Training your algorithm through Reddit comments: case study.

On Reddit lately, I’ve started seeing a bot posting summarised content from articles (mainly from the r/worldnews sub-reddit). Here’s an example from the news of the 7.2 Earthquake hitting the Philippines.

Sometimes it sucks a bit, and sometimes it is quite accurate. What’s interesting about it, is that it is a service to another site,, that serves to send summarised news every morning. Really cool.

I’m not entirely sure if they use this method, but I suspect they do (or rather then, they should). Reddit comments serve as a signal for the skill of the summarisation skill of the bot, as well a metric for overall popularity of the story.

If it gets a lot of upvotes relative to the stories’ popularity, it means it is a high signal summarisation, giving that iteration of the summarisation algorithm additional weight. If the story is popular AND the summarisation was great, it gets included in the daily morning news mail.

Either way. I really like the idea of plugging your algorithm into existing feedback loops (such as reddit comments) to gauge its performance. Think there are some more ideas to exploit around this.

Language, Bitcoin & Streaming Payments

I was listening to an EconTalk podcast recently with Nassim Taleb, where he talked about Antifragile. He explains how he came up with the term. It’s quite interesting. Previously when you asked what’s the opposite of ‘fragile’, you would imagine words/terms such as ‘robust’. But it doesn’t quite describe systems that benefit from ‘chaos’ or ‘stressors’, rather than systems that break down when encountering ‘stressors’. When he thought of the term, he created a new ‘thought tool’ in his mind: a new way of looking at systems. When he did he kept seeing examples of antifragile systems around him. This was fascinating. And you can see different examples of how using new words enact different ways of looking at what exists right in front of you.

He used the example of how the Greeks didn’t have a word for “Blue”. They only classified hues based on lightness vs dark. In our culture and language we have a word for specific hues, which makes us think differently about it.

The same exists in music and genres. Once a different enough sound emerges (that could still exist within the old paradigm quite nicely), people start labelling it differently. When you label it with a new term, you place it in a new box. You create a new space for it flourish, as a new meaning/idea. EDM is one of the better examples, as you go deeper and deeper into subgenres. Some might only hear drum and bass, but others will hear and understand the differences between techstep and liquid dnb. Go on long enough and you will venture into completely new territory, and create entirely new genres. A recent great example is dubstep. The changing sounds grew from the 2-step garage scene in London, until the Forward> events started labelling it ‘dubstep’. With a new term, it opened up ways to think about creating new rhythms and combinations.


When I think about Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general), it feels like we need new ways of thinking about what it can enable. I’m particularly interested in its potential for frictionless payments (for example, not really needing human actors to conduct trade). Chris Dixon uses the words “snacking”, “micropayments” and “programmable money” to explain what can be possible. They are descriptive, but I feel there could be a better term? Money can now flow like information.

Examples of what I’ve read are (don’t recall the sources):

1) Cars paying for cars to bypass them on freeways.

2) Paying for how long you have access to wifi.

3) Bitcoin Agents: “An agent is an autonomous program that is able to survive by selling services for Bitcoins, and using the proceeds to rent server capacity. Agents that are profitable enough may replicate themselves by spawning additional instances on other servers.”

So. I was thinking of new words (in the same vein as Nassim Taleb) to describe potential new use cases, where we think about cryptocurrencies as money that can flow like information. Here’s some examples I jotted down:

Flowing Money

Programmable Flow

Frictionless Payments

Flowing Exchange

Streaming Money

Streaming Transactions


I finally came to “Streaming Payments”. I quite like it.

What do you think? Are there other terms we can use? Is micropayments or programmable money enough? Or frictionless payments?

Ideas #6

This is a continuation of my plan to come up with 1-5 new ideas/projects a day while I’m #funemployed (taking time to figure out what to do next after my Masters degree).

6.1) Global citizen passport.

This is an old idea, but I think it’s worth discussing. I’m keen to hear some opinions on this. This is an admittedly #firstworldproblem. Being from South Africa, I have to get visas for a lot of countries. It is annoying. I was wondering if there could exist an idea such as a “global citizen” passport? You are given access to move freely about the world. But this only works through a vetting process. Admittedly, this can be exploited, because there has to be some authority that gives these passports away. Also, it creates this “elite” class of people that seems on the surface a bit unethical. What do you think about it?

6.2) Remittance search.

I’m in the process of looking at options of how I can use my money in Asia, as I’m going to visit my brother. It’s all a very convoluted process. There are massive amounts of options, each with differing rates, different cuts, etc. I want a simple tool that tells me: If I am in South Africa and I want money in Taiwan, what’s the best way? Credit cards? Traveller cheques? Bitcoin?

