Archive for March, 2011

for security purposes

A prank call transcript from ZUG.

What happens when you ask a credit card company the same security questions they ask you?

VISA: …And for security, I just need your mother’s maiden name?

JOHN HARGRAVE: [I tell him] And Barry, for security purposes, I also need your mother’s maiden name.

VISA: Uh … my mother’s maiden name, sir?

JH: Uh-huh.

VISA: OK. Uh … please hold for a moment, sir.

[Hold time of 3:54]

VISA: Yes, thank you for holding. This is cardmember services, my name is Isabelle. May I have your 15-digit card number, please?

JH: Sure. [I give it to her] What happened to Barry? I was just on the phone with him and then there was a very long pause.

VISA: OK, for some reason you got transferred to the fraud department. I’m going to have to transfer you back to customer service.

JH: The fraud department?

(Read the article)

learning in social networks

There was this talk (by M. Dahleh) on modeling whether distributed learning occurs in a social network, i.e., is the crowd always right? The problem model was like this: there is a “truth” which is either 0 or 1, representing some binary preference. Then in a connected graph representing a learning network, each node makes a binary decision (0 or 1 again) based on an independent noisy read on the “truth,” as well as the decisions made by some or all of its neighbors who have already made a decision. (Each nodal decision is made once and binding, so there is a predefined decision-making order among the nodes.)

This is an interesting question because at first thought, one would think that in a large enough network, a sufficient number of independent reads on the truth will occur in the aggregate to allow at least the later-deciding nodes to get a really good estimate of the truth. This is the basis of the folk belief in “wisdom of the crowd.” However, this is not what happens all the time.

(Read the article)