idea is not.


Well put. That being said, I'm happy to have put in the effort to find out that my genius idea was not. It caused me to have the right amount of humility.


Also, maybe someone does like the challenge to build things from scratch, just not companies.


Scott Adams seems to enjoy submitting ideas for discussion moreso than actually developing them. I'm guessing he's already rather financially stable, so it may not be worth the hassle to him to actually do it.


He couldn't possibly be financially stable. We know Dilbert cartoons cannot attract much audience because they lack attractive faces. Didn't you read the article? ;-)


I wish I could link directly, but there's a section in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics that talks about attractiveness as a function of visual abstraction. The fewer details a face has, the more people will like it, because more will identify with it. Dilbert's characters, "attractive" or not, are very heavily abstracted.


He said once that he's not "private jet" rich, but he never has to think about what things cost.


It's easy to label your own ideas as brilliant if you are not going to live of them.


Between the lines, I've also read "manipulative and creepy and potentially evil". You wouldn't implement that, now would you?


Pretty faces spouting opinions turn me off. Most hollywood "celebrities" sound ignorant when they soapbox on their favorite cause.


One problem with this is that we don't want to see beautiful people giving their opinion on stuff - we want to see beautiful people who are doing stupid things (so that we can feel better about ourself) and/or who are of the attractive sex and dressed in as little as possible.


I'd even go further and say that when a beautiful celebrity voices an opinion that we strongly disagree with, we stop liking him/her.


I liked this the first time I saw it, on every media outlet ;) http://futuremd.blogspot.com/2005/12/candy-crowley-and-blond...


It's said that you use a blonde woman if you want your message received by males, and a brunette if you want it received by females. I believe this tactic is commonly used in advertising.


He's right on at least one thing. None of us thought of Twitter.


It's an interesting idea but I have a few small concerns.

Billing the site as a site where people can vote on attractiveness of the person giving the opinion would personally turn me off. Speculate as you wish about my attractiveness, but it's just not something I'd be crazy about participating in as either a person who is posting (my lack of desire to have many strangers judging how I look) or as consuming (my assumption that anyone posting a video would simply be an ego-maniac). Yes, those are quick and possibly unfair judgements, but with the myriad of sites out there vying for my attention, they'd be my first ones. A tweak would be to keep quiet about the attractiveness angle and have someone Academia point that out later in a groundbreaking study of influence on "FaceOpinionSpace" (best I could come up with in two seconds).

One might need to incorporate something to ensure that users are really posting a face (Imagine a /b/ campaign called "Post Your Penis's Opinion"). Or maybe that last part is a whole other business idea. Automated video analysis and Flagging of videos could help avoid this, but if it wasn't handled well I wouldn't visit the site.

Lastly, it would take a lot of capital. Video isn't a low bandwidth endeavor and if the big "feature" is attractiveness of the person posting their short opinion, quality would have to be somewhat reasonable.


> "You wouldn't watch that show unless it had a lot of humans in it"

It's called "radio" or "podcast".


Where you see the exact same effect, with voices.


Reading Scott Adams almost invariably just makes me irritated. A number of semi-plausible speculations coupled with intellectual smugness that's (dishonestly, in my opinion) protected by virtue of being explicitly just a guy's opinions.

It's more of the same here. Attractiveness is not universal and is often _tied_ to the opinions a person holds--so people that disagree with arguably attractive people will think them _ugly_.

The other big problem is that no one really cares about a pretty face repeating words they don't understand. Pretty faces might get famous just for being famous, but they don't get respected, only thronged.

The hell of it is, this could _work_. It wouldn't work by the mechanism he declares, though--it would work because we connect with real people, and it's fun to experience people in short snippets with no obligation. The problem is that we've just described Chatroulette, only decoupled from the present time--and sharing the present time is what makes chatroulette interesting.


But there's fairly objective standards that are correlated with attractiveness in any study of the phenomenon, eg. facial symmetry. Physical attractiveness, of course, which presumably is what SA was talking about.

From my own observations about how people react to amateur video productions on the Internet, eg. "omg who is that lecturer she is so cute!!", I think Mr Adams is onto something.