6.3) Proper package tracking.

I installed Uber recently (they launched in Cape Town) and was wondering what else would help to be tracked. I’m not entirely clued up on how package tracking works, but it seems possible that you could simply insert a 'tile' into the package to see where it is in the globe? Is this feasible? Are there risks to logistics companies to do this? Thoughts are appreciated.


I’m going away for the weekend and then leaving on Tuesday to visit my brother and his girlfriend in the East. So I won’t be posting new ideas for quite some time. I’ll probably spend the downtime in airports and planes to think up new ideas.


Ideas #5

This is a continuation of my plan to come up with 1-5 new ideas/projects a day while I’m #funemployed (taking time to figure out what to do next after my Masters degree).

5.1) “GiveDirectly”, but with Bitcoin.

This morning, the first question in my Quora weekly digest, was a question about how Dustin Moskovitz feels about being a billionaire. I found his GoodVentures initiative and then subsequently one of those ventures: "GiveDirectly". They find poor families in Kenya, and give them money through M-Pesa. You donate to GiveDirectly, then they do the rest.

I’ve touched on this in a previous ideas post. The power in Bitcoin to exchange value across the world, can lead to capital flow that can very easily support initiatives like GiveDirectly. My favourite current example of this is Sean’s Outpost (which I’ve talked about previously as well). Once again, check this reddit thread. Bitcoin is flowing in from around the world, to aid homeless people… through making a simple comment on Reddit.

With Bitcoin, you can decrease the transfer costs by a lot… and go even more direct (if you would choose so).

5.2) Oculus Rift + visualization.

After my friend (Heinrich) commented on a previous post about using VR to create coding environments, I started wondering about ways to visualize certain things in VR. There’s pipes of data being pushed around (Twitter firehoses), GitHub code, InstaGram photos, FourSquare check-ins etc. And with some of these you can easily tap into the zeitgeist. Look at this simple example: listening to the sounds of GitHub.

You are then essentially tapping into the “cyberspace” and watching the world’s information flow. Imagine sitting in a dark room and you loop up and you see code commits solidifying, issues submitted, etc. Imagine you can then “hop in”, grab the code, morph into your coding environment (multiple screens), edit it, re-commit back to GitHub, all with amazing visuals?

Or what about watching an Instagram hashtag such as #sunset? Photos fly out from the Earth, showing real-time snapshots of what’s happening. So much potential for interesting visualizations in VR!


I think I’m stopping here today. Still want to code a bit. As you can see, I’m quite bullish on Bitcoin and the Oculus Rift at the moment. Cheers!

Ideas #4

This is a continuation of my plan to come up with 10 new ideas/projects a day while I’m #funemployed (taking time to figure out what to do next after my Masters degree).

I want to keep this fun (and challenging) so I’m going to stick with 1-5 ideas a day for now. I don’t want to force it too much. Want to see if I can at least sustain for this upcoming week. I’ve been trying stay from Bored Elon Musk-esque ideas. I want more practical ideas, not just sci-fi ideas (such as the vapoo-rizer).

4.1) Decentralized journalism.

It bothers me that a government can come in and destroy hard-drives. Currently, journalism suffers from being centralized. We have a lot more voices, but voices can still be silenced. There’s also the sense of trust. We trust The Guardian when they publish articles due to their history. It’s more difficult to trust a random Twitter account. It’s much more difficult to trust a small voice.

I think there are ideas in Bitcoin and the blockchain that can usher in a form of anonymous, "trust-less", decentralized approach to journalism. Entities like Wikileaks are already distributing large files through the torrent protocol to mitigate centralization. They then encrypt it, and keep a private key or passphrase to eventually decrypt it. As a sort-of “kill-switch”.

The other thing that I think decentralized journalism through a blockchain type system can introduce is the idea of proof-of-work. We are stuck in real-time, always-on, world of news. The incentives are more aligned for media to produce link-bait. It’s better for them to be first, even though it is sucky journalism, because the real-time nature of the web incentivizes it. There are very little signals that indicate that articles are actually good: it’s only the title (before you click through). With a proof-of-work system, there will hopefully be incentive to ‘signal’ that you did proper research and you are invested in the integrity of the article you are publishing.

Because Bitcoin is also a “shared ledger”, there’s no central authority to shut down. Like you see sites like and build sites on top of the ledger. The incentive for the network will also be to create the best “views” into the decentralized journalism ledger.

The other benefit is that a blockchain-system is already a well-secured timestamping “machine”. You can “prove” that you were first with a story. Also the idea of addresses serving as “inputs” to a new “story” (the outputs). There’s something here…

Of course, this idea needs refinement, and the details need to be worked out. But I like the potential of it.

