Extra Fox – A blog by Christopher Taylor

Cubeduel is not Hot or Not, it’s Kittenwar

Posted in Uncategorized by extrafox on January 17, 2011

Over the past week Cubeduel was released onto the Social Web where it went viral almost immediately. In the first 36 hours alone, more than 240,000 users joined the service. The service hit a temporary speed-bump on Friday when LinkedIn blocked access to its developer API due to an automated rate limit. That was all cleared up by Saturday and the service is now back online and, undoubtedly, still growing fast.

The concept behind Cubeduel is simple and compelling. When you first use the service, you are asked to sign into your LinkedIn account. From there, the service presents you with two of your LinkedIn connections and asks you to choose “who you would rather work with.” It’s a lot of fun to do and it wasn’t long before I had over a hundred duels under my belt.

Of course, as fun as it is to vote on the system, the motivation we all share is to see how we stack up against our co-workers. In order to find that out, you need to get your colleagues to rate you against other people they’ve worked with in the past. The service makes it easy to invite people from your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn networks.

No kittens were hurt making this film

A number of articles I’ve read about Cubeduel have compared it to Hot or Not, a site where you can upload a photo of yourself and the community will rate you on a scale of one to ten based on “how hot” you are. I don’t think this is a good comparison. If Cubeduel were to follow the Hot or Not methodology, then it would show you one connection at a time and ask you “how much would you like to work with” that connection. This is a much more direct value judgement than that asked by Cubeduel.

The site that the Cubeduel service more closely follows is my old favorite, Kittenwar. When two kittens are battling it out on Kittenwar, choosing one as cuter does not necessarily mean that you don’t think the other is cute. There are certainly some butt ugly kittens on the site, but many times they are both equally cute and you choose one of them anyway. It doesn’t really matter in the end and no kittens get their feelings hurt in the process.

Cubeduel is just about as arbitrary as Kittenwar. When you choose between two people in a duel, there are a large number of factors that could go into the choice of one over the other. Did I work closely with this person? Were they in different departments? Was I friends with one of them? Are they smart? Are they inept? Are they funny? Could one of them help me in my future career? Do they look good in tight jeans? These and many more considerations will get boiled down into a slit second decision between the two people in the duel. Saying that you would rather work with Jane instead of Joe doesn’t mean you don’t want to work with Joe, it simply means, for whatever arbitrary reason (possibly tight jeans), that you would prefer to work with Jane.

I’m sorry, but your kitten is ugly

Of course, kittens cannot understand the results on Kittenwar. People will take it personally.

According to Tony Wright, co-creator of Cubeduel, “no one shows up on cubeduel lists who haven’t signed into the system and opted in to being part of the high score system.” He goes on to say, “we also suppress duel data for anyone who has lost 60% or more of their duels.” I suppose that’s a good compromise. If you don’t want to know were you stand, don’t opt-in and neither you, nor your connections will know.

At the end of the day, I don’t think the duel methodology is very efficient at getting to the more practical question of “is this person a good employee.” I would love to hear some statisticians chime in on that point. Instead, Cubeduel should be looked at as a diversion.

On the other hand, Kittenwar’s Winningest Kittens are pretty cute!


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