A Recent History of the Bake-Off

The Web and I share a common obsession at the moment: bake-off style preference ordering. What is bake-off style preference ordering (or BOSPO, for the sake of ridiculousness)?

BOSPO involves ordering a long list of items by comparing two items at once. Kitten War is my favorite example. Assume you have several million kitten pictures, and you need to order them from cutest to least cute. No one has the time or mental fortitude to sit down and create a full ordering of a million-plus pictures. However, anyone can look at just two kittens and pick the cuter one. After lots and lots of such comparisons, one can order the pictures according to the percentage of head-to-head comparisons which they win. Cuter kittens rise to the top, and the less cute, uh… sink to the bottom.

Just yesterday, Stephen Colbert joined the online BOSPO fray by promoting spookyordooky.com on his show. Here’s how it works:
1. You submit a picture of yourself in your Halloween costume. (Optional)
2. You see two costume pictures and choose the one that is “spooky.” The other is dooky by implication, I assume.
3. Repeat 2 until tired.
4. An ordering emerges. Presumably, Spooky or Dooky uses win percentage as its ordering metric. However, it may use something more sophisticated like the Elo rating system. The Elo system was just brought into the public consciousness as “The Algorithm” behind Facemash in the movie The Social Network.

Speaking of Facemash, TechCrunch reports a Facebook app with similar capabilities already exists: ULikeN

Of course, my favorite BOSPO implementation is my own creation: Lepidoptera. Lepidoptera is a persistent online to-do list prioritizer. That means you can keep an ongoing to-do list, re-prioritize it every day and access it anywhere you can get Internet access.

The comparison engine that drives Lepidoptera not only attempts to order your items (in this case, things you need to do) in the right order, but it also chooses the best two items to maximize the information it gains with each comparison. It also avoids bombarding you with the same items and same comparisons, so the task of comparing does not become tiresome.

Lepidoptera is not the first prioritizer on the Web, but I believe it is the most complete, the most user-friendly and the only one that will persistently store your information. I was inspired to build it by research similar to BOSPO that I heard about here at UCSD, my own difficulty prioritizing my to-do list, and yes, by Kitten War.

Take a look at all these apps and add more links if you know of more BOSPOs out there.

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