It is very easy to become an expert at anything, all you would need to do is invest 10,000 hours learning and working in a specific domain to become an expert in it.
That is if you have the time for that, at 60 hrs/week, you will hit the 10,000 mark a few months after your 3rd year. For the majority of people, they are lucky if they achieve this milestone in a single field and a lot of people don’t even get to do that and hence we rely on those whom we perceive as “experts”. If you want to buy a camera, you talk your friend who seems to know a lot of about cameras, and if you need to buy a laptop you sit down and a “chit-chat” with the geekiest of your friends, who’s besides himself that someone is yet again asking him for support.
Hunch.com tries to fill in that gap and become your own personalized expert that recommends things that fit your whims and tastes.
So how does it work?
You start off by signing up for an account on Hunch.com using your Twitter or Facebook accounts, after which you will be confronted with about 20 questions that help establish a baseline for what you like. Those questions range from the mundane “Do you live in a suburb, major city or a rural area?” to the insane “Do you believe in alien abductions?”. After finishing those questions you will finally have access to the Hunch.com website.
The website offers you recommendations based on the way you answer a series of question regarding a topic. For instance, when I asked which netbook I should get, it recommended “MSI Wind PC” based on my answers to the website’s questions. It was the netbook that I’m actually interested in because of its price and there was a sponsored link for Amazon conveniently beneath my suggestion with its price indicated on it. The questions on Hunch are split into two groups. The Teach Hunch About Yourself (THAY) questions are optional questions that you can answer to further customize the answers that hunch would provide and cater the website’s recommendations based on your preferences. There isn’t a limit to the number of THAY questions that you can answer.
The other type of questions are decision topics and are supposed to answer specific inquiries such as: Which car should I get or which netbook I should buy. Those are more specific and usually don’t take more than 10 questions for you to reach a decision and you can see how your recommendations change with each answer, and go back or correct hunch if the recommendations don’t fit what you are looking for.
So where is the beef?
So, in essence, what Hunch does is two things: it learns about your preferences and interests, and when needed it can help make decisions about topics in a similar fashion that a true expert can help you make those decisions. Now the later part might creep some people out and make them fantasize about some futuristic 1982 place in which your entire decision making process is automatized and you have no free will (not that you have much of it anyways) or the former part which rings every security bell and blows every privacy whistle that any body has. But if we are to believe Catrina Fake, the Flickr founder and the person behind Hunch.com, when asked about whether people would have privacy concerns when it comes to the website she answered:
What we’re doing is deliberately building a taste profile for you. It’s very different than a social network where your information is being processed in the background. In comparison, we’re putting all your information up front, and we allow people to add and delete information about themselves at any time. We are putting the information in the front, not hiding it on the servers where people don’t know what’s happening.
This simply translates to: Trust us and trust yourself to do the best thing about your information. Not exactly what I would call reassuring.
I actually enjoyed using Hunch.com even though I had a lingering sense of “creepiness” while using it, and actually more admirable as an experiment rather than a service in and off itself. Being an avid user of several websites that recommend things to me- Netflix, Amazon and others – they tend to usually suck and Hunch gave me hope that one day they might be better and be able to recommend items that actually take into account all my eccentricities. That is once I get over that feeling under my skin that one day the company might go under and with its only soluble asset being my information a la MySpace.
So what do you think of Hunch? Would you use it? Do you have any concerns? Share with us your thoughts in our comment section below.