Hunch: Machine learning meets the Magic Eight-Ball

My friend Caterina Fake's new web-service Hunch just launched; you answer ten simple questions about yourself and then ask it oracular questions and it gives you entertaining and possibly useful advice. Caterina co-founded Flickr and is just swell, Hunch looks like great fun.
What should I be for Halloween? Do I need a Porsche? Should I dump that loser? Is Phoenix a good place to retire? Whom should I vote for? What toe ring should I buy?

It's a cruel world out there. Coin-flipping, I Ching consultation, closing your eyes and jumping, postponing the inevitable, Rock-Paper-Scissors, and asking your sister are all time-honored means of coming to a decision -- and yet we think there's room for one more: Hunch.

In 10 questions or less, Hunch will offer you a great solution to your problem, concern or dilemma, on hundreds of topics. Hunch's answers are based on the collective knowledge of the entire Hunch community, narrowed down to people like you, or just enough like you that you might be mistaken for each other in a dark room. Hunch is designed so that every time it's used, it learns something new. That means Hunch's hunches are always getting better.



  1. Hmmm…must be a popular site this morning…keeps erroring out…

    “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

  2. Wow! It seems like endless medical sex with each other so you never lose touch! More, more, more…I want you.

  3. I thought the *really* profitable version was the one that worked the other way round – Richard MacDuff’s ‘Reason’ program, ultimately bought out by the Pentagon…

  4. Really useful. If you can get it to stop asking questions (some sort of error) — and if you live in the US.

    Cory, are you really telling me that this site is useful to you, now you live here in the UK?

  5. This seems to be the same basic premise that OK Cupid is based on; from my experience with that dating service, YMMV hugely.

  6. yeah i answered 25 questions before i got bored. never got to the part where it was supposed to do something for me.

  7. I’ve answered 36 questions so far and it just keeps asking more questions. I think I should give up.

  8. i just spent about 40 minutes answering questions to try and find out whether or not i should eat this LSD today. Unfortunately, hunch had no hunch.

  9. @8 RAMPANTIDIOCY – I tried to ask the LSD question for you, but instead it offered to help me decide what I should wear to work today.

  10. #8: You actually have to type in your question in the box on the top-right corner before Hunch asks you the relevant questions.

    Since you spent 40 minutes on the site without noticing this, may I volunteer that you are already pretty high and thus don’t need the LSD? ;)

    (Of course, the way they’ve designed the site, it’s not immediately obvious that the questions you get asked right off the bat aren’t the ones leading to an answer for you – it’s just Hunch learning what humans are like :D)

  11. I have a hunch there is not enough server power behind this application… just a hunch.

  12. If it aint fixed, don’t try to break it. Yet another promising but failing app let out into the wild with little behind it to justify further investigating it.

    Does no-one do any testing these days?

  13. Mojave >

    Fictional (AFAIK) from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You fed in the decision you wanted and the program produced totally convincing reasons to do it. Thus convincing your bank manager you really needed a Porsche, for instance.

  14. From the Hunch community guidelines: “Post profanity or anything pornographic or sexually explicit. If you can’t imagine it being on prime time TV, it doesn’t belong on Hunch. Nudity isn’t allowed in buddy icons or any images posted to Hunch.

    We’re reasonable people. We like to give warnings first when it’s appropriate. But if your behavior is beyond the pale, or repeatedly bad, or simply falls into any of the “loathe” categories above, you will be booted without warning, hesitation or remorse.”

  15. The first 10 minutes were kind of fun. But then I got this awkward feeling that the questions are designed for white middle to upper-class Americans only. It’s a shame because the idea is fun. But the questions should really be more complex.

  16. #18 I wholeheartedly agree.

    It’s not a bad idea per se. not a brilliant one maybe, but good enough to kill some time, if only it could stop posting questions that make me cringe at the sheer, for lack of a better word, ‘bourgeoise-ness’ (not that that’s actually a word but) of it all.

    ‘Which new car should i buy’
    ‘What’s the best extreme sport for me’
    ‘What’s the best kitchen countertop for me’
    are some of the highlights.

    Not that i don’t aspire to a life that actually allows me worries like these, I mean, I’m pretty jealous of these people, but my most complicated worry right now is whether i should default on my student loans now so they can fall on my father who guarantees them because he gets paid in a currency different from my local, recently crashed one.

    Answer that ‘hunch’

    (it doesn’t really, but it does suggest i ‘renault on my student loans’ which might be worth a shot)

  17. by the way, i did notice the form to ask hunch a question, and i did. it informed me that it had no relevant topics.

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