4.2) Brain interface to sculpt and print 3D objects.

I adore this Jason Silva piece:

"Thoughts spill over into technology" and "We take matter and extrude it through our mental filters into iPhones and space shuttles". I like the idea of decreasing the point of ‘idea’ to creation. So now we have 3D printers, but we must still use computers to ‘sculpt’ and create. It would be awesome to have a brain interface to immediately take what is in your mind, and then within 5 minutes see it printed.

The brain is malleable and can assimilate virtual limbs. It seems possible that we can imagine 3D sculptures and then have it printed in less than 30min. Even more basic you can do the whole “resting” brain-waves vs “awake” brain-waves trick to build a virtual etch-a-sketch.

4.3) More virtual keyboards.

I feel we should definitely be exploring more with keyboards. Physical keyboards were restricted to change due the physical constraints of not being able to change it on the fly. And thus QWERTY became the defacto standard. Look at minuum (the link above). It’s such a new and interesting way to work with a keyboard. But you don’t even have to go that far out. DVORAK, for example, can easily be swapped in and out in virtual keyboards (especially great for tablets). No one will be confused. You can use what works for you.

Children now growing up don’t have to work the current QWERTY standard. What new keyboards will work well? Are there better layouts? Are there more intuitive layouts (looking at how children adopt tech)? I bet there is. There needs to more.


I was a bit busy this weekend, and I’m prepping for my visit to the East (which is next week), so not sure how much I’m going to be able to work on new ideas. Just trying to have fun (and do other things as well). Perhaps an idea a day is more feasible at this stage. I’m curious to see if there will be a tipping point where new ideas eventually just rush in. I suspect this will be like any other habit. You’ve got to keep working on it, and practice.

Ideas #3

This is a continuation of my plan to come up with 10 new ideas/projects a day while I’m #funemployed (taking time to figure out what to do next after my Masters degree).

3.1) Amorphous bands.

This was inspired a while back by guys impersonating a local band (Fokofpolisiekar). They didn’t claim to be a cover band. For a skit, they claimed they were literally them. It’s an interesting idea. A band creates music under a moniker and anyone else is allowed to perform under that name, for nothing in return, and even claim to BE them (on bills, festivals, whatever). It also stems from the problem that growing your music in the digital age can still be slow, especially if you are a band who is good live. You can only play so many gigs a year, and grow only so fast.

3.2) Microwaves that show the heat on the door.

How many times do you have to take your bowl out, feel if is hot or not (and equally so across your whole meal), only to put it back in? Show the heat level of the contents while you are microwaving it.

3.3) Community based knowledge/expertise marketplace.

There’s so much latent expertise that exist in local communities and they aren’t used to the benefit of the community as a whole. There should be an easy way for someone to sign up to help one hour a week with some maths for the local school kids. Something like that.

3.4) Recyclables for 3D printing plastic.

Spoke to some friends about this today. Ideally you would want to smelt off refuse into 3D printing material, but that won’t work too well. So the next best thing is to trade in your recyclables for 3D printing plastic. You can trade in existing 3D printing plastic for it as well (stuff you’ve created that you don’t want anymore).

3.5) Queue QS 

I’m curious how much I actually spend my time in queues. Should be interesting to see how much time it takes out of my day. A QS device that measures this should be interesting.

3.6) Slow web social network.

There’s no feed. You only get results of what your friends have shared and what they are up to through daily digests. Like daily newspapers, but for social networks. You could even distill it further down. You are only allowed to share one moment a day (you can swap them in and out before they are put into a digest). Finite, no-nonsense, social sharing.

3.7) Streaming micropayments with Bitcoin.

With the new micropayment channels in Bitcoin developed by Mike Hearn, it is possible to send small amounts of Bitcoin to someone without flooding the network. There’s some cool possible implementations. You could listen to a song on a site. Once done, you’ve already paid what you’ve listened for. Very cool.

3.8) Subscription shades.

There’s probably something like this out there. The reason I want this: I break shades way to often. This is why I’m getting Sun Gods. I like different shades, so it would be cool to receive new ones every month with different styles, for cheap.

3.9) Share happiness.

No, it’s not a Coke ad. You open the app, it shows where you are, one tap, and it creates a pin with a smiley face on the app. It stays for a few hours, then disappears. Sometimes you just want to anonymously “affirm” your contentedness, if you are in such a situation. Other people can open up the app and see if people are happy around them. It’s all anonymous. And ideally it should be language neutral. Should be an interesting experiment.

3.10) Serendipity potential.