Correlated. Just because we can say "This person is generally more attractive because of facial symmetry, well-aligned teeth, and x,y,z" doesn't mean we have any particularly useful quotient to judge the attractiveness of a person. Such a general measure is way too broad. And you missed my point: the perception of physical attraction is not based solely on physical traits! Look at Sarah Palin--some would say she's attractive, but if you mentally recoil at the thought of a Palin presidential run I'm sure you would not think so.

Your amateur video productions _prove my point_ because the attractiveness is in the ordinary, the "just a person at home making a video." It is in the fact that the person is presumably contributing something valuable. So why would people care if models were paid to say something?

This is why Adams articles frustrate me: because it provokes discussion without moving anything forward, because he's used a terrible model to abstract attraction and as a consequence our definitions are semantic (read: fucked) to begin with.


The problem with user-generated video is that YouTube has a huge network effects advantage. This may not be a bad way of trying to finesse that, especially if it's combined with an attempt to do a really good job recommending clips, since the training period would pass quickly in clock time (30 votes in 5 minutes).


So you let people upload on youtube and post that on your site :)


Seesmic. I think the lesson learned there was that everyone wants to watch others, but few want to record themselves, out of fear. Solve that, though force like chatroulette, or inspiration like funny or die, and you could make something I would visit...but not participate in.


Isn't this what Seesmic did long long ago?


The described system exists since a couple of years and is commonly know as "Television". Or is it ?


It's video hotornot.com


This is what YouTube was originally. Turns out people just upload clips from film, sports, and television instead.


Some of the most upvoted submitters on YouTube are quite attractive. I have no actual data, but off the top of my head I can think of the word of the day girl, the trainer girl, and the old spice guy.


upvoted back up. Although hotornot has a negative stigma associated with it, I think you're spot on. Or how about okcupid w/video instead of the pictures? Photos and text profile only say so much about a person.


I think a lot of the threads missed what Scott was talking about. In general we like to look at other faces, no matter what they look like - the Dilbert comic is exactly that. The attractive part is where we will listen to / believe them more.


How is it then that Justin Bieber is the most popular thing on YouTube?


Just ask your teenage sister. She knows the answer.


I thought of micro-blogging before I knew twitter existed.

Oh, and I think twitter is a failed idea. It mostly has turned to another form of RSS feeds. The intended use-case has failed (small updates on your daily life, e.g. "I'm drinking tea with my wife").

This idea will also fail; you can't tell people how to use a service. If you allow people to post 30 second videos, they'll use it to send messages to each other instead of expressing opinions on public issues. Or, they might just post short funny videos ("epic fail" videos, etc).


> twitter is a failed idea

Nobody cares about Twitter-the-idea, and that's never what anyone means any more when they use the term. What everyone loves is Twitter-the-platform, which is a huge success.

> This idea will also fail; you can't tell people how to use a service.

Yes, you can. When the site is small, you can manually moderate all submissions, literally telling people how they may use it. After the site grows, the "base" will continue to obey the site's culture. As long as the base has more power (in some metric or another) the site will continue in that direction without further work. (This is basically how HN has been set up.)

Note that this might keep the site small—like HN, and unlike Twitter. But that's still entirely monetizable, especially if you have a much larger viewing population than submitting population.


I know a guy who not only thought of the idea, but implemented it. He wrote a AIM to LiveJournal bot. You send it an instant message, and it would post to LiveJournal.

I mean, he thought the idea was silly and not very useful, but it was an actual implementation of micro blogging before twitter arrived. I am certain there were other implementations that I don't know about.


Short messages can be easily categorized, searched, favorited. Easier to browse than youtube. SoundByteFace.com!


How long before someone implements this? one day? two days?


Bigthink.com is basically the same thing, and it's already been online for several years at this point.


That doesn't mean that someone can't do it better…


Once implemented, how long before the top-rated video is a facially deformed fat man discussing how Hitler had basically the right idea?

There's more pranksters out there than there are people who would take this seriously.


Yes, before you invest, just think of the chances of becoming an owner of the 10-second version of ChatRoulette.


Try hours.


TED. Intelligence is attractive.




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