If I check in on Foursquare each day, Foursquare has data on people nearby whom I can bump into and meet. Should be interesting to know if there are people who have been close by, but I’ve never met. Sort of like, if I have checked into places close to certain people, our “serendipity potential” gets higher. Should be more interesting to see if there are people who I’ve crossed paths with that aren’t ‘local’. ie, coincidentally in different parts of the world. It reminds of the time I was in Singapore for a competition. We met Nima there. Afterwards our team travelled to Kuala Lumpur. Not knowing that he was also travelling there with this gf, we bumped into them in a massive crowded market. The next day, we bumped into them again in a massive mall. All these coincidental meetings. How often are they ACTUALLY occurring without us knowing?


Today was tough. Had to dig up some old ideas again, although I try not to. Thinking of perhaps doing themed ideas, so I can delve deeper and seek specific problems to solve.

Previous: Ideas #2

Ideas #2

This is a continuation of my plan to come up with 10 new ideas/projects a day while I’m #funemployed (taking time to figure out what to do next after my Masters degree).

2.1) Cryptocurrency where POW = free computation.

Primecoin's is unique. It's where the proof of work is used to generate prime chains. It is really novel. Not only is the cryptocurrency then securing the network but ALSO adding scientific benefit by producing primechains. Could there perhaps be a cryptocurrency where the network of computers can be used towards a wider variety of scientific benefit, ie providing free computation?

2.2) Plastic cups that don’t tip.

This has been a pet peeve forever. Yoghurt cups where once you are done eating the delicious goodness, the cup tips when you put the spoon in. #firstworldproblems.

2.4) Always-on scrobbler/shazam.

I religiously use and want it to accurately reflect what I listen to each day, even when it is on the radio or TV. Would be cool to have a device that listens and records the songs you’ve heard during the day.

2.5) Digital, phone-based vouchers.

This stems from my irritation of giving money to beggars. I don’t do it anymore. I want to know the person is going to buy something useful. Would be great to be able to generate a voucher (possibly at USSD level for feature phones) so people can spend it at stores for bread. Bitcoin comes to mind here. Sean’s Outpost is doing something similar. I recall reading they were giving Bitcoin to the homeless, instead of cash. Also, just check how cool this thread is. Shows the power of Bitcoin. Instant cash transfer through Reddit to Sean’s Outpost!

2.6) Removing 3rd parties in transactions on the web with deterministic address generation in Bitcoin.

*Technical alert*

You can generate additional public keys in Bitcoin (according to the specs of the BIP 32 protocol) on behalf of other people, if you have their master public key. Think of it is this way. You can generate additional “safety deposit boxes” in this shared ledger that only a specific person can make keys to.

What this means, is that for sites like, you don’t really need a 3rd-party. The 3rd-party’s main job in this regard is keeping track of addresses (what unique address fits what you are selling). Electrum already has a form of deterministic address generation in it, and the WooCommerce Bitcoin plugin takes advantage of this. But the idea is pretty big. It could potentially disrupt even big incumbents such as Stripe. You won’t need them anymore (at least just for payment processing).

2.7) Friend of a friend chat app.

Many people meet new people through friends of friends. Make a chat app (using FB’s social graph) that pairs up friend of friend. The ‘game’ of the app would be to guess who is the mutual connection. This of course means asking question such as “where are you from?”, “where did you go to school”, etc. Questions that are perfect to quickly get to know someone new.

2.8) Real life Oculus Rift portals.

Make hardware 360 degree cameras (open source the design) and ask people to drop them anywhere on the planet. With the Oculus Rift, you could then “portal in”, in real-time to these locations all across the Earth and just have a look around. Could be awesome! The portals themselves don’t move. The visual are manipulated so that you can look as if you are there. This means more than one person can “portal in” to any location.

2.9) Augmented reality live shows.

Almost like this. Imagine people standing in a crowd and you can have extra, crazy visuals everywhere. With epic music!

2.10) AI-driven public spaces.

Public spaces that change according to various variables: how many people there are, what the sentiment of the day in the city is, what led to serendipitous encounters, etc. The “AI” then controls this public space to make it fit better to different scenarios.


This was an interesting day. Dusted off some old ideas and mostly “big” ideas. I think I’m going to hit some “wall” and then a tipping point where new ideas will just start rolling in uncontrollably!

Previous posts:

Ideas #1

Ideas. #1

So, after reading James Altucher’s post on 'how to have great ideas', I thought it would be cool to think of 10 new ideas/projects each day, if I can. I gave in my masters thesis on Monday, so I’m officially #funemployed. I’m not quite sure what I want to do with my life next, so I’m taking some time off to think things through. This is going to a be a nice experiment. The ideas doesn’t necessarily have to be a new and innovative, just something I think would be cool to do (or to have).

1) Bitcoin exchange for Africa.

Africa is set to benefit a lot if it adopts Bitcoin, especially in terms of remittances. An exchange that can take this future market will be poised for success (focuses on African countries).

2) Enterprise social media backups.

I’ve often gotten requests from TwimeMachine users that are more related to enterprise level social media management. I think companies would find it useful to want backups of their social media history (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc) and have it easily searchable. Should just be a “turnkey” solution.

3) Better education about nutrition.

I recently discovered that sugar does NOT in fact make kids hyper. Years of being taught old wives tales. There must be an easier to easily get information about nutrition. ie, something like: scan ingredients, get brief overview of what the average effects will be (you’ll feel a bit drowsy, you’ll have to burn so much calories). Don’t know enough about nutrition to know if this even possible to distill it in this fashion.

4) Watch that has programmable vibration.

I want a watch that I can connect to my smartphone and then be able to program discreet vibrations (depending on app and message). Allows me to not have to check my phone each time it does something (could just be an app update notification).

5) summary emails.

I run Thinking of adding a feature where the most shared songs are emailed to users who opt-in so they don’t have to watch the hashtag the whole time.

6) Give Bitcoin away.

If I buy a lot of Bitcoin, and I give half of it away, will the interest I generate through it increase the price of Bitcoin in such a manner that the other half I own will eventually be more than if I just kept it all?

7) Silicon Cape/Stellenbosch tech media series.

Been thinking of doing a short 4-6 episode series, interviewing and showcasing the awesome tech companies in (mainly) Stellenbosch and then Cape Town. Sort of like Alexis Ohanian’s Small Empires. I’ve been wanting to get more into multimedia.

8) Shots of awe.

Speaking of media. I really dig Jason Silva’s ‘Shots of Awe’. Keen to make one. Would probably be about either Bitcoin or a general one on the amazing times we live in. You know. FUTURE.

9) Travel show where I only use Bitcoin.

More media. I enjoy lifeonbitcoin. But now. Pick businesses on or Travel to them. Promote Bitcoin. Make series of it.

10) Phone-based classifieds.

Haven’t done any research on this, so it could exist already. Take a photo of something you want to sell, set price, and then it is immediately on a classifieds site. When meeting in person, pay with Bitcoin (as it is easy mobile-based payments). 


Having fun with this! I’ll probably continue with this until I leave for holiday on the 16th of September for 2 weeks. Will probably pick it up after that.

'Stickers' and rage faces.

I’ve been quite surprised at the rise of stickers. Every phone-based social network seem to be rolling them out. WeChat, Kik and even Path.

My first reaction to this is: Really? It’s not that I think stickers can help in communication, it’s just that it feels like we can, and should be able to convey what they imply through more innovative means.

I understand why they work. If you’ve been on 9Gag or Reddit, you’ll know a host of ragefaces. They sum up responses and feelings really well. Their meaning has also been established as a meme, and you can now use them without even using the picture. Here’s how I’ve seen people use it. They simply ‘reference’ the meme.






You know exactly how they look, you know exactly what message it conveys, and it works. And it often explains feelings/messages better than any text would.

On a phone, typing out long pieces of text is still cumbersome, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, a picture just sums up what you want to convey: It’s quicker and it conveys visual meaning.

For ages I’ve used the “:P” smiley to convey my light-hearted tone in texts. I’ve tried to unlearn it and rather just meet the people in person, and have a chat that way. Body language is still king in communication.

Stickers fit this ‘gap’ in mobile communication. It is emoticons on steroids. And of course, the social networks love it, because they can monetize some part of the communication.

But. Although it provides more tools to convey meaning, it still feels like a contrived manner in which to communicate. It feels like a local optimization to a problem, while there exists a higher peak.

And I think an app like SnapChat is going in the right direction. What better way to communicate than to just show someone how you feel? It doesn’t however cover all the use cases. You don’t ALWAYS want to communicate with pictures.

And this is where referencing rage faces comes in. I think there’s a clue here somewhere. Something like trying to effortlessly increase a text’s capability with meaning by imbuing it with visual connotations.

Thinking off the cuff here. What about if you say: “I’m sad”. Swipe right, and it shows you photos of sad faces (yours, or other (zeitgeist-ish)). Or if you say: “It’s sunny today.” Swipe right, and you have photos of sunny weather. Or if you say: “I can’t believe you did this!” Swipe right and show pictures of despondent people.

What are your thoughts on stickers? Can we make something